Word Confusion: Auger versus Augur

Posted January 27, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Amazing isn’t it, how one measly letter can have such an effect on a word? Obviously you’d never want to tell a woodpecker to auger well. You’d end up with holes in the siding. But let a flock of birds fly by, and it could augur well…especially since you wouldn’t end up with holes.

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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Auger Augur
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

“Pipe Cleaning Spiral” was photographed by Frank C. Müller, Baden-Baden, Germany, under the CC BY-SA 2.5 license, via Wikimedia Commons

A simple and essential auger.

“Roman Augur” courtesy of Parables

Some Roman augurs used birds to read the future.

Part of Grammar:
Plural for noun: augers
Noun 1;
Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: augurs
Past tense or past participle: augured
Gerund or present participle: auguring

Always related to tools and engineering

A tool with a corkscrew bit for boring holes in wood or the ground

  • [Carpentry] A bit, as for a brace
  • A boring tool, similar to but larger than a gimlet, consisting of a bit rotated by a transverse handle

Earth auger

[Plumbing] Snake

[Historical; in ancient Rome] A religious official who observed natural signs, especially the behavior of birds, interpreting these as an indication of divine approval or disapproval of a proposed action

Verb, intransitive:
[Of an event or circumstance] Portend a good or bad outcome

Verb, transitive:
[Of an event or circumstance] Portend or bode a specified outcome

[Archaic] Foresee or predict


I have an auger bit I use in my drill to quickly make holes for bulbs.
“Above it rig a stage, on the forks of trees, with a firm socket for the stock or shaft of your auger to work in.” – W. B. Lord’s Shifts and Expedients of Camp Life, Travel & Exploration

“Then Baugi took the auger again and he bored deeper and deeper into the rock.” – Padraic Colum’s The Children of Odin

We’ll need an auger to break up that blockage.

We must ask the augur to read the signs.

Verb, intransitive:
The end of the Cold War seemed to augur well.

The return to the gold standard augured badly for industry.

Verb, transitive:
They feared that these happenings augured a neo-Nazi revival.

A new coalition would not augur a new period of social reforms.

Adjective: augural
Noun: augury

History of the Word:
Old English nafogār is from nafu + gār (piercer). The n was lost when some clerk merged a nauger 1 Late Middle English from the Latin for diviner.

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:

Bird of Ill Omen Used as an Oracle” from Wellcome Images is under the CC BY 4.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons, is about to be drilled by “Augur Well“, which is courtesy of The Phrase Finder, as part of an article that explores the difference between auger and augur.