chord vs. cord

What is the difference between chord and cord?

The consonant digraph CH can sometimes be difficult for writers because, while it is most commonly associated with the /tʃ/ sound (as in church or chapter), it can also form the “hard C” sound /k/ (as in chemistry or archive).
The word chord is one instance in which CH takes the /k/ sound (/kɔrd/). This can sometimes lead to confusion with the word cord, which is pronounced the same way.
Chord most commonly means “a combination of three or more musical notes played in combination to produce a single harmonic sound,” as in:
  • “I only learned how to play a few chords on guitar before I lost interest.”
(Chord can also mean “a line that joins two points on a curve,” but this is specific to mathematics and is not common in everyday speech and writing.)
Cord has a wider range of meaning, but it usually refers to a length of interwoven fibers—that is, a rope or a string. This extends to other things that have a shape similar to a rope, especially parts of anatomy, such as the spinal cord or umbilical cord.

Spelling Tricks and Tips

As a quick trick to remembering the spelling of chord, keep in mind that it refers to multiple musical notes being played together to form a single sound; in the same way, we use the two consonants C and H together to form a single /k/ sound at the beginning of the word.
For any physical object, we must always use the spelling cord.
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