The word envelope is derived from the French word enveloppe (from envelopper, which means to envelop).
There are a number of difficulties in spelling this tricky word. Native French speakers often struggle with envelope in English because it has one p rather than two. But even native English speakers can have trouble: namely, understanding when to use envelope and when to use envelop.
Envelope (with an e, pronounced Ehn-vuh-LOPE or Ahn-vuh-LOPE) is a noun meaning a wrapper or enclosure. When applied to aircraft or other technology, it means a set of accepted performance limits. This is where we get the phrase “pushing the envelope.”
The explorers were excited when the new spacecraft was completed. They hoped to push the envelope of space exploration during their upcoming voyage.
Envelop (without the e, pronounced ehn-VEH-lup) is a verb meaning to completely enclose or surround something. Like many other verbs, -ed is added to the end when it is used in the past tense (enveloped).
The black velvet night enveloped the explorers’ spacecraft as they sped away from the Earth to a faraway galaxy.
For several years, Earth heard nothing from the brave pioneers. The head of the Space Exploration Agency felt as if he were enveloped in despair. His daughter had insisted on joining the outbound team, and now she was lost to him. He wondered why he even bothered to come in to the office any more.
Then one day he walked in and discovered a strangely glowing envelope on his desk. He carefully opened it up and read the words, “We made it, Dad!”
There was a blaze of warm light, and he felt his daughter’s arms envelop him in an enormous hug.
Bonus Word: Endeavour
Endeavour is another tricky word to spell.
Endeavour is also tricky because the ending is spelled -our in British English and -or in American English. Even NASA had trouble getting this one sorted out.
Which spelling do you prefer, endeavor or endeavour? And where will you go exploring today?
Picture of space shuttle Endeavour from NASA
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, where I will flatten the formidable letter F…
© Sue Archer and Doorway Between Worlds, 2015