Word Confusion: Dear versus Deer

Posted May 12, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Oh, the deer dear…oops, I meant the dear deer. Huh?

Funny how switching those two homophones around can make such a difference in understanding. It brought me up short when I saw the first pair. Deer dear? What does that even mean? Once I put the story on “pause”, and re-read it after transposing the words, dear deer made more sense and continued that theme of sweetness and light in this children’s book on nature.

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.

Dear Deer
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: dear


Image by UBC Library Digitization Centre [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

“Dear Sir” sounds so much better than “To Whom It May Concern”.

A pair of mule deer standing in snow

Image photographed by Dennis Fluman and uploaded by USFWS Mountain-Prairie (Mule Deer First Snow) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Part of Grammar:
Alternative spelling: dere;
Adverb; Exclamation; Noun
Plural for noun: dears

Be sure to explore the rules on capitalization for dear as a noun.

Plural for noun: deer (most common), deers (rare)
Regarded with deep affection

Cherished by someone

  • Used in speech as a way of addressing a person in a polite way
  • Used as part of the polite introduction to a letter, especially in a formula denoting the degree of formality involved
  • Endearing
  • Sweet


  • [Of money] Available as a loan only at a high rate of interest

At a high cost

Used in expressions of surprise, dismay, or sympathy

Used as an affectionate or friendly form of address

  • A sweet or endearing person
[Family] Cervidae includes several genera and many species.

A hoofed grazing or browsing animal, with branched bony antlers that are shed annually and typically borne only by the male

[N. Canada] Another name for caribou

He is a dear friend.

She is very dear to me.

Martin, my dear fellow, I have some bad news for you.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Such a dear little puppy. What’s his name?

Run for dear life!!

It’s quite dear at the price.

It was a wish dear to her heart.

It’s a beautiful dress, but rather dear at the price.

They buy property cheaply and sell dear.

That Ferrari cost me dear.

Oh dear, I’ve upset you.

Don’t you worry, dear.

She is such a dear.

You’re a dear to help me with my yardwork.

Yesterday a deer came through our yard with her fawn.

You going deer hunting this fall, Paul?

Be careful along this road, as a herd of deer like to cross just around the next curve.

Adjective: dearer, dearest
Adverb: dearly
Noun: dearie, dearies, dearness, deary
History of the Word:
Old English dēore is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch dier meaning beloved, as well as to the Dutch duur and the German teuer meaning expensive. Old English dēor, also originally denoting any quadruped, used in the (now archaic) phrase small deer meaning small creatures collectively. Of Germanic origin, it is related to the Dutch dier and the German Tier.

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