The Farlex Grammar Book > English Spelling and Pronunciation > Common Mistakes and Commonly Confused Words > exercise vs. exorcise
exercise vs. exorcise
What is the difference between exercise and exorcise?
The words exercise and exorcise are very similar in pronunciation, but they have very different meanings. Exercise, pronounced /ˈɛksərˌsaɪz/, most often refers to activity that promotes bodily or mental health or personal development and improvement, either as noun or a verb. It also has a wide range of other meanings that stem from this core definition. For example:
- “I’ve started biking to work to get a little more exercise.”
- “I usually end my class with a few exercises to let students apply what they’ve learned.”
- “I need to exercise my legs a bit more.”
- “This game will really exercise your brain!”
Exorcise, on the other hand, has a very narrow and specific definition: “to expel evil spirits or other malignant forces by religious ceremonies” or “to free a person or place from such evil elements.” It can also be used figuratively. For example:
- “In the movie, they bring in a priest to exorcise a demon from the possessed girl.”
- “These therapy sessions have really helped me exorcise some of my demons.”
When spoken carefully, exorcise is pronounced /ˈɛksɔrˌsaɪz/. However, in quick, casual speech, the O in the middle of the word tends to have its stress reduced, resulting in a schwa sound that is identical to the pronunciation of exercise—/ˈɛksərˌsaɪz/. Because of this, the mistake is sometimes made to use exercise in place of exorcise, or vice versa.
Spelling Tricks and Tips
As a quick mnemonic trick, just remember that exorcise often relates to demons, both of which contain an O.
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