Word Confusion: Leach versus Leech

Posted December 18, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

This confusion tends to crop up mostly in paranormal romance or urban fantasy tales.

Just keep in mind that vampires bite and suck blood from mammals. Much like the leeches you may pick up in streams or lakes while leaching doesn’t bite. It may involve soil, and I suppose you could argue that leaching does drain minerals from soil, but it becomes an unsound argument to apply to vampires.

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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Leach Leech
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com
Soil leaching process

You could argue that lEAching sucks minerals…

Leech on someone's foot

A lEEch bites and sucks your blood…bwah-hah-hah.

Part of Grammar:
Verb, intransitive & transitive

Third person present verb: leaches
Past tense or past participle: leached
Gerund or present participle: leaching

Noun 1, 2, 3;
Verb 1, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: leeches
Past tense or past participle: leeched
Gerund or present participle: leaching

Verb, intransitive:
[With reference to a soluble chemical or mineral] Drain away from soil, ash, or similar material by the action of percolating liquid, especially rainwater

Verb, transitive:
[With reference to a soluble chemical or mineral] Drain away from soil, ash, or similar material by the action of percolating liquid, especially rainwater

  • Subject soil, ash, ore, etc. to a leaching process
A wormlike creature that sucks blood 1

A person who extorts profit from or sponges on others

[Archaic] Doctor, healer 2

[Slang] Vampire

[Sailing 3] After or leeward edge of a fore-and-aft sail

Leeward edge of a spinnaker

Vertical edge of a square sail

[Computing] One who benefits, usually deliberately, from others’ information or effort but does not offer anything in return

Verb, intransitive:
Habitually exploit or rely on

Verb, transitive:
To apply leeches to, so as to bleed

To cling to and feed upon or drain, as a leech

[Archaic] To cure

  • Heal
Verb, intransitive:
Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring discussed pesticides that leach into rivers.

Fertilizer can be leached away by too much rainwater.

Verb, transitive:
The nutrient is quickly leached away.

Gold can be leached out of the ore.

Leeches have been used to suck the blood out of bruises thereby speeding up healing time.

We’ll need a leech to bandage him up.

The leech is the angled side, the aft or back edge, of a sail.

If you’ve read any of the Outlander series, you know how often Claire uses leeches as part of her healing technique.

I am image leeching when I directly link to a book cover in Goodreads.
If incorrectly tensioned, the leech of a sail may flutter noisily (Wikipedia.

Verb, intransitive:
He’s leeching off the kindness of others.

Can’t you see he’s leeching off you?

Verb, transitive:
His relatives leeched him until his entire fortune was exhausted.

The doctor leeched the blood from his bruise.

Adjective: leachable, unleached
Noun: leachability, leachate, leacher
Adjective: leechlike
History of the Word:
Old English leccan meaning to water is of West Germanic origin. The current sense dates from the mid 19th century. 1 Old English lǣce, lȳce and related to the Middle Dutch lake, lieke.

2 Old English lǣce, of Germanic origin.

3 Late 15th century

Probably of Scandinavian origin and related to Swedish lik, Danish lig, denoting a rope sewn round the edge of a sail to stop the canvas from tearing.

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:

“Leach Test” is part of a post, “Test to Determine Optimum Drip Emitter Spacing” at Irrigation Tutorials. “Vampire” by Jean-no under the Art Libre Copyleft license, via Wikimedia Commons.