Word Confusion: Sign versus Sine

Posted May 21, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 11 October 2017

Many career paths have specialty niches, yet I’ve never heard of a math psychic. So you can imagine how disconcerting it was to read a sentence mentioning the sines a young psychic was receiving.

The word confusion over sign and sine isn’t a common one, and I would guess that most people who know that there is such a word as sine would know what it meant. Which makes it even more confusing that the two words would be confused.

Maybe it’s a sign of the times, maybe it’s a sine of mathematical proportions that someone’s fingers slipped on the keyboard or that, ahem, they forgot to proofread their work. They should’a signed someone on to help with that…*eyebrow waggle*.

As for thinking up a sentence using sine, I’m math-phobic, so I was pretty clueless. Knowing how useful the Internet can be, I searched for examples of sine in a sentence, and one example was “I have offically photographed 153 weddings sine 1996”. Now, I’m guessing this is part of this photographer’s advertising…and he really needs a proofreader.

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.

Sign Sine
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

signs at the beach

“El Mirage Signs” courtesy of Horst Frank via Wikimedia Commons.

Signs at El Mirage Lakebed in California.

A graph with a wavy line, the sine function

“Sine One Period” is Geek3’s own work under the GFDL or CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Graph of the sine-function sin(χ). One period from 0 to 2π is drawn. χ- and γ-axis have the same units.

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

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: signs
Past tense or past participle: signed
Gerund or present participle: signing

Plural for the noun: sines

An object, quality, or event whose presence or occurrence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else

  • Something regarded as an indication or evidence of what is happening or going to happen
  • [With negative] Used to indicate that someone or something is not present where they should be or are expected to be
  • [Medicine] An indication of a disease detectable by a medical practitioner even if not apparent to the patient
  • [Chiefly in biblical and literary use] A miracle regarded as evidence of supernatural power
  • North American] Any trace of a wild animal, especially its tracks or droppings

A gesture or action used to convey information or instructions

  • A notice that is publicly displayed giving information or instructions in a written or symbolic form
  • An action or reaction that conveys something about someone’s state or experiences
  • A gesture used in a system of sign language
  • Short for sign language
  • A symbol or word used to represent an operation, instruction, concept, or object in algebra, music, or other subjects
  • A word or gesture given according to prior arrangement as a means of identification

[Astrology; zodiacal sign] Each of the twelve equal sections into which the zodiac is divided, named from the constellations formerly situated in each, and associated with successive periods of the year according to the position of the sun on the ecliptic

[Mathematics] The positiveness or negativeness of a quantity

Verb, intransitive:
Write one’s name for purposes of identification or authorization

Sign a contract committing oneself to work for a particular person or organization

Use gestures to convey information or instructions

  • Communicate in sign language

Verb, transitive:
Write one’s name on (a letter, card, or similar item) to identify oneself as the writer or sender

  • Indicate agreement with or authorization of the contents of a document or other written or printed material by attaching a signature
  • Write one’s name for purposes of identification or authorization
  • Engage (someone, typically a sports player or a musician) to work for one by signing a contract with them

Express or perform something in sign language

[Archaic] Mark or consecrate with the sign of the cross

[Mathematics] The trigonometric function that is equal to the ratio of the side opposite a given angle (in a right triangle) to the hypotenuse

[Latin] Without

She quickly signed to him.

Flowers are often given as a sign of affection.

The stores are full, which is a sign that the recession is past its worst.

The signs are that counterfeiting is growing at an alarming rate.

There was still no sign of her.

It’s a sign! The end of the world is here!

It’s bear sign, so keep an eye and an ear out.

She gave him the thumbs-up sign.

But officer, I didn’t see the stop sign.

She gave no sign of having seen him.

A person born under the sign of Virgo is obsessed with an attention to detail.

It’s a sign of the times.

Verb, intransitive:
He signed on the dotted line.

Sherman has signed for another two seasons.

It was signed, sealed, and delivered.

Verb, transitive:
The card was signed by the whole class.

She signed her name in the book.

She signed herself Ingrid.

The company signed 30 bands.

The theater routinely puts on signed performances.

The theater routinely puts on signed performances.

He made the sign of the cross.

These currents are furnished by an alternator which transmits sine currents over the line and operates a motor at the distant end of the line, both machines running in synchronism.

He found out the formula for deriving the sine of a multiple angle, knowing that of the simple angle with due regard to the periodicity of sines.

This deflecting force is directly proportional to the velocity and the mass of the particle and also to the sine of the latitude; hence it is zero at the equator and comes to a maximum at the poles.

This process is called conceptual synthesis, the possibility of which is a sine qua non for the exchange of information by speech and writing.

The conferences were opened at the close of July in the camp of the grand vizier, who was pressing Belgrade hard and demanded the surrender of the city as a sine qua non.

Miracula sine doctrina nihil valent is the principle now generally recognized.

Phrasal Verbs
Sign something away / over

Sign for / in / off / off on / on / out / up

Sign someone in / off / on / out / up

History of the Word:
Middle English from the Old French signe 1, signer 2, from Latin signum mark, token. First known use: 1593

Late 16th century from the Latin sinus meaning curve. It was used in medieval Latin as a translation of the Arabic jayb meaning pocket, sine.

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

Pinterest Photo Credits

El Mirage Signs by Horst Frank is under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license, via Wikimedia Commons.