Word Confusion: Dual versus Duel

Posted November 18, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

It may take a duo to fight a duel, but it doesn’t mean it’s a dual fight.

As for how often I run across this word confusion…not too often. But when it does come up, oh boy, it makes me nuts. I start getting these weird visions of fighting carburetors, of people running in a sack race. And I gotta tell ya, it just plays havoc with the storyline!

I suspect it’s all the historic novels I’ve read as to why I never get these two mixed up. Who knew what an education they’d be, LOL.

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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Dual Duel
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

Image courtesy of the University of Georgia Admissions blog

Image courtesy of the International Charity Fund for the Future of Fencing

Part of Grammar:
Adjective; Noun
Plural for the noun: duals
Noun; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: duels
Past tense or past participle: dueled [U.S.], duelled [British] Gerund or present participle: dueling [U.S.], duelling [British]

[Attrib.] Consisting of two parts, elements, or aspects

  • [Grammar; in some languages] Denoting an inflection that refers to exactly two people or things (as distinct from singular and plural)
  • [In an aircraft] Using dual controls

[Mathematics; often dual to; of a theorem, expression, etc.] Related to another by the interchange of particular pairs of terms, such as point and line


  • Double

[Grammar] A dual form of a word

  • The dual number

[Mathematics] A theorem, expression, etc., that is dual to another

A contest with deadly weapons arranged between two people in order to settle a point of honor

  • [In modern use] A contest or race between two parties

Affair of honor

  • Single combat
  • [Sword] Fight, confrontation, face-off, shoot-out

Fight a duel or duels

A futuristic car with dual engines would zip right along.

Their dual role at work and home is uncompromising.

Old English has dual numbers for first- and second-person pronouns.

I took the checkout to be an instructional flight, and logged it as dual time.

In mathematics, dual is a notion of paired concepts that mirror one another.

Duality is a correspondence between the properties of a category C and the dual properties of the opposite category Cop.

A dually truck is a standard pickup truck that has a set of double tires in the rear, enabling it to haul greater loads.

Git, you two.

“When shall we three meet again?” – Shakespeare, Macbeth

He was killed in a duel.

He engaged in a chess duel with Kasparov.

Two eminent critics engaged in a verbal duel.

They dueled with swords.

Serving officers have been forbidden to duel.

Aaron Burr challenged Alexander Hamilton to a duel in angry response to Hamilton’s slander.

Adverb: dually
Verb: duality, dualize
Adjective: duelistic, duellistic
Noun: dueler, dueling, duelist, dueller, duellist, duello, duellos
Verb, transitive: outduel, outdueled, outdueling, outduelled, outduelling
History of the Word:
Late Middle English, as a noun denoting either of the two middle incisor teeth in each jaw, is from the Latin dualis, from duo meaning two. Late 15th century from the Latin duellum, an archaic form of bellum meaning war, and used in medieval Latin with the meaning combat between two persons, partly influenced by dualis meaning of two. The original sense was single combat used to decide a judicial dispute, while the sense contest to decide a point of honor dates from the early 17th century.

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

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