Word Confusion: Sooth versus Soothe

Posted February 2, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Talk about opposite ends of the spectrum, for truth is not usually calming.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Sooth Soothe
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

The Soothsayer from Dr. Who's Soothsayer episode

Image courtesy of the Tardis Wikia

A soothsayer speaks truth.

Baby sucking its thumb

Image is VanessaQ’s own work [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A bit of self-soothing, lol.

Part of Grammar:
Adjective; Noun Verb, intransitive & transitive

Third person present verb: soothes
Past tense or past participle: soothed
Gerund or present participle: soothing

True, real

Soothing, soft, or sweet

True, real


[Archaic] Truth

  • Really
Reduce pain or discomfort

Verb, intransitive:
To exert a soothing influence

Bring tranquillity, calm, ease, or comfort

Verb, transitive:
Gently calm a person or their feelings

Reduce pain or discomfort in a part of the body

Relieve or ease pain

“The e’er this tongue of mine, that led the sentence of dread banishment on yond proud man, should take it off again with words of sooth.” – Shakespeare, The Life and Death of Richard the Second

He looks like sooth.

The soothest shepherd that e’er pip’d on plains.” Milton, Comus

In sooth, it was a peaceful night.

“Ay, sooth, so humbled. That he hath left part of his grief with me.” – Shakespeare, Othello

‘Twas so in sooth that he did stab with his own hands.

In sooth, he is cunning enough to pocket Lucifer’s hoard (FatLingo).

“The life-buoy — a long slender cask — was dropped from the stern, where it always hung obedient to a cunning spring; but no hand rose to seize it, and the sun having long beat upon this cask it had shrunken, so that it slowly filled, and that parched wood also filled at its every pore; and the studded iron-bound cask followed the sailor to the bottom, as if to yield him his pillow, though in sooth but a hard one” (Your Dictionary).

Verb, intransitive:
The lotion soothes as it heals.

Sleep soothes as you rest.

Verb, transitive:
He was elected to soothe the wounds of the Bush era.

I think some hot chocolate will soothe those fears.

Rub some aloe on to soothe your skin.

A shot of brandy might soothe his nerves.

A topical anesthetic might soothe the pain.

Try some chamomile or thyme to soothe his skin.

Music helped soothe him to sleep.

Adjective: soother, soothest
Adverb: forsooth, soothly
Adjective: oversoothing, self-soothed, soothing, unsoothed
Adverb: soothingly, oversoothingly, self-soothing
Noun: soother, soothingness
History of the Word:
Old English sōth was originally an adjective in the sense of genuine or true is of Germanic origin. Old English sōthian meaning verify, show to be true, from sōth meaning true (see sooth above).

In the 16th century, the verb passed through the senses corroborate (a statement), humor (a person) by expressing assent, and flatter by one’s assent, whence came mollify and appease in the late 17th century.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

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