We may not realise we are doing it, but many of the words we use day-to-day are actually used incorrectly. The most common of these incorrectly used words are words that we use fairly often, so it may come as a surprise to find out their proper meanings!
Common misconception – Most people use decimate as a way to describe destroying, or annihilating something.
Proper use – The word itself gives way to its actual meaning, with ‘dec’ at the beginning of the word, decimate actually means to remove 10% of something.
Common misconception – Dilemma is a word used to describe a problem, or decision.
Proper use – When we refer to being in a dilemma, we tend to be describing a problem that we have; however, dilemma means that the situation requires a choice between two equally undesirable alternatives.
Common misconception – A factoid tends to be used when we want to share a fact or some useful information.
Proper use – Despite this well used misconception, factoid actually means a false fact. When we describe something as a factoid, this means that the fact is us made up or non-existent.
Common misconception – A lot of people tend to think that the word fortuitous means lucky.
Proper use – The word actually means by chance, so rather than a situation being ‘lucky’ it is actually all down to chance. This means the word is neutral and therefore can be used to mean something good or bad, lucky or unlucky.
Common misconception – Typically, irony is used to describe something which is funny.
Proper use – This is a complicated one, as fairly often things which are ironic are also funny, therefore to mistake irony for something funny is understandable, however the proper use is something which is the contrary or opposite to what you were expecting.
Common misconception – Most people tend to think that infamous is another word for famous.
Proper use – Infamous is not actually another term for famous, it means that you have a bad reputation. To be infamous is a negative, rather than a positive like being famous.
Common misconception – When using the term inflammable, the first thing that springs to mind is that the object in question is fireproof.
Proper use – The proper use for inflammable is the complete opposite, and actually means that the object is flammable, capable of being set on fire and combustible!
Common misconception – Peruse is used as a way of describing skimming over, or browsing.
Proper use – Peruse goes a lot further than ‘skimming’ as the true meaning is to delve deep and take a closer look at something.
Common misconception – A travesty is used to describe a situation which is unfortunate or unlucky.
Proper use – Despite this use of the word, travesty actually means a parody or mockery, therefore use of the word doesn’t necessarily mean that anything bad or unfortunate has happened at all.
Common misconception – The ultimate tends to be used to describe the best or the greatest of something.
Proper use – The ultimate is not actually the best, but is in fact, the last. The ultimate on the list, or the ultimate item, refers to the last of these.
There are many more words used incorrectly in our everyday language, however some of these words are used incorrectly so often that the misconceptions are widely accepted as the correct definition in lots of instances.