Common English Errors: Confused Words, Ds

English has many words that sound similar, and are often spelled similarly, but have quite different meanings. In this article, we look at some such words starting with D, and explain the differences between them.

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Many of the words below have multiple meanings, and subtle shades of meaning. I've not included absolutely every single definition, but have concentrated on the main uses of each word.


DAYS — a plural noun, meaning "periods of 24 hours". It had been two days since the squirrels tied Troy's shoelaces together.

DAZE — a verb, meaning "to make someone unable to think or react properly, stun". Troy was in a daze, stumbling around the room and unable to walk properly.


DEAR — an adjective meaning "regard with deep affection". My dear friend, how have you been?

DEER — a noun referring to a hoofed mammal that has antlers. The deer leapt through my bedroom window, startling my poor mice!

DEFUSE — a verb meaning to "remove the fuse from an explosive device". Luckily Jenny was able to defuse the ducks' bomb in time!

DIFFUSE — as a verb it means "spread or cause to spread over a wide area". Make sure you diffuse the sand over the driveway. As an adjective it means "spread out over a wide area". The scene was lit by soft diffuse light.


DESERT — as a noun it means "a dry sandy area of land". As a verb it means "abandon in a disloyal way". Rowan cruelly deserted his friends in the middle of the desert.

DESSERT — a noun meaning "the sweet course of a meal". Troy had to have jelly snakes for dessert every night.


DIE — a verb meaning "to stop living". No matter what we do, we all die eventually.

DYE — a noun meaning "a substance used to add a colour to something", or as a verb it means "to add a colour or change the colour of something". Samantha dyed her disgustingly puce skirt black with the fabric dye.


DISCREET — an adjective meaning "careful in speech or actions". Chris was very discreet, and never mentioned the name of his paramour to anyone.

DISCRETE — an adjective meaning "individually separate, distinct". It's best to watch the series as discrete episodes, rather than running them on end to end.


DUAL — an adjective meaning "consisting of two parts". The oven had dual functions, both baking and grilling.

DUEL — a noun, meaning "a contest with weapons between two people to settle a point of honour". The wood duck had a duel with his rival, the grey squirrel. It was pistols at dawn!


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Last modified on Saturday, 28 November 2015 08:16
English Language Skills (Denise)

English Language Skills (Denise)

I'm a syndicated puzzle writer, with 8 puzzle books to my name, including Word Searches for Dummies and Cracking Codes and Cryptograms for Dummies (with Mark Koltko-Rivera). I have a background in science and graphic design, and am a trained indexer. My favourite puzzles are cryptic crosswords. and my favourite books are murder mysteries and cookbooks. I am also a very keen knitter.

I write a blog all about puzzles, called Puzzling.

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