Word Confusion: Flour versus Flower

Posted May 16, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Flour and flower are homophones, words that sound the same but have different meanings, origins, and spelling.

Which is why it can be so disconcerting to read of someone flowering the bread board before rolling out sugar cookies. Hmmm, I wonder if some author somewhere has arranged flours in a vase?

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. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Flour Flower
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: flour and flower

Sacks of flour stacked

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

Sacks of German type 405 wheat flour.


Pink Gerbera daisy

Image courtesy of Fir0002 via Wikimedia Commons.

Pretty flower…

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

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: flours
Past tense or past participle: floured
Gerund or present participle: flouring

Noun; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: flowers
Past tense or past participle: flowered
Gerund, noun, or present participle: flowering

Noun:
A powder obtained by grinding grain, typically wheat, and used to make bread, cakes, and pastry

  • Fine soft powder obtained by grinding the seeds or roots of starchy vegetables

Verb, intransitive:
[Of mercury] To refuse to amalgamate with another metal because of some impurity of the metal

  • Lie on the surface of the metal in the form of minute globules

To disintegrate into minute particles

Verb, transitive:
To make (grain or the like) into flour

Grind and bolt

To sprinkle or dredge with flour

  • [US] Grind grain into flour
Noun:
[Botany] Seed-bearing part of a plant, consisting of reproductive organs (stamens and carpels) that are typically surrounded by a brightly colored corolla (petals) and a green calyx (sepals)

  • A brightly colored and conspicuous example of the flower of a plant together with its stalk, typically used with others as a decoration or gift
  • The state or period in which a plant’s flowers have developed and opened

[The flower of] The finest individuals out of a number of people or things

  • The period of optimum development

An ornament or adornment representing a flower

[Printing] An ornamental piece of type, especially a stylized floral design, often used in a line to decorate chapter headings, page borders, or bindings

[Slang] An effeminate man or boy (favors horticultural terms such as lily, pansy) 1

  • Sissy

Verb, intransitive:
[Of a plant] Produce flowers

  • Bloom

Be in or reach an optimum stage of development

  • Develop fully and richly

Verb, transitive:
[Of a plant] Produce flowers

  • Bloom
  • Induce (a plant) to produce flowers

To cover or deck with flowers

To decorate with a floral design

Examples:
Noun:
Any idea where I can get buckwheat flour?

Manioc flour is made from cassavas.

A four sifter is essential for a baker.

There are different types of flours that are best used for different recipes.

I counted up to 27 different flours.

Using a flour not specified in the recipe can ruin the outcome.

Verb, intransitive:
When mercury breaks up into extremely minute globules which will readily float on water, it is floured.

Shaking mercury in the presence of detrimental substances, or stamping in the mortar, promotes flouring.

Verb, transitive:
Grease and flour two round cake pans.

It’s best to flour liver before cooking it.

Flouring the board makes it easier to release the cookie dough after you roll it out.

Noun:
I adore brilliantly colored flowers.

I stopped to buy Bridget some flowers.

The story is all hearts and flowers.

The roses were just coming into flower.

They are the flower of college track athletes.

A young policeman in the flower of his life was gunned down.

Verb, intransitive:
These daisies can flower as late as October.

It was in the Postmodernism era that the theory of deconstruction has flowered most extravagantly.

Verb, transitive:
Forsythia is an ideal plant to force flowering.

Derivatives:
Adjective: flourless, flourless, floury, unfloured
Verb: overflour
Adjective: flowerless, flowerlike
Noun: flowering, wallflower
Verb: reflower
History of the Word:
Middle English has a specific use of flower in the sense of the best part, used originally to mean the finest quality of ground wheat. The spelling flower remained in use alongside flour until the early 19th century. Middle English flour, from the Old French flour or flor is from the Latin flos or flor-. The original spelling was no longer in use by the late 17th century except in its specialized sense of ground grain, i.e., flour.
1 1950s-plus to refer to a male homosexual.

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


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