Word Confusion: Ad versus Add

Posted January 20, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 14 October 2017

I suspect this one is more a case of missing or, ahem, adding the d without paying attention. Kind of an ADD thing to do.

I’ve always thought commercials and billboards or Anno Domini when I encounter an ad, and I hadn’t realized how very active ad is from military and sports to movements and birth. Well, think about it. Leaping onto nouns to form new words, if that ain’t birth, I don’t know what is.

As for add, it’s got a bit going on as well, but when you get past abbreviations and nouns, add‘s predictable, and you simply keep adding things in over and over and over and…

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 “Ad versus Add” interesting, consider tweeting it to your friends. Subscribe to KD Did It, if you’d like to track this post for future updates.

Return to top

Ad Add
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

An 1890s advertising poster showing a woman in fancy clothes (partially vaguely influenced by 16th- and 17th-century styles) drinking Coke.

“Drink Coca-Cola 5¢” is by the Coca-Cola Company and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

I do love these old-fashioned ads.

“Transfer to PC Adding Machine” is courtesy of CoolThings.com.

Part of Grammar:
Abbreviation; Noun 1, 2
Plural: ads

Prefix; Suffix 3, 4

Abbreviation; Noun;
Verb, intransitive & transitive 5

Third person present verb: adds
Past tense or past participle: added
Gerund or present participle: adding

[Military] Active duty

  • Armored division

[Usually AD] Anno Domini (used to indicate that a date comes the specified number of years after the accepted date of Christ’s birth)

Athletic director

[Informal] An advertisement 1

[Informal; tennis] Short for advantage 2

Denoting motion or direction to 2

  • Reduction or change into
  • Addition, increase, or intensification

Suffix-forming nouns 3

In collective numerals

  • In groups, periods, or aggregates

In names of females in classical mythology

  • In names of districts

In names of poems and similar compositions

Forming names of members of some taxonomic groupings

Suffix-forming nouns such as ballad or salad 4

analog digital digital, indicating that a music recording was made in analog format before being mastered and stored digitally

Attention deficit disorder, also ADHD

[Always all-caps] Any of a range of behavioral disorders occurring primarily in children, including such symptoms as poor concentration, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Verb, intransitive:
Join something to something else so as to increase the size, number, or amount

  • [Add up] Increase in amount, number, or degree

Put together (two or more numbers or amounts) to calculate their total value

  • [Add up to] Amount to
  • [Usually with negative; add up; informal] Seem reasonable or consistent
  • Make sense

Verb, transitive:
Join something to something else so as to increase the size, number, or amount

  • Put or mix (an ingredient) together with another as one of the stages in the preparation of a dish
  • Put something in or on something else so as to improve or alter its quality or nature
  • Contribute (an enhancing quality) to something

Put together (two or more numbers or amounts) to calculate their total value

[Reporting verb] Say as a further remark

I’m on AD with the AD.

It took place AD 680.

It was in the third century AD that two serious threats almost saw the collapse of the Roman Empire.

I ran an ad in the paper.

Do you want to put an ad in to work the whole month or for just a week?



He has been diagnosed as ADD.

He shows all the signs of being afflicted with ADD.

Verb, intransitive:
This development added to the problems facing the staff.

Watch those air miles add up!

Children learned to add and subtract quickly and accurately.

This adds up to a total of 400 calories.

Many things in her story didn’t add up.

Verb, transitive:
A new wing was added to the building.

Some box offices now add on a handling charge.

One vitamin tablet daily will give added protection.

Add the flour to the eggs, stirring continuously.

Chlorine is added to the water to kill bacteria.

The fruit juice contains no added sugar.

The canopy will add a touch of class to your bedroom.

They added all the figures up.

Add the two numbers together.

“I hope we haven’t been too much trouble,” she added politely.

We would like to add our congratulations…

He added that few of America’s allies would support military action.

Adjective: addable, addible, unaddable
Adverb: addedly
Verb: misadd, readd
History of the Word:
1 Mid-19th century, and it’s an abbreviation.

2 From the Latin ad, meaning to.

In the 16th century, the use of ad- and its variants was extended to replace a- from a different origin such as the Latin ab-, e.g., advance, which is from the French avancer, which is based on the late Latin abante meaning in front.

3 From the Greek -ad- (from nouns ending in -as).

4 Representing the French noun ending -ade.

5 Late Middle English from the Latin addere, which is from ad-, meaning to + the base of dare put.

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

Return to top

Pinterest Photo Credits:

Burrough’s Adding Machines Co. Ad, 1915, from Burroughs is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Kathy's signature