Word Confusion: Blew versus Blue

Posted November 10, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Just because two words sound alike does not mean they mean the same thing. Shocking, I know. Being something of a bluestocking, I have a passion for words, and I blew through writing up these definitions. It did help that these heterographs were so straightforward.

I did get a bit blue trying to grasp the difference between the intransitive and transitive verbs for blue until I came across a different reference source which stressed that the intransitive version TURNS blue while the transitive MAKES blue.

I know, you’re feeling blue yourself at the idea of having to keep track of which is which. Not to worry. I chose to separate verbs into the intransitives and transitives simply to keep you aware of their existence. That verbs can be separated like this. So there’ll be no need to swear a blue streak about it.

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 “Blew versus Blue” 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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Blew Blue
Credit to: Dictionary.com blew and blue

Image by National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Site Office (Nevada National Security Site Tour Booklet, part 2) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The TNT-equivalent of 36,600 pounds blew up at the Nevada Test Site’s Big Explosives Experimental Facility (BEEF).

Part of Grammar:
Simple past tense for blow

Adjective; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Third person present verb: blows
Past tense: blew
Past participle: blown
Gerund or present participle: blowing

Adjective 1; Noun;
Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun: blues
Past tense or past participle: blued
Gerund or present participle: bluing, blueing

Verb, intransitive:
[Of the wind or air] To be in motion

To move along, carried by or as by the wind

To produce or emit a current of air, as with the mouth or a bellows

[Of a horn, trumpet, etc.] To give out sound

To make a blowing sound

  • Whistle

[Of horses] To breathe hard or quickly

  • Pant

[Informal] To boast

  • Brag

Verb, transitive:
To drive by means of a current of air

To spread or make widely known

To drive a current of air upon

To clear or empty by forcing air through

To shape (glass, smoke, etc.) with a current of air

To blow smoke rings

To cause to sound, as by a current of air

[Jazz] To play a musical instrument of any kind

[Informal] To end a romantic or other relationship with

Of the color of blue

[Initial capital letter] Of or pertaining to the Union army in the American Civil War

[Of the skin] Discolored by cold, contusion, fear, or vascular collapse

Depressed in spirits

  • Dejected
  • Melancholy

She felt blue about not being chosen for the team.

Holding or offering little hope

  • Dismal
  • Bleak

Characterized by or stemming from rigid morals or religion

Marked by blasphemy

The pure color of a clear sky

The primary color between green and violet in the visible spectrum, an effect of light with a wavelength between 450 and 500 nm


Something having a blue color

A person who wears blue or is a member of a group characterized by some blue symbol

[Often initial capital letter] A member of the Union army in the American Civil War or the army itself


Blue ribbon

Verb, intransitive:
To become or turn blue

Verb, transitive:
To make blue

  • Dye a blue color

To tinge with bluing

Verb, intransitive:
Dust blew through every crack in the house.

He blew on my hands to warm them.

He blew that trumpet as if he were Louis Armstrong.

The siren blew just as we rounded the corner.

She blew long and hard about how fabulous she was.

Verb, transitive:
A sudden breeze blew the smoke into the house.

Growing panic blew the rumor about.

He blew his nose loudly.

The wind blew the chimney smoke to the south.

He blew smoke rings that he sent through the ones he had blown earlier.

The driver blew his horn at the next crossing.

He blew me off after our third date.

The candles blew out at once.

The scandal blew over in a month.

I love that blue tie.

the Blue and the Gray

She felt blue about not being chosen for the team.

She has such a blue outlook.

Blue laws were primarily religious laws, a.k.a., the Sunday laws, and restricted one’s activities on Sundays.

The air was blue with oaths.

Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing is still popular for whitening whites.

It’s subtle, but there is a difference between teal blue and teal green.

Tomorrow the blues will play the browns.

She was a bluestocking, who always had her head in a book.

The Murphys’ twins took blue ribbons at the fair last summer.

Verb, intransitive:
Her feet turned blue from the cold.

Verb, transitive:
Blue jeans were originally dyed with indigo.

Don’t blue your clothes ’til the second rinse.

Dialect: blowed Adjective: bluer, bluest, bluesy, half-blue, unblued
Adverb: bluely
Noun: blueness, bluing
History of the Word:
First known use: before 1000

Middle English blowen

1 First known use: 1250-1300

Middle English blewe from the Anglo-French blew, the Old French blo, blau (French bleu) from the Germanic blǣwaz.

Compare the Old English blǣwen, which is a contraction of blǣhǣwen meaning deep blue, perse (see blae, meaning hue), Old Frisian blāw, Middle Dutch blā, Old High German blāo (German blau), and the Old Norse blār.

2 First known use: 1606

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

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

The photo of Maceo Parker was photographed by Ines Kasier for an article, “Maceo Parker, saxophone colossus, finally heads to Waterfront Blues Festival“, by Jake Ten Pas for The Oregonian.