Enormity, Enormousness, and 26 Other Commonly Confused Words

Statue of Liberty photo by Nina Fazzi

The enormousness of Lady Liberty is undeniable, but there’s nothing about it that suggests enormity.

I’m not a sports fan, but a recent story quoting a soccer coach who said he “appreciates the enormity of the task at hand” caught my attention. What evil task did this coach have? Or did he mean to say enormousness?

Many people confuse enormity and enormousness. Ditto with ensure and insure, affect and effect. When proofreading a colleague’s article, I almost missed his “sneak peak”; it should have been “sneak peek.”

Confusing Words
I rounded up some of the words that are commonly confused. Don’t let them trip you.


Ado (fuss), Adieu (farewell)
Appraise (to evaluate), Apprise (to inform)
Affect (having an effect or influence), Effect (actual result)
Complimentary (given free; expressing praise), Complementary (completing something; serving as a complement)
Crucial (extremely important), Critical (expressing criticism; using or involving careful judgment)
Defuse (to remove the fuse or to prevent from exploding), Diffuse (to spread)
Discrete (distinct), Discreet (to be careful in action or speech)
Elicit (to draw out), Illicit (something forbidden)
Enormity (a shocking evil or immoral act), Enormousness (hugeness)
Ensure (to make sure), Insure (to buy insurance or to provide insurance)
Farther (literal distance; at or to a greater distance), Further (figurative distance; to a greater degree)
Historic (well-known, important in history), Historical (pertaining to the past; characteristic of history)
Peak (pointed top), Peek (to peer or peep)

Leave a comment


  1. As an erotic romance writer, I’ve always wondered if I should describe my male hero’s enormity or enormousness. Thanks for clearing that up. 🙂

  2. Very funny–I would definitely choose enormousness in that context(:

  3. Great list to keep on hand. Thanks, Cindy!

  4. Thanks for the list, Cindy. I’ve copied this so I can check stuff.

  5. Great list! I am going to go looking for ‘enormity’ in my own scribblings. But the enormousness of the task is daunting! BTW, ‘Critical systems’ is such a common phrase, I think by virtue of usage, ‘critical’ is coming to mean ‘crucial’ here in the US. BTW one which litters the Internet and merits your consideration: “loser” (n) is someone who is not winning, “looser” (adj) is a garment or fitting that is not as tight as it was.

    • Yes, critical is becoming interchangeable with crucial, especially in corporate writing. “Looser” versus “loser” is a good one(: Thanks for visiting!

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