Word Confusion: Peal versus Peel

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

The word confusion between peal and peel can be ridiculous. The number of times I’ve read about a car pealing out, and I’m left wondering if someone has left the keys in the ignition and the sound is pinging away like mad. I’m sure not thinking that the car is racing off somewhere.

Think about bellringers who ring a peal using church bells; I suspect the volume wouldn’t be much if they were to ring a peel. Besides what would they use? A banana skin? Orange skins? There’s something Monty Python-esque in imagining a group of people standing around holding a banana peel and waving it about.

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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Peal Peel
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

“A bell-ringing ceremony” from the Official Navy Page from United States of America Casey H. Kyhl/U.S. Navy, which is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Bostswain’s mate 3rd Class David Neiman is, technically, ringing a peal.

“Orange Peel” by DENker [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Part of Grammar:
Noun; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: peals
Past tense or past participle: pealed
Gerund or present participle: pealing

Noun 1, 2, 3;
Verb 1, intransitive & transitive 4

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: peels
Past tense or past participle: peeled
Gerund or present participle: peeling

Loud ringing of a bell or bells

A set of bells

[Bellringers] Ringing a series of unique changes on a set of bells

A loud repeated or reverberating sound of thunder or laughter

Verb, intransitive:
[Of a bell or bells] Ring loudly or in a peal

  • [Of laughter or thunder] Sound in a peal

Verb, transitive:
[Of a bell or bells] Ring loudly or in a peal

  • Convey or give out by the ringing of bells
Outer covering or rind of a fruit or vegetable 1

Flat, shovel-like instrument, esp. one used by a baker for carrying loaves, pies, etc., into or out of an oven 2

A small square defensive tower of a kind built in the 16th century in the border counties of England and Scotland 3

Verb, intransitive:
Remove the outer covering or skin from fruit, vegetable, or shrimp

  • [Of a fruit or vegetable] Have a skin that can be removed

[Of a surface or object] Lose parts of its outer layer or covering in small strips or pieces

  • [Of an outer layer or covering] Come off, especially in strips or small pieces

Verb, transitive:
Remove the outer covering or skin from a fruit, vegetable, or shrimp

  • [Peel something away/off] Remove or separate a thin covering or part from the outside or surface of something
  • Remove (an article of clothing)

Send another player’s [croquet] ball through a wicket 4

John and Mary burst out into peals of laughter.

We’re planning to ring a peal on Christmas Day.

Verb, intransitive:
All the bells of the city began to peal.

Aunt Edie’s laughter pealed around the parlor.

Verb, transitive:
The carillon pealed out the news to the waiting city.

My dog loves eating the banana peel.

I like using a wooden peel to remove my grilled pizzas from the kitchen fire.

Verb, intransitive:
Oranges that peel easily are my preference.

Ugh, the walls are peeling.

Better get those spuds peeled!

Verb, transitive:
She watched him peel an apple with deliberate care.

Peel off the skins and cut thick slices of potatoes.

Carefully peel away the wax paper.

Suzy peeled off her white pullover.

The better players are capable of peeling a ball through two or three wickets.

Adjective: unpealed
Verb, transitive: interpeal
Adjective: peelable, unpeelable, unpeeled
Phrasal Verb
peel off
peel out
History of the Word:
Late Middle English as a shortening of appeal. 1 Middle English in the sense of to plunder and is a variant of the dialectical pill, which is from the Latin pilare meaning to strip hair from, from pilus meaning hair. The differentiation between peel and pill may have been by association with the French verbs peler meaning to peel and piller meaning to pillage.

2 Late Middle English from the Old French pele, from the Latin pala, which is from the base of pangere meaning to fix, plant.

3 Probably short for synonymous peel-house: peel from the Anglo-Norman French pel meaning stake, palisade, which is from the Latin palus meaning stake.

This noun version may also be spelled pele or peel tower.

4 Late 19th century from the name of Walter H. Peel, founder of the All England Croquet Association.

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:

Apple Peel” by Challiyan at Malayalam Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0] and “Parts of a Bell” is a derivative work by Malyszkz [CC BY 1.0] with both via Wikimedia Commons.