Word Confusion: Coarse versus Course

Posted January 16, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Arghhh! How can anyone confuse these two heterographs!!? Okay, okay, I know I delve deeply into words, so maybe I’m easily frustrated. However. I’ve got a gross reminder for ya…acne. Pits. Craters.

Yup, think acne, use that “a” in coarse as a reminder that it’s repulsive, unrefined, vulgar.

Look on the bright side. If you’re dieting, thinking of acne might help cut down the number of courses you’re eating. Certainly cuts down on mine!

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.

If you found this post on “Coarse versus Course” interesting, consider tweeting it to your friends. Subscribe to KD Did It, if you’d like to track this post for future updates.

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Coarse Course
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

“Real Troll” courtesy of Nemesis

I ain’t eatin’ that…it’s too coarse for me!

“Thanksgiving Dinner” was photographed by Marcus Quigmire and uploaded by Princess Mérida under the by NAME under the Creative Commons 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

A typical last course for Thanksgiving dinner is pumpkin pie. Yay!

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

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: courses
Past tense or past participle: coursed
Gerund or present participle: coursing

Rough or loose grain or texture

  • Particles of large-grained sand
  • A person’s features may be heavy, poorly formed, or not in proportion
  • A description of food or drink that is inferior in quality
  • Fabric

[Of a person or their speech] Rude, crude, or vulgar speech


  • Grating
[Singular noun] Route or direction followed by a vehicle, geographic feature, sporting event or action

  • The way in which something progresses or develops
  • A procedure adopted to deal with a situation
  • An area of land set aside and prepared for racing, golf, or another sport

A dish, or a set of dishes served together, forming one of the successive parts of a meal

A series of lectures or lessons in a particular subject, typically leading to a qualification

  • [Medicine] A series of repeated treatments or doses of medication

[Architecture] A continuous horizontal layer of brick, stone, or other material in a building

A pursuit of game (especially hares) with greyhounds by sight rather than scent

The lowest sail on a square-rigged mast

A set of adjacent strings on a guitar, lute, etc., tuned to the same note

Verb, intransitive:
[Of liquid] Move without obstruction

  • Flow
  • [Figurative] Exultation coursed through him


Verb, transitive:
Pursue game, especially hares with greyhounds using sight rather than scent

The beaches on the Nevada-side of Lake Tahoe have coarse sand while the sand in the Bahamas is much silkier.

Medieval bread was much coarser due to the milling process, which left particles of stone in the flour.

It’s a coarse woolen cloth and scratches my skin.

I do not allow such coarse language to be used in my home.

The road adopts a tortuous course along the coast.

The new fleet changed course to join the other ships.

It changed the course of history.

There are typing courses available for those interested.

I prefer that the salad course follow the main course as it cleanses the palate so well.

Many rally races follow a preset course.

All guests are offered a choice of a main course or a four-course meal.

I signed up for a business studies course.

The doctor prescribed a course of antibiotics.

Verb, intransitive:
She would course for hares with her greyhounds.

He could feel the blood coursing through his veins.

Tears were coursing down her cheeks.

Exultation coursed through him.

Verb, transitive:
Many of the hares coursed escaped unharmed.

Adjective: coarse-grained, coarse-looking, coarser, coarsest, coarsish, uncoarse
Adverb: coarsely, uncoarsely
Noun: coarseness, uncoarseness
Verb: coarsen

Noun: multicourse, undercoursing
Verb: undercourse, undercoursed
History of the Word:
Late Middle English, in the sense of ordinary or inferior and of uncertain origin. Until the 17th century, it was identical in spelling with course, and possibly derived from the latter in the sense of habitual or ordinary manner. Middle English from the Old French cours from the Latin cursus, which is from curs- meaning run from the verb currere.

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:

“Rough Path” by Dave Gingrich from Pittsburgh, PA, USA, is under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.