Commonly Confused Words

Don’t confuse these religious words

This edition of Commonly Confused Words will focus on some religious words and their homonyms, such as Heal vs Heel, and Angels vs Angles.

“What on earth is a homonym?” I bet you’re asking. Homonyms are two or more words that either have the same spelling or the same pronunciation, but have different meanings. We’ve been doing this very often in this segment! Bare vs Bear is the first to come up when I google this topic. So of the five items in this post, three of them are homonyms because they’re pronounced the same. Anyway, let’s dive in!


Heal and Heel

Both of these words sound the same but they certainly don’t mean the same thing!

Heal is a verb and refers to something being cured or getting better. When you get a bruise, cut or scrape, in time it will heal. It’s the magical wonder that is the human body. Or maybe… divine powers…

A heel, on the other hand, is the back part of your foot. Heels is an informal word for high heeled shoes, or high heels. This is sometimes incorrectly seen as heals.

A heel / heels

Remember: Jesus heals, girls wear heels.

Angel and Angle

For this one, all you need to remember is that one has EL in the spelling and the other has LE.

An Angel refers to a being from Heaven with wings. You may well put one on the top of your Christmas tree.

You could also call someone an angel if they’ve done something nice for you or done you a favour.

An Angle is a mathematical term and refers to a space in between two lines which meet up, e.g. a triangle has three angles.

In addition, an angle could also refer to a different point of view, e.g. looking at a problem from a different angle.

Now that you know the difference, check out this funny picture.

snow angels-snow angles

Soul and Sole

These two also sound the same!

A soul refers to a person’s spirit. If you’ve done a good deed for someone, they may have called you a good soul. Soul can also refer to a genre of music. James Brown, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Al Green are just a few artists to get you going.

It’s also a word to refer to a person:

  • Not a soul could be seen at that time of night
  • Don’t tell a soul!

Sole refers to the underside of your foot or shoe. It is also a type of flatfish.

It can also mean only:

  • His income was the sole source of income for his family
  • My sole aim this evening is to start my assignment
  • The bathrooms are for the sole use of our customers
  • He was the sole survivor of the shipwreck.

Depending on the sentence, this can sometimes be written as solely:

  • The bathrooms are solely for the use of our customers.

Selling your soul refers to doing something wrong or unethical in order to profit yourself.

Think about how this would differ from selling your sole.

A soulmate (sometimes written as two words: soul mate) is your romantic life partner; someone you want to be with for the rest of your life. You’ll hear this word often at weddings. Soulmate, not solemate.

Simpsons. Bart sells his soul
Who remembers The Simpsons episode where Bart sells his soul?

Pray and Prey

Our third homonym for this chapter.

Pray is a verb and is something you might do at a place of worship, e.g. a church. I pray, you pray, he/she prays, the priest was praying, the nuns prayed, etc.


Prey is usually a noun, but it can sometimes function as a verb as well. As a noun, it refers to an animal that is being hunted, or the victim of a hunter. A gazelle might well be a tiger’s prey.

As a verb, it refers to the act of hunting prey, e.g. lions prey on deer and foxes prey on rabbits. Used in this way, it could also refer to victimising others:

  • The con men prey on the older generation
  • The bullies were preying on the new kids

So I could you could also say that the new kids were the school bullies’ prey.

lioness stalking prey
A lioness stalking her prey.

domestic cat stalking prey
Does your cat ever stalk prey? Like birds, for example.

Holy and Holly

Let’s finish on a Christmassy note! Now, these two words are often confused, but once you figure out their different pronunciations, the confusion magically goes away!

Holy, pronounced hoe-ley, pertains to religion in some way, e.g. a Holy Bible, a holy man, holy ground, and a holy relic.

crucifix-holy symbol
The crucifix is very much a holy symbol in Christianity.
Indiana Jones - holy grail
Who remembers the Holy Grail in the Indiana Jones franchise?

Holly, pronounced ho (as in the ho from hot)-ley, is that plant you see at Christmas time with the green spiky leaves and red berries. How many times did you touch the spikes as a child and wondered why it hurt? Every. Single. Year.


How many times do you see someone write on Facebook “Holly shit!”?

And that’s all for today’s lesson. As always, I hope this was a helpful one for you.