eradicate (ə̇ˈradəˌkāt) vs. irradicate (ə̇ˈradə̇ˌkāt)

Hello everyone! To continue our homonym theme, let’s take a look at this confusing pair of homophones – eradicate and irradicate. You may remember from an earlier post that homophones are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently.

Both eradicate and irradicate come from the Latin word radix, which means root. However, these words have opposite meanings due to their prefixes. Eradicate contains the Latin prefix e- which means out of, giving rise to its meaning “to uproot” or “root out”. One could use the word “eradicate” in terms of a cure for a disease (the disease was completely eradicated).

Irradicate on the other hand means to root deeply within. It refers to something that cannot be “rooted out” or “destroyed.” This word has gone through assimilation, the process by which the final letter of the prefix is dropped, and the first letter of the root is doubled. In this case, the prefix “in” (meaning in or within), has changed to ir-radicate. Even though assimilation has occurred, the meaning of the original prefix remains. Assimilation often occurs with words derived from Latin in which a prefix is linked to a root. 

I hope you enjoyed reading about this interesting pair of words!





One of my favorite things to eat is pasta. I could eat fettuccine, linguine, penne and farfalle every day and not ever get tired of it!

Stewart Edelstein, the author of Dubious Doublets: A Delightful Compendium of Unlikely Word Pairs of Common Origin, from Aardvark/Porcelain to Zodiac/Whiskey has created a fun pasta quiz on Merriam-Webster online. As you take the quiz, you’ll notice that the origins of many of the Italian words for the various pastas derive from Latin. This is because Italian is a Romance language. Other Romance languages include Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Romance languages come from Vulgar Latin (vulgus is a Latin noun that means “common people” or “general public”), a form of Latin that was spoken by commoners in Rome during the 2nd – 4th centuries.

Take the quiz and be sure to let me know how you did!


discreet (də̇ˈskrēt) vs. discrete (dəˈskrēt)


This is a guest post by Aisha R. from California who participated in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2016 and 2017.

Hi everyone! My name is Aisha and I am a 12 year old 7th grader. When Tara announced that she was doing a homonym theme on her blog, I was quick to volunteer to write a guest post.

An interesting pair of homonyms that I found are discrete (detached or separate) and discreet (prudent, modest, or unobtrusive). Both words come from the Latin verb discernere which means to separate or to distinguish. Unfortunately, the shared etymology makes these words difficult to differentiate.

A good way to remember the definition for the word discrete is that the two e’s in the word are separated by the t. Here is a picture to help you remember this trick.

discrete memory trick

Thank you Aisha, for taking the time to share this pair of homophones with us and your trick to remembering how to spell discrete. It is  interesting to note that the word “discern” (to recognize or identify as separate or distinct) also comes from the Latin verb discernere.