In English, there are an estimated 250,000 distinct words. There are also countless nuances to their definitions. We have jobs in PR or corporate communications because we understand these shades of meaning and can use these 250,000 words to create clear and concise messages.

Yes, words do change over time and language does evolve, but so do nuances. So, in the spirit of our ever-evolving, often-confusing, never-boring lexicon, here are more words that may not mean what you think they mean, courtesy of PR Daily readers.

1. Averse 

Averse means opposed or having a strong disliking to something. For example: He was averse to the idea of using a new style guide.

Averse is often confused with adverse, which means unfavorable or harmful. Report any adverse effects from the medication to your physician.

2. Bemuse 

To be bemused is to be puzzled, bewildered, or confused. I am quite bemused by your inconsistent use of the serial comma. Be careful not to confuse bemuse with amuse.

3. Decimate 

Decimate is another word with a meaning that has changed over time. Historically, decimate means to reduce by 10 percent or to kill one of every 10. Here’s an example: In the Roman armies, it was common practice to decimate any group of mutineers.

In modern usage, decimate means to kill, destroy, or remove a large proportion of; to severely reduce or to destroy. The latest round of cuts decimated our advertising budget.

4. Ensure 

Ensure—often confused with insure—means to make sure or certain. For instance: You need to ensure there are no errors in the article.

Insure means to take precaution in advance or protect against financial loss. He failed to insure his home against flooding.

5. Epic 

This misuse of this word seems to be a pet peeve for PR Daily readers. An epic is an extended narrative poem celebrating the feats of a legendary or traditional hero. It can also be a long film, book, or other work portraying heroic deeds and adventures or covering an extended period of time. For example: The best example of a modern epic is the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian. 

As an adjective, epic means heroic or grand in scale or characteristic of an epic. It can also mean impressive or remarkable. This usage seems to give readers the most grief, as in “last night’s party was epic.”

6. Facetious 

Facetious means flippant or treating a serious issue with inappropriate humor. I don’t appreciate your facetious attitude about spelling. 

Facetious should not be confused with sarcastic, which refers a cutting, ironic remark meant to insult or scorn.

7. Nonplussed 

If you are nonplussed, it means you are bewildered or unsure of how to respond. The CEO’s tirade left me completely nonplussedNonplussed is often thought to mean calm or relaxed.

8. Verbiage 

Verbiage is not a synonym for wording, content, or language. It means an excess of words for the purpose; wordiness or verbosity. For example, Most press release quotes are riddled with irrelevant verbiage.

Source: PRDaily