Rogue Words from A to Z: Don’t Be Defiant, It’s Definitely Limiting

A to Z 2015 Letter DDid you know that definitely is the most misspelled word in the English language?

One of the most common ways to misspell definitely is to use an “a” where there should be an “i” and write the word as definately. This is an easy mistake to make. When we pronounce the word definitely out loud, we make an “uh” sound on the third syllable (called a schwa): def-in-uht-ly.  Since the “uh” sound is often spelled with an “a,” it makes sense that definitely should have an “a.” It doesn’t. But then, when has the English language ever made sense?

When people are really confused, they write the word defiantly, which won’t get flagged in your spellcheck because it’s a real word. It comes from the verb “to defy.”

Definitely, on the other hand, comes from the word “finite,” which means to be bound by something or to have limits.

And this is the key thing for you to remember if you want to spell definitely correctly: it comes from the word “finite.” De-finite-ly.

To help you remember this, I have written a very short story.

The Tale of the Defiant Jerk, Whose Time On This Earth Was Limited

Pie_eating_contest_1923Once upon a time, there was a guy who decided that this was the day he was going to win the nuclear pie-eating contest. His girlfriend told him he was being foolish.

He said to her defiantly, “I can break the record. Those other people have limited willpower, and I am the king of contests.”

“No, you can’t,” she said. “It’s no good trying to defy nature. The size of your stomach is finite. It’s been proven definitively. It’s de-finite-ly true.”

But he ate the pie anyway, because he knew he was defin-ate-ly right.

And exploded.

He destroyed an infinite number of planets. What a jerk.

I guess his intelligence was finite, too.



This post is dedicated to Pat Sponaugle and Nicole Roder. Thanks for reading!

Image from Wikimedia Commons

For further reading on definitely, please check out these links:

Common Errors in English Usage: Definate

Time For A New Year’s Resolution? Definately? Defiantly? Definitely!

Stay tuned for Monday’s post, where I will endeavour to entrap the elusive letter E…


© Sue Archer and Doorway Between Worlds, 2015