Word Confusion: Deboss versus Emboss

Posted November 20, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

I always have to think about this one. As long as I remember that to deboss is to depress or push in and that emboss is to emphasize, protrude, or push out, I’m good.

Psst, if you’re into geography, maybe think of valleys and hills, respectively.

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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Deboss Emboss
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: emboss

An aged cream page showing the land masses for the British Isles pressed in, debossed

“Moon Type Map” was uploaded by Evertype and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

A debossed map of the British Isles, from William Moon’s book Light for the Blind, London: Longmans & Co., 1877.

Oreo cookie

“Oreo” was originally uploaded by Cornischong at Luxembourgish Wikipedia under the CC BY-SA 1.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

I know y’all are familiar with those yummy Oreos and their embossed ridges.

Part of Grammar:
Verb, transitive

Third person present verb: debosses
Past tense or past participle: debossed
Gerund or present participle: debossing

Verb, transitive

Third person present verb: embosses
Past tense or past participle: embossed
Gerund or present participle: embossing

A stamp design) into the surface of an object so that it is indented

  • Stamp a design into the surface of an object
Carve, mold, or stamp a design on a surface or object so that it stands out in relief

To decorate a surface with raised ornament

[Metalworking] To raise a design on a blank with dies of similar pattern, one the negative of the other

To cause to bulge out

  • Make protuberant
The rubber bands so many wear for various interests are debossed awareness bracelets.

The shoulders of the lemon-yellow bottle are debossed with lemons.

The design on the book’s cover is debossed.

I feel in love with an embossed brass dish.

It had a dull gold casing with the logo embossed on the front.

It’s popular these days to use embossed fonts for author names and book titles.

Adjective: debossed
Noun: debosser
Adjective: embossable, embossed, unembossed
Noun: embosser, embossment
History of the Word:
1930s, from de- and emboss. Late Middle English from the Old French base of the obsolete French embosser, from em- (into) + boce (protuberance).

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Argentina License Plate c. 2000 is by Jerry “Woody” from Edmonton, Canada, under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

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