muscle vs. mussel

What is the difference between muscle and mussel?

The word muscle is taken from French and retains its non-phonetic pronunciation: ˈmʌsəl/ (with a silent C). While it has various meanings, it most often refers to the flesh and tissue in a body that contracts to create movement, as in:
  • “Most people don’t realize that the tongue is one of the strongest muscles in the human body.”
  • “I think I pulled a muscle in my back trying to lift that crate up the stairs.”
The word mussel is a noun referring to a bivalve mollusc, typically those that are edible. For example:
  • “This region is renowned for its delicious mussels, which they serve in a simple white wine sauce.”
Mussel is also pronounced ˈmʌsəl/, and, because it has a much more phonetic spelling than muscle, this may lead to some confusion.

Spelling Tricks and Tips

If you’re trying to remember which spelling is correct, keep in mind the related adjective muscular, in which the letter C is pronounced (/ˈmʌskjələr/); if the noun you’re writing has to do with muscular structures, then the spelling will be muscle. Another trick is to remember that a mussel is a type of shellfish, so it will be spelled with two Ss.
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