Word Confusion: Prophecy versus Prophesy

Posted March 16, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Yet another pair of sound-alikes, and what’s worse is that this pair of words revolves around the same subject. I hate to say it, but I prophesy that these two will merit return visits from me when I run across them in my editing! And that’s a prophecy you can take to the bank!

With one word a noun and the other a verb, I suppose one trick a writer could use is to remember that the s in prophesy stands for saying. That’s what it means, saying that something will happen.

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. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Prophecy Prophesy
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

ePub cover for The Signs of Jesus' Second Coming

Image by HarunYahya.com / Global Publishing, Istanbul [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Jesus’ second coming is a prophecy.

A rich, colorful, bordered image of Nostradamus

Image courtesy of Sumaru via Wikimedia Commons

Nostradamus is renowned for the prophesies he made about the future.

Part of Grammar:
Plural: prophecies
Verb, transitive

Third person present verb: prophesies
Past tense or past participle: prophesied
Gerund or present participle: prophesying


  • The faculty, function, or practice of prophesying
Say that a specific thing will happen in the future
Cassandra had the gift of prophecy and the curse of no one ever believing her.

It was a bleak prophecy of war and ruin.

It was an unwanted prophecy we all hoped would never be fulfilled.

Did those mystical sages ever prophesy anything other than calamity?

Jacques was prophesying a bumper harvest.

The papers prophesied that he would resign after the weekend.

Adjective: prophesiable, unprophesied
Noun: prophesier
History of the Word:
Middle English from the Old French profecie, via late Latin from the Greek prophēteia, from prophētēs Middle English from the Old French profecier, from profecie. The differentiation of the spellings prophesy and prophecy as verb and noun was not established until after 1700.

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