Word Confusion: Mark versus Marque

Posted September 8, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 21 September 2017

Nope, this is my own curiosity running amuck. I was curious about marque and how it differed from a marquee, so imagine my surprise when I found that the former had less in common with the latter than I thought…!

On the Mississippi, when they called out “by the mark twain!”, they meant that the water was two fathoms deep. So, there’s using marks to measure the depth of the water, which might be useful for a ship’s captain bearing letters of marque.

Before universal education, many people simply made their mark on a piece of paper to signify that they signed their name. Think of all the mamas putting coasters under that glass or bottle to prevent marks on the furniture! And of course all our frustration over trying to get that grease mark off our shirts!

You could also think of marque as a form of branding. It usually applies to cars, for example, Chevrolet’s Dodge, Jeep, Plymouth or Ford’s Continental or Mercury or General Motors’ Buick or Cadillac. Which is distinctly different from marquee, which you can find at Marquee versus Marquis.

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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Mark Marque
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

“Fridge’s Love” courtesy of Infrogmation and Wikimedia Commons.

Dead refrigerators have their own mark with unusually cheerful artwork in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

“White 1963 Lincoln Continental” courtesy of Morven and Wikimedia Commons

A 1963 Lincoln Continental Marque.

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

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: marks
Past tense or past participle: marked
Gerund or present participle: marking

Plural for the noun: marques
A small area on a surface having a different color from its surroundings, typically one caused by accident or damage 1

  • A spot, area, or feature on a person’s or animal’s body by which they may be identified or recognized

A line, figure, or symbol made as an indication or record of something

  • Written symbol made on a document in place of a signature by someone who cannot write
  • A level or stage that is considered significant
  • Sign or indication of a quality or feeling
  • Characteristic property or feature
  • Competitor’s starting point in a race
  • [Nautical] Piece of material or a knot used to indicate a depth on a sounding line
  • [Telecommunications] One of two possible states of a signal in certain systems

Point awarded for a correct answer or for proficiency in an examination or competition

  • A figure or letter representing the total of such points and signifying a person’s score
  • [Especially in track and field] A time or distance achieved by a competitor, especially one which represents a record or personal best

[Followed by a numeral] A particular model or type of a vehicle, machine, or device

A target

  • [Informal] A person who is easily deceived or taken advantage of

Basic monetary unit of Germany (until the introduction of the euro), equal to 100 pfennigs, a Deutschmark, or formerly, an Ostmark 2

Former English and Scottish money of account, equal to thirteen shillings and four pence in the currency of the day

  • Denomination of weight for gold and silver, formerly used throughout western Europe and typically equal to 8 ounces (226.8 grams)

Verb, intransitive:
Become stained 3

Verb, transitive:
Make a visible impression or stain on 3

Write a word or symbol on (an object), typically for identification

  • Write a word or figure on an object
  • [Mark something off] Put a line by or through something written or printed on paper to indicate that it has passed or been dealt with

Show the position of

  • Separate or delineate a particular section or area of something
  • [Of a particular quality or feature] Separate or distinguish someone or something from other people or things
  • [Mark someone out for] Select or destine someone for a particular role or condition
  • [Mark someone down as] Judge someone to be a particular type or class of person
  • Acknowledge, honor, or celebrate an important event or occasion with a particular action
  • Be an indication of a significant occasion, stage, or development
  • [Usually be marked] Characterize as having a particular quality or feature
  • [Chiefly British; of a clock or watch] Show a certain time

[Of a teacher or examiner] Assess the standard of a piece of written work by assigning points for proficiency or correct answers

  • [Mark someone/something down] Reduce the number of marks awarded to a student, candidate, or their work

Notice or pay careful attention to

[Of a player in a team game] Stay close to a particular opponent in order to prevent them getting or passing the ball
Make of car, as distinct from a specific model 4

[Letter of marque, usually letters of marque (and reprisal)] A government license authorizing a person to attack and capture enemy merchant shipping and to commit legal piracy 5

Commissions or warrants issued to someone to commit what would otherwise be acts of piracy (Red State Briefing)

  • A ship carrying such a license
The blow left a red mark down one side of her face.

He was five feet nine, with no distinguishing marks.

Unemployment had passed the two million mark.

The flag was at half-mast as a mark of respect.

It is the mark of a civilized society to treat its elderly members well.

Many candidates lose marks because they don’t read the questions carefully.

Figurative full marks to them for highlighting the threat to the rain forest.

The highest mark was 98 percent.

a Mark 10 Jaguar.

Few bullets could have missed their mark.

They figure I’m an easy mark.

Verb, intransitive:
It is made from a sort of woven surface which doesn’t mark or tear.

Verb, transitive:
He fingered the photograph gently, careful not to mark it.

She marked all her possessions with her name.

an envelope marked “private and confidential”

She marked the date down on a card.

He marked off their names in a ledger.

The top of the pass marks the border between Alaska and the Yukon.

You need to mark out the part of the garden where the sun lingers longest.

The solicitor general marked him out for government office.

She had marked him down as a liberal.

To mark its fiftieth anniversary, the group held a fashion show.

A series of incidents which marked a new phase in the terrorist campaign.

His sword marked him out as an officer.

The reaction to these developments has been marked by a note of hysteria.

His watch marked five past eight.

The teachers are given adequate time to mark term papers.

I was marked down for having skipped the last essay question.

He’ll leave you, you mark my words!

A privateer is distinct from a pirate in that he carries letters of marque.

Sir Francis Drake and the Lafitte brothers are some of the more notorious “pirates” who sailed under letters of marque.

Adjective: mark-to-market, marked
Adverb: markedly
Noun: marka, markdown, markedness, marker, marking, markup
Phrasal Verb
mark something down
mark something up
History of the Word:
Old English mearc, gemerce 1, mearcian 3, are of Germanic origin and are from an Indo-European root shared by the Latin margo meaning margin.

3 Old English marc is from the Old Norse mҩrk.

4 Early 20th century from the French, a back-formation from marquer meaning to brand, although it’s of Scandinavian origin.

Used in the motor industry

5 Late Middle English. [Law French] from the Old French marquee meaning right of reprisal.

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

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Play Ship at Colgate, West Sussex, England, ’02, Acabashi’s own work under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license, is flying a Pirate Flag by fdecomite that was uploaded by tm and is under the CC BY 2.0 license; the ship is marked with Graffiti, Giovanni Dall’Orto’s self-published work, 22 August 2005, [Attribution], under the CC BY 2.0 license and sailing the ocean supplied by U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos (140401-N-KE519-028), which is in the public domain. All images are via Wikimedia Commons.