8 English Words You May Be Using Incorrectly

Most words in the English language tend to have pretty clear meanings. If you’re learning English, it’s probably unlikely you’ll confuse the word ‘happy’ for ‘sad’, for example. However, there are other words in English which aren’t as straight-forward. Many times it’s not just English learners who get these wrong, even native speakers end up using some phrases in an incorrect way. Read on to discover some of the most misused words in the English language, and find out if you’re using them correctly!


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1. Literally

The misuse of the word ‘literally’ literally drives me crazy, except it doesn’t because even I use it incorrectly! Most people tend to look at ‘literally’ as a word that means ‘figuratively’ or ‘very’, but they couldn’t be further from the mark. ‘Literally’ literally (see what I did there) means ‘exactly’, or ‘actually’. So, while your brain can’t ‘literally’ explode from discovering this word’s new meaning, you can use it a bit more ‘literally’.

2. Irregardless

This is one badly used word that is constantly tripping me up. So much so, that I’m not even sure what it means anymore! Does it mean ‘in spite of’? ‘Regardless’? Or does it have some completely different definition altogether? None of the above, actually. It turns out that, despite its wide use, ‘irregardless’ isn’t actually a real word. Don’t worry though, ‘regardless’ is a legit phrase and it means pretty much the same thing we tend to think ‘irregardless’ does.

3. Ironic

People love to use ‘ironic’ in all kinds of different ways, and there’s often a bit of a mix-up when it comes to knowing the appropriate situation for using the word. In a lot of cases ‘ironic’ is taken to indicate something unfortunate or unlucky, but the word actually (or literally) means the opposite of what you would expect. For example, it would be ironic if you’d always planned on traveling the world and became a travel writer without ever traveling instead.


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4. Inflammable

Since ‘flammable’ means something that can easily catch fire, surely ‘inflammable’ means something that isn’t flammable, right? Wrong! ‘Flammable’ and ‘inflammable’ ACTUALLY MEAN THE EXACT SAME THING! Don’t worry, it’s quite a common mistake to make and most people tend to get it wrong. If you really want to say something doesn’t catch fire easily, a good alternative is ‘non-flammable’—although the definition of this word still isn’t quite the opposite of ‘flammable’ or ‘inflammable’.

5. Bemused

If you’re feeling bemused at the idea that someone could possible get the definition of ‘bemused’ wrong, you need to seriously re-think your use of this particular word. Due to how similar ‘amused’ and ‘bemused’ look, a lot of people think the two are interchangeable. Hence ‘bemused’ has come to indicate a sort of detached amusement which, you guessed it, is completely wrong. ‘Bemused’ simply means ‘confused’ or ‘bewildered’. This list of wrongly used words is bemusing, isn’t it?

6. Factoid

The belief that ‘factoid’ means a ‘small fact’ is actually a factoid because it’s incorrect! A ‘factoid’ can be a small fact, but the main thing to focus on is that it’s actually a phrase used for a fact which is false or untrue.


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7. Infer/imply

These two words are pretty similar and they’re often used interchangeably as if they possess the same definition too. In reality, ‘infer’ and ‘imply’ are two very different phrases with their own unique meanings. Usually both words are believed to mean ‘to suggest something’, but it’s only ‘imply’ that correctly holds this definition. The meaning of ‘infer’ is more along the lines of figuring out something that isn’t stated outright or directly evident.

8. Entitled

‘Entitled’ is one of those tricky words that a lot of people think has more than one definition. On the one hand, it can be used when stating the title of a book, TV show, movie, etc., and on the other indicates someone who believes they have the right to something. The truth is, only the latter definition is correct. ‘Entitled’ is defined as: ‘believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment’.

Which of these words have you been using incorrectly? Do you know of any other common words people tend to misuse? Share them with us!