lessen vs. lesson

What is the difference between lessen and lesson?

Lessen and lesson are both pronounced /ˈlɛsən/.
The verb lessen is formed by attaching the suffix “-en” (which is most often associated with verbs) to the adjective/adverb less—it literally means “to make or become less.” For example:
  • “The new policy is meant to lessen the burden on low-income families.”
  • “The humor in the film doesn’t lessen its emotional poignancy.”
The noun lesson is not formed from a suffix; it comes from the Old French leçon, and means “something to be taught or learned.” For example:
  • “Tomorrow’s lesson will be focused on Shakespeare’s earliest plays.”
  • “Son, you need a lesson in manners.”

Spelling Tricks and Tips

To remember the correct spelling, use the mnemonic hidden in that last example: One teaches a lesson to one’s son.
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