Masterful, Masterly

Another pair of words whose distinct meanings have been blurred by carelessness. The problem centers on masterful, in such phrases as a masterful artist or a masterful performance. Make it masterly, which means "highly accomplished," "inspired," "demonstrating mastery."

Masterful has darker shadings. It's about being the alpha dog: dominant, supreme—almost ruthlessly so. A masterful performance should refer to a boxer or a victorious football team rather than a cello concert.

Confusing Words and Homonyms

Letter A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z