Word Confusion: Road vs Rode vs Rowed

Posted January 26, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 8 October 2017

It’s a traveling confusion of heterographs, and while someone may have rowed on a road, it was more likely to be a quarrel than a method of transport. Now, I have heard of being rowed on a river. Sea captains and their crew are rowed between their ship and shore. Back in the day, you could have rode onto a boat that would be rowed to the opposite shore. A ferry powered by manpower. Then there are some who rode the road less traveled. Nowadays we call it getting away from it all.

But can we? Get away from it all when we bring it all with us? When all our gadgets and toys ride with us along the road? Hmmm, perhaps that was what the row was 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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Road Rode Rowed
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary of Newfoundland English

A straight Danish surveyor road

“Surveyor Road” by Sten is under CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 or GFDL license, via Wikimedia Commons

Danish “surveyor-roads” were created by surveyors at the beginning of the 19th century during the enclosure and are characterized by their straight course.

A man riding a horse in a citrus grove

“Riding a Horse in Cuba” by James Emery is under CC-BY-2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

He rode this horse back in 2002.

F. J. Furnivall coxing the girls of the Hammersmith Sculling Club in 1907

“Furnivall Sculling Club” was scanned in by Andrew Dalby from Frederick James Furnivall’s records (1911) which are in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

These girls rowed back in 1907.

Part of Grammar:
Noun Past tense for ride

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

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: rides
Past participle: ridden, rid [Archaic] Gerund or present participle: riding

Past tense of row

Verb, intransitive & transitive 4

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: rows
Past participle: rowed
Gerund or present participle: rowing

A wide way leading from one place to another, especially one with a specially prepared surface that vehicles can use

  • The part of such a way intended for vehicles, especially in contrast to a shoulder or sidewalk
  • [With modifier; historical] A regular trade route for a particular commodity:
  • [Mining] An underground passage or gallery in a mine
  • A railroad
  • [British] A railroad track, especially as clear (or otherwise) for a train to proceed

A series of events or a course of action that will lead to a particular outcome

  • A particular course or direction taken or followed

[Usually roads; often in place names] Another term for roadstead

Hyphenated in combination


[Nautical; Newfoundland] A rope, especially one securing an anchor or trawl 1

Verb, intransitive:
[Of a woodcock] Fly on a regular circuit in the evening as a territorial display, making sharp calls and grunts 2

Sit on and control the movement of an animal, especially a horse, typically as a recreation or sport 3

  • Travel on a horse or other animal
  • [Ride in/on] Travel in or on (a vehicle) as a passenger
  • [Of a vehicle, animal, etc.] Be of a particular character for riding on or in
  • [Informal] Transport someone in a vehicle

Be carried or supported by something with a great deal of momentum

  • Project or overlap
  • [Of a vessel] Sail or float

Verb, transitive:
Sit on and control the movement of an animal, especially a horse, typically as a recreation or sport 3

  • Sit on and control a bicycle or motorcycle for recreation or as a means of transport
  • Travel in (a vehicle) or on (a public transport system) as a passenger
  • Go through or over an area on horseback, a bicycle, etc.
  • Compete in a race on horseback or on a bicycle or motorcycle
  • [Informal] Transport someone in a vehicle

Be carried or supported by something with a great deal of momentum

[Be ridden] Be full of or dominated by

Yield to a blow so as to reduce its impact

[Vulgar slang] Have sexual intercourse with

Annoy, pester, or tease

Since the noun, row doesn’t fit within the sound-alike parameters, I’m not covering this particular definition.

Verb, intransitive:
Travel by propelling a boat in this way

Engage in the sport of rowing, especially competitively

3 Have a quarrel

Verb, transitive:
Propel a boat with oars

  • Convey a passenger in a boat by propelling it with oars
I hear they’re building a new road.

Marco Polo traversed the Silk Road across Asia to the West when he returned.

They’re building a railroad just south of here.

They waited for a clear road at Hellifield Junction.

He’s well on the road to recovery.

Boston Roads is a book that relates the histories of Boston roads, lists their exits, and includes state and county route listings, and information on unbuilt highways.

Hit the road, Jack.

Damn, it’s the end of the road for us.

One for the road, barkeep.

It was a road to nowhere for Helen.

There’s nothing for me here, so I’ll be takin’ to the road.

Don’t you have a road map with you?

Damn road hog!

Well, they do say that all roads lead to Rome.

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

the crime-ridden streets

She had been bed-ridden for years.

The foot of the seal-net is brought-to on a shallop’s old rode, and the head on two fishing-lines with corks between.

Five rodes hold the trap in place.

The punt was fitted with a little cuddy at the front, the rode was always coiled here.

Verb, intransitive:
We rode on horseback.

Some of the officers rode back.

I rode on the buses.

The van rode as well as some cars of twice the price.

When the two lithospheric plates collided, one rode over the other.

A large cedar barque rode at anchor.

The moon rode high in the sky.

Verb, transitive:
He rode a Harley Davidson across the U.S.

She rode the bus across 42nd Street.

rode the full length of the Ridgeway.

I rode a good race.

The taxi driver who rode Kelly into the airport not long ago.

A stream of young surfers fighting the elements rode the waves.

[Figurative] The fund rode the growth boom in the 1980s.

Harrison drew back his jaw and rode the blow.

She rode him hard and put him away wet.

The parents rode us for not giving all the kids a chance to play.

Verb, intransitive:
We rowed down the river all day.

He rowed for Yale.

They rowed about who would receive the money from the sale. 3

Verb, transitive:
Out in the bay, a small figure was rowing a rubber dinghy.

Her father was rowing her across the lake.

Adjective: interroad, roadless
Noun: railroad, roadless, roadlessness
Adjective: ridable, rideable
Noun: roading
Adjective: rowable
Noun: rower, underrower
Phrasal Verb
ride on
ride someone down
ride something out
ride up
row back
History of the Word:
Old English rād, meaning journey on horseback, foray.

It’s of Germanic origin and related to the verb ride.

1 Early 17th century, of unknown origin.

2 Mid-18th century, in the sense of fly landward in the evening is of unknown origin.

Old English rīdan is of Germanic origin and related to Dutch rijden and German reiten.

4 Mid-18th century, of unknown origin.

5 Old English rōwan.

Of Germanic origin.

Related to rudder

From an Indo-European root shared by Latin remus meaning oar, the Greek eretmon meaning oar.

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:

Olavsoka 2010 Boat Race Women 6-Oar Rowing Boats, which is Eileen Sandá’s own work, are rowing along a road in Yvonand, Canton of Vaud, Switzerland, which is Dietrich Michael Weidmann’s own work; both are under GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0 license and via Wikimedia Commons.