25 words that you’re probably using incorrectly

You're probably not using these words correctly.

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You’re probably not using these words correctly.
source
Wikimedia Commons
  • Definitions of words can shift based on common use, but some uses are just wrong.
  • “Irregardless” and “clichéd” aren’t real words.
  • “Ironic” doesn’t mean funny or unfortunate, it’s conveying a meaning that’s the opposite of the literal meaning.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

There are advanced words you can add to your vocabulary to make yourself sound smarter – just make sure that you’re using them correctly.

While definitions have been known to shift based on the way a word is commonly used, some popular uses are just plain wrong.

Here are 25 words that are often misused, and what they actually mean according to Dictionary.com.


Between

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The row of blue books is between the red and black rows.
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Flickr/Juhan Sonin

What people think it means: among items that are not specifically named.

What it actually means: referencing or connecting separate and distinct elements.


Continually

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An assembly line.
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Jens Schlueter/Getty Images

What people think it means: uninterrupted in time; without cessation.

What it actually means: very often; at regular or frequent intervals; habitually.


Invoke

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The smell of turkey may evoke memories of Thanksgiving, but it doesn’t invoke them.
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Sarah Schmalbruch/INSIDER

What people think it means: to call up or produce (memories, feelings, etc.).

What it actually means: to call for with earnest desire; make supplication or pray for.


Good

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Hamish Blair/Getty Images

What people think it means: an adverb used to describe something done in a good or satisfactory manner such as “You did good!”

What it actually means: an adjective used to describe nouns as satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree.


Insure

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Insure refers to insurance.
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vinnstock/ iStock

What people think it means: to secure or guarantee.

What it actually means: to issue or procure an insurance policy on or for.


Irony

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Alanis Morissette’s song doesn’t get it right.
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Alanis Morissette/YouTube

What people think it means: funny or unfortunate.

What it actually means: the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning.


Travesty

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Saturday Night Live excels at parodies.
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NBC/”Saturday Night Live”

What people think it means: a tragedy.

What it actually means: a grotesque or debased likeness or imitation, a mockery.


Bemused

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Confused.
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NBC

What people think it means: amused.

What it actually means: bewildered or confused.


Enormity

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Heinous.
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Disney

What people think it means: huge.

What it actually means: outrageous or heinous character; atrociousness.


Effect

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The “Meghan Markle effect” causes whatever she wears to sell out instantly.
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Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

What people think it means: to cause something to change.

What it actually means: something that is produced by an agency or cause; result; consequence.


Disinterested

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“Uninterested” means bored, not “disinterested.”
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Reuters/Phil Noble

What people think it means: bored.

What it actually means: unbiased by personal interest or advantage; not influenced by selfish motives, indifferent.


Irregardless

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Nope.
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Flickr/Funk Dooby

What people think it means: regardless.

What it actually means: nothing, it’s not a word.


i.e.

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In other words.
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Pexels

What people think it means: for example.

What it actually means: that is; in other words.


Fortuitous

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A four-leaf clover.
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REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

What people think it means: lucky.

What it actually means: happening or produced by chance; accidental.


Plethora

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“A lot” and “too much” aren’t the same thing.
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David Paul Morris/Getty Images

What people think it means: a lot of something.

What it actually means: overabundance; excess; more than is needed.


Inflammable

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Fire.
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REUTERS/Gene Blevins

What people think it means: fireproof.

What it actually means: capable of being set on fire; combustible; flammable.


Infamous

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“Infamous” vs. “famous.”
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Jemal Countess / Getty Images

What people think it means: famous.

What it actually means: having an extremely bad reputation.


Adverse

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Some medications can have adverse effects.
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Rob Kim/Getty Images For alice + olivia by Stacey Bendet

What people think it means: opposed to, averse.

What it actually means: unfavorable or antagonistic in purpose or effect.


Clichéd

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“A Christmas Prince.”
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Netflix

What people think it means: overdone.

What it actually means: nothing, it’s not a word. “Cliché” is a noun.


Dichotomy

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Kylo Ren and Rey from “Star Wars.”
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Disney/Lucasfilm

What people think it means: difference.

What it actually means: division into two mutually exclusive, opposed, or contradictory groups.


Hone

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Honing your skills.
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INSIDER

What people think it means: to converge upon or approach.

What it actually means: to make more acute or effective; improve; perfect.


Random

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Winning lottery numbers are random.
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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

What people think it means: funny, silly.

What it actually means: proceeding, made, or occurring without definite aim, reason, or pattern.


Dilemma

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Two choices.
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Brendan Church/Unsplash

What people think it means: a problem.

What it actually means: a situation requiring a choice between equally undesirable alternatives.


Less

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Donuts have *fewer* calories than water, not less.
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Evan Lorne/Shutterstock

What people think it means: comparing numbers of countable items.

What it actually means: a smaller extent, amount, or degree of singular mass nouns.


Refute

You're probably not using these words correctly.

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Nope.
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Wikimedia Commons

What people think it means: to reply or deny.

What it actually means: to prove to be false or erroneous, as an opinion or charge.