Word Confusion: Canter versus Cantor

Posted December 2, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

I can’t begin to say how often I run into this Word Confusion. And every single time, an image of a Jewish cantor rises up in front of me. What he’s doing on the horse has me all confused. I think he is too.

I’d like to see a cantor ride a horse at a canter.

Looking at the following:
Then he slowed the horse to a canter.

Slowed down from a gallop.

Then he slowed the horse to a cantor.

I’m guessing that as he approached the cantor, he slowed the horse so he didn’t run over the guy.

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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Canter Cantor
Credit to: Merriam Webster; Encylopædia Britannica; Free Online Dictionary

“North Forks Cardi Flying Change” by Nikki is under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

This Welsh cob is at a canter.

“Showtime is Just This Cantor’s Day Job” courtesy of Jewish Journal

There was a cantor in The Jazz Singer.

Noun 1, 2;
Verb 3, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: canters
Past tense or past participle: cantered
Gerund or present participle: cantering

One who uses cant 1

Beggar, vagabond

A user of professional or religious cant

A three-beat collected gait of a horse during which one or the other of the forelegs and both hind legs lead practically together, followed by the other foreleg and then a complete suspension when all four legs are off the ground 2

Slower than a gallop, but faster than a trot

[Of a horse] To run fairly fast

  • To ride on a horse that is running fairly fast

Verb, intransitive:
To go or move at a canter

To ride a horse at a canter.

Verb, transitive:
To cause a horse to go at a canter

A choir leader in Christianity and Judaism

A synagogue official, the hazzan, who sings or chants liturgical music and leads the congregation in prayer

In medieval Christianity, the person in charge of supervising the choir’s singing

The head of a college of church music

We rode at a canter for miles.

Verb, intransitive:
The horses cantered across the grass.

Verb, transitive:
We cantered off toward the lake.

The competitors cantered into the arena.

The rabbi has found a fine cantor.

A cantor chooses and conducts the vocals for the choir.

The cantor led the chant.

The cantor led the responsorial singing with the congregation.

History of the Word:
1 1609

2 1755
Said to be derived from the Canterbury gallop, a pace set by horseback-riding monks on their way to Canterbury.

3 1706 (See 2)

1538, from the Latin canere, meaning to sing.


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:

Cantor Concert” is Gryffindor’s own work under the GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0, or CC BY 2.5 license and “Justina Vanagaitė and Sir Paul, Her Horse, Compete in the World Extramural Competition at Vazgaikiemis“, 2011, is Stepjuli’s own work under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; both are via Wikimedia Commons.

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