gorilla vs. guerrilla

What is the difference between gorilla and guerrilla?

The words gorilla and guerrilla are both nouns with the same pronunciation—/ɡəˈrɪlə/—but they have very different meanings.
Gorilla refers to the genus of great apes indigenous to the forests of central Africa, the largest primates on Earth, divided into the species Gorilla gorilla (the Western gorilla) and Gorilla beringei (the Eastern gorilla). For example:
  • “My favorite animals to see at the zoo as a kid were always the gorillas.”
Guerrilla, on the other hand, refers to a member of an irregular army, usually motivated by political goals or ideologies, that relies on secretive, small-scale attacks meant to undermine and harass the enemy. In addition to referring to the members themselves, it can also function as an adjective to describe the tactics used by guerrilla soldiers. For example:
  • “The government has been in negotiation with the leader of the guerrillas in an attempt to resolve the decades-long civil war.”
  • “The rebel group’s guerrilla tactics have taken the dictatorship by surprise.”

Spelling Tricks and Tips

One quick way of remembering the spelling difference is with this joke:
  • Q: Where can an 800-pound gorilla go?
  • A: Wherever it wants!
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