Word Confusion: Air vs Err vs Heir

Posted May 12, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

It’s hard to believe that anyone could confuse air with heir, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by what software manages to ignore. ’Cause I just can’t buy that an author could actually mix this one up, ahem.

I’ve added err to this post (effective 8 November 2016), primarily because it is an heterograph along with air and heir…and I’ve learned to expect confusions of all sorts. Of course, I’ll be adding a post for “E’er vs Ere vs Err” and you may want to check out “‘Em, ‘Er, ‘Im…“.

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 “Air vs Err vs Heir” 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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Air Err Heir
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: err and heir

“Sunset in Lugansk” courtesy of Ustas~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims) and under the GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s a lot of air, and it’s sure pretty-lookin’.

Blue screen of death, Windows NT 4.0.

“029-bsod Windows 2000” is courtesy of University of Prince Edward Island and is a Microsoft derivative work by Koman90 / Andewz111 and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

An err on the computer’s part…I do hate that blue screen of death.

“Puzzle of the Royal Wedding” courtesy of Puzzles-Games.eu

Then-fiancée, Kate Middleton, with Prince William, the heir to the throne.

Part of Grammar:
Adjective; Noun 1, 2, 3
Verb, intransitive & transitive

Third person present verb: airs
Past tense or past participle: aired
Gerund or present participle: airing

Verb, intransitive

Third person present verb: errs
Past tense or past participle: erred
Gerund or present participle: erring

Noun; Verb, transitive

FEMININE for the noun: heiress
Plural for the noun: heirs, heiresses

Operating by means of air pressure or by acting upon air

Of or relating to aircraft or to aviation

Taking place in the air

  • Aerial

[Obsolete] Before

  • Previously

Invisible gaseous substance surrounding the earth, a mixture mainly of oxygen and nitrogen 1

  • This substance regarded as necessary for breathing
  • Free or unconfined space above the surface of the earth
  • [Used as an adjective] Used to indicate that something involves the use of aircraft
  • The earth’s atmosphere as a medium for transmitting radio waves
  • Considered as one of the four elements in ancient philosophy and in astrology (associated with the signs of Gemini, Aquarius, and Libra)
  • Breeze or light wind
  • Air conditioning
  • A jump off the ground on a snowboard

[Air of] An impression of a quality or manner given by someone or something 2

  • [Airs] An annoyingly affected and condescending manner

[Music] A tune or short melodious composition, typically a song 3

Verb, intransitive:
To be exposed to the open air (often followed by out)

To be broadcast or televised

Verb, transitive:
[Often be aired] Express an opinion or grievance publicly

  • Broadcast a program on radio or television
  • [Archaic] Parade or show (something) ostentatiously

Expose a room to the open air in order to ventilate it

  • Air oneself
  • [Archaic] Go out in the fresh air
[Formal] Be mistaken or incorrect

  • Make a mistake

To stray from the right course or accepted standards

  • [Often used as adjective, erring] Sin
  • Do wrong
  • Be incorrect

To act with bias, especially favorable bias

To go astray in thought, morals, or belief

[Archaic] To deviate from the true course, aim, or purpose

Person legally entitled to the property or rank of another on that person’s death

  • [Figurative] A person inheriting and continuing the legacy of a predecessor

Verb, transitive:
[Chiefly South Midland and Southern U.S.] To inherit

  • Succeed to
That air drill sure makes it easier.

We’ll need an air pump to blow up that big ol’ mattress.

Boeing rules the air industry.

World War I was the first air war.

The air was stale.

The doctor told me to get some fresh air.

He celebrated by tossing his hat high in the air.

Air travel gets you there faster.

Radio stations have successfully sold products over the air.

She answered with a faint air of boredom.

He began to put on airs and think he could boss us around.

She sang a little air from the 1920s.

Verb, intransitive:
Open the window and let the room air out.

The programs were aired on India’s state TV network.

Verb, transitive:
He was airing a snowy hand and signet ring.

The window sashes were lifted regularly to air the room.

The judge had erred in ruling that the evidence was inadmissible.

The erring brother who had wrecked his life was back.

I had erred in asking Emma to be my wife.

Both 2016 presidential candidates have erred in their moral choices.

“To err is human, to forgive divine.” – Alexander Pope’s “An Essay on Criticism

Tom was his eldest son and heir.

She aspired to marry the heir to the throne.

They saw themselves as the true heirs of the Enlightenment.

Verb, transitive:
“His sons in blooming youth were snatched by fate;
One only daughter heir’d the royal state.” – John Dryden’s Æneid translation.

Adjective: airlike, airy, unaired, well-aired
Noun: airs
Adjective: errable, errant, erring
Noun: errability, errancy, errata, erratum, erroneous, error
Adjective: heirless
Noun: heir-at-law, heirdom, heirloom, heirship
History of the Word:
1 Middle English from the Old French air, which is from the Latin aer, which is from the Greek aēr, denoting the gas.

2 Late 16th century from the French air, which is probably from the Old French aire, meaning site, disposition, which is from the Latin ager, agr-, meaning field (influenced by 1).

3 Late 16th century from the Italian aria.

Middle English in the sense of wander, go astray is from the Old French errer, from the Latin errare meaning to stray. Middle English via Old French from the Latin heres.

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:

Anna Nicole Smith MTVMA 2005” by Toby Forage (MTV Music Awards 2005) is under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons with the starting page of the Supreme Court decision.