Word Confusion: Ate versus Eight

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

Yeah, I was surprised at this pair of heterographs too. I struggled to find a reason why the author was using ate as a dialogue spelling for eight, but using this as a word was totally out of character for the character. And I spent so much time pondering it that I lost track of what was going on in the story. Not a good sign.

The primary definition for ate is a past tense of eat while eight is the number 8 in several forms. Mmmm, gets my mind racing, thinking back over my snacks for the day: I ate eight grapes, eight ounces of bean salad, and thought longingly of eight pieces of chocolate…sigh…

One spelling that isn’t defined is a dialect spelling — the original trigger that set me off looking for more information. The only word that lends itself this way seems to be hate, which becomes ‘ate — please note the apostrophe that indicates a missing letter!

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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Ate Eight
Credit to: Dictionary.com: ate and eight

Image courtesy of Glum via Wikipedia

He ate part of his hamburger.


Part of Grammar:
Past tense for eat

Noun: eats 1;
Suffix 2, 3, 4
Verb, intransitive & transitive

Third person present verb: eats
Past participle: eaten
Gerund or present participle: eating

Adjective 5; Cardinal number; Noun 6
ATE [a(utomatic) t(est) e(quipment)]

Equipment that makes a series of tests automatically

Ancient Greek goddess personifying the fatal blindness or recklessness that produces crime and the divine punishment that follows it

Originated to add a- stem verbs to form adjectives 2

A specialization of -ate 2, used to indicate a salt of an acid ending in -ic 3

  • Added to a form of the stem of the element or group such as nitrate, sulfate

    Occurs originally in nouns borrowed from Latin, and in English coinages from Latin bases, that denote 4:

    • Offices or functions
    • Institutions or collective bodies such a
    • Joined to stems of any origin:
      • Signifies the office, term of office, or territory of a ruler or official
    • A period of office or rule

Simple past tense for eat

Verb, intransitive:
To consume food

Take a meal

To make a way, as by gnawing or corrosion

Verb, transitive:
To take into the mouth and swallow for nourishment

Chew and swallow (food)

To consume by or as if by devouring gradually

  • Wear away
  • Corrode

To make a hole, passage, etc., as by gnawing or corrosion

To ravage or devastate

To use up, especially wastefully

  • Consume (often followed by up)

To absorb or pay for

[Slang: Vulgar] To perform cunnilingus or fellatio on

Amounting to eight in number

Cardinal number:
Equivalent to the product of two and four

  • One more than seven, or two less than ten
  • 8

A group or unit of eight people or things

  • Eight years old
  • Eight o’clock
  • Short for figure eight
  • A size of garment or other merchandise denoted by eight
  • A playing card with eight pips
  • An eight-oared rowboat or its crew

Cardinal number that is the sum of one and seven and the product of two and four

A numeral, 8, VIII, etc, representing this number

[Music] The numeral 8 used as the lower figure in a time signature to indicate that the beat is measured in quavers

ATE is any apparatus that performs tests on a device using automation to quickly perform measurements and evaluate the test results (Wikipedia).

Having been deceived, Zeus cast Ate out of Olympus, after which she remained on earth, working evil and mischief.

Zeus later sent to earth the Litai, his old and crippled daughters, who followed Ate and repaired the harm done by her (Encyclopædia Britannica).

Where’s the eats?

He advocated for higher teacher salaries.

Certain nitrates are a specialized class of explosives.

With Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s reforms, the caliphate in Turkey was abolished.

Magistrate is sometimes another term for justice of the peace.

Advocate can be either a noun or a verb.

You’d better separate them dogs.

Don’t pontificate, and don’t agitate that crowd.

Did you calibrate the engine?

It’s starting to accelerate! Move!!

Hillary Clinton has created her own little protectorate.

Potentate is the title of a ruler while khanate and shogunate are the office or government of a ruler.

A consulate is where you go if you need help in a foreign country.

Verb, intransitive:
We ate at six o’clock.

Acid ate through the linoleum.

Verb, transitive:
We ate hamburgers and french fries for dinner.

Rust ate away at the pipe.

Disease and pain ate at the patient.

Fire ate the forest.

Unexpected expenses ate up their savings.

The builder ate the cost of the repairs.

He ate me out.

Eight boats started in the race but only three finished.

She bought eight yards of velvet for her skirt.

Her surgery lasted eight hours.

Cardinal number:
We need a committee of eight members.

Eight of the ten were acquitted.

There were eight of the family who were unemployed.

Check to see if we should use viii or VIII.

The win placed Canada closer to the final eight.

Children as young as eight were being pimped out!

Be in time for dinner at eight.

No, really, I wear a size eight.

You won on a pair of eights!?

The sweep oar eight is always coxed.

Hot dog buns are sold in packages of eight.

It’s 8:01 p.m.

Eight quavers equal a semibreve (MusicArrangers.com).

Noun: eater
Verb, intransitive: undereat, underate, undereaten, undereating
Verb, transitive: outeat, outate, outeaten, outeating.
Adjective; Adverb; Noun: eighth
Phrasal Verb
ate away at
ate into
ate someone up
ate something up
History of the Word:
1 Greek: special use of átē, meaning reckless impulse, ruin, akin to aáein, meaning to mislead, harm.

2 Latin -ātus is the masculine, -āta is the feminine, and -ātum is neutral, and equivalent to -ā-, a thematic vowel + -tus, -ta, and -tum past participle suffix.

3 Probably originally in Neo-Latin phrases, such as plumbum acetātum salt produced by the action of acetic acid on lead.

4 Latin -ātus (genitive -ātūs), generalized from v. derivatives, as augurātus office of an augur (augurā(re) to foretell by augury + -tus suffix of v. action), construed as a derivative of augur.

5 First known use: before 1000

6 Circa 1200, ehte

5 & 6 Middle English eighte, Old English ahta and is related to the Dutch acht, Old Saxon, Old High German ahto (German acht), Old Norse ātta, Gothic ahtau, Latin octō, Greek oktṓ, Old Irish ocht, Welsh wyth, Breton eiz, Tocharian B okt, Lithuanian aštuonì, Albanian tetë, Armenian uth, Persian hasht

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:

“Camille Styles” is Chan8806’s own work under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.