Word Confusion: Straight versus Strait

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

Revised as of 11 October 2017

Not so surprisingly, a strait can be straight, but only in the archaic sense. So do pay attention. Unlike another writer whose work I read. Hmm-mm, “going through the straight”? I don’t think so. Not in that boat. I suppose it could have been a phase the character was going through, trying to go straight, but that certainly wasn’t the context of that paragraph. Mmmm, mmmm…no sirree.

The most common usage for strait is a geographic feature. After that it’s either the music group, which, ahem, disbanded in 1996 or that character is in serious trouble.

C’mon, it ain’t that hard to go straight. Add a g and an h, and it’s good.

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.

Straight Strait
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

A hilly road that roars straight through the forested countryside

“Road Akita” by tsushima (panoramio) is under the CC BY 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

This road in Japan may be hilly, but it is straight.

Overhead view of the Strait of Gibraltar

“Strait of Gibraltar” is courtesy of NASA via their World Wind software and through Wikimedia Commons

Part of Grammar:
Adjective 1; Adverb 1; Noun
Plural for noun: straights
Noun; Plural Noun: straits
Extending or moving uniformly in one direction only

  • Without a curve or bend

[Geometry; of a line] Lying on the shortest path between any two of its points

  • [Of an aim, blow, or course] Going direct to the intended target
  • [Of hair] Not curly or wavy
  • [Of a garment] Not flared or fitted closely to the body
  • [Of an arch] Flat-topped

Properly positioned so as to be level, upright, or symmetrical

  • [Predicate] in proper order or condition

Not evasive

  • Honest
  • Simple
  • Straightforward
  • [Of a look] Bold and steady
  • [Of thinking] Clear, logical, and unemotional
  • Not addicted to drugs

[Attributive] In continuous succession

  • Supporting all the principles and candidates of one political party

[Of an alcoholic drink] Undiluted

  • Neat

[Especially of drama] Serious as opposed to comic or musical

  • Employing the conventional techniques of its art form
  • [Informal; of a person] Conventional or respectable
  • [Informal] Heterosexual

In a straight line

  • Directly
  • Directly
  • With no delay or diversion
  • Directly or immediately
  • [Archaic] At once, immediately

In or into a level, even, or upright position


  • Clearly
  • Honestly and directly
  • In a straightforward manner

Without a break

  • Continuously

A part of something that is not curved or bent, especially a section of a racetrack

  • [Archaic] A form or position that is not curved or bent

[Poker] A continuous sequence of five cards

[Informal] A conventional person

  • A heterosexual
[Archaic; of a place] Of limited spatial capacity

  • Narrow or cramped
  • Close, strict, or rigorous

A narrow passage of water connecting two seas or two large areas of water

Used in reference to a situation characterized by a specified degree of trouble or difficulty

It was a long, straight road to the cabin.

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

And it’s a straight punch to the face with Mackie laid out.

She has naturally straight hair.

Straight skirts are in style this fall.

He made sure his tie was straight before he went through the door.

It’ll take a long time to get the place straight.

Well, that was a straight answer.

Thank you for being straight with me.

It’s a straight choice between nuclear power and penury.

He gave her a straight, no-nonsense look.

I swear, man, I’m straight.

He scored his fourth straight win.

He generally voted a straight ticket.

A brandy, straight.

It was a straight drama with no deviations.

She looked pretty straight in her school clothes.

Dude, I’m straight.

Let me get something straight.

Johnny Carson was a master at keeping a straight face when he joked.

He was gazing straight at her.

Keep straight on, and you’ll see it.

After dinner we went straight back to our hotel.

I fell into bed and went straight to sleep.

I’ll fetch up the bath to you straight.

He pulled his clothes straight.

Sit up straight!

He recognized his old love straight away.

I’m so tired I can hardly think straight.

I told her straight — the kid’s right.

He remembered working sixteen hours straight.

He pulled away in the straight to win by half a second.

The rod flew back to the straight.

He pulled a straight in the first draw.

After this, I’m gonna go straight.

The road was so strait that a handful of men might have defended it.

My captivity was strait as ever.

The Strait of Gibraltar is 7.7 nautical miles at its most narrow.

The Strait of Bosporus connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, splitting northwestern Turkey.

I’m reading Taylor Anderson’s Straits of Hell in his Destroyermen series.

The economy is in dire straits.

A crippling disease could leave anyone in serious financial straits.

Adjective: straight-ahead, straight-cut, straight-faced, straight-laced, straight-line, straight-shooting, straight-talking, straight-thinking, straight-up, straightaway, straightedge, straightforward, straightish
Adverb: straightaway, straightforwardly, straightly
Noun: straight-eight, straight-six, straightaway, straightedge, straightener, straightforwardness, straightjacket, straightness
Verb: straighten
Verb, transitive: straight-arm
Adjective: strait-laced, straitened
Adverb: straitly
Noun: straitjacket, straitness
Verb: straiten
Verb, transitive: straitjacketed, straitjacketing
History of the Word:
1 Middle English, an archaic past participle of stretch. Middle English and a shortening of Old French estreit meaning tight, narrow, from the Latin strictus meaning drawn tight.

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

Pinterest Photo Credits

Dire Straits: “Money for Nothing” by badgreeb RECORDS – art -photos is under the CC BY-SA license, via VisualHunt.