Word Confusion: Read versus Red

Posted July 14, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

There are some instances in which read and red sound alike (a homophone), but they will never mean the same. Don’t make me read about the boy who red his book again!

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.

Read Red
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

Visit from ITESM Campus Ciudad de Mexico students to a foster home for girls in Tlahuac, Mexico City

Image by Talento Tec [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A college student and young girl read together.

Chinese papercutting celebrating the Year of the Dog

Image is Fanghong own work [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This red papercutting celebrates the Year of the Dog.

Part of Grammar:
Noun, usually in the singular; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Third person present verb: reads
Past tense or past participle: read
Gerund or present participle: reading

Adjective 1
redder, reddest

Noun 1; Prefix 2

[US] A person’s interpretation of something

  • [With adjective; informal] A book considered in terms of its readability

The action or practice of a person who reads

[Speech] The oral interpretation of written language

The interpretation given in the performance of a dramatic part, musical composition, etc.

The extent to which a person has read

Literary knowledge

Matter read or for reading

The form or version of a given passage in a particular text

An instance or occasion in which a text or other matter is read or performed, usually without elaborate preparation and often as a means of testing its merits

Look at and comprehend the meaning of written or printed matter by mentally interpreting the characters or symbols of which it is composed

  • Speak (the written or printed matter that one is reading) aloud, typically to another person
  • Discover information by reading it in a written or printed source

[Chiefly British] Study an academic subject at a university

Verb, intransitive:
Look at and comprehend the meaning of written or printed matter by mentally interpreting the characters or symbols of which it is composed

  • Have the ability to look at and comprehend the meaning of written or printed matter
  • [Of a piece of writing] Convey a specified impression to the reader
  • [With complement; of a passage, text, or sign] Contain or consist of specified words
    • Have a certain wording
  • [Read for; of an actor] Audition for a part in a play or film

Inspect and record the figure indicated on (a measuring instrument)

  • [With complement; of a measuring instrument] Indicate a specified measurement or figure

Verb, transitive:
Look at and comprehend the meaning of written or printed matter by mentally interpreting the characters or symbols of which it is composed

  • Habitually read (a particular newspaper or journal)
  • Discern a fact, emotion, or quality in someone’s eyes or expression
  • Understand or interpret the nature or significance of
  • Used to indicate that a particular word in a text or passage is incorrect and that another should be substituted for it
  • [Of a device] Obtain data from light or other input

Inspect and record the figure indicated on a measuring instrument

[Of a computer] Copy, transfer, or interpret data

  • Enter or extract data in an electronic storage device

Hear and understand the words of someone speaking on a radio transmitter

Of a color at the end of the spectrum next to orange and opposite violet, as of blood, fire, or rubies

  • [Of a person or their face or complexion] Flushed or rosy, especially with embarrassment, anger, or a healthy glow
  • [Of a person’s eyes] Bloodshot or having pink rims, especially with tiredness or crying
  • [Of hair or fur] Of a reddish-brown or orange-brown color
  • [Dated; offensive (of a people)] Having or regarded as having reddish skin
  • Of or denoting the suits hearts and diamonds in a deck of cards
  • [Of wine] Made from dark grapes and colored by their skins
  • Denoting a red light or flag used as a signal to stop
  • Used to denote something forbidden, dangerous, or urgent
  • [Of a ski run] Of the second highest level of difficulty, as indicated by colored markers
  • [Physics] Denoting one of three colors of quark

[Informal; chiefly derogatory; always capitalized] Communist or socialist (used especially during the Cold War with reference to the former Soviet Union)

[Archaic or literary] Stained with blood or involving bloodshed or violence

Red color or pigment

  • Red clothes or material

A red thing or person, in particular:

  • A red wine
  • A red ball in billiards
  • A red light

[Also Red; informal; chiefly derogatory] A communist or socialist

[the red; from the conventional use of red ink to indicate debt items] The situation of owing money to a bank or making a loss in a business operation

Variant spelling of re- before a vowel

I suspect their read on the national situation may be correct.

My read on the guy is that he’s cheating on you.

The book is a thoroughly entertaining read.

I’d like your read on the artwork here.

It’s an interesting reading of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

Marian believes urban fantasies make the best reading.

The minor actors are doing a reading this afternoon.

Verb, intransitive:
I’ll go to bed and read for a while.

I’ll read to you if you like.

Only three of the girls could read and none could write.

I read about the course in a magazine.

The brief note read like a cry for help.

The placard read “We want justice”.

Jamie read for part in Death of a Salesman.

I can’t believe the thermometer read 0° C.

He went to Manchester to read for a BA in Economics.

Verb, transitive:
It’s the best novel I’ve ever read.

I never learned to read music.

Emily read over her notes.

The charges against him were read out.

His mother read him a bedtime story.

He reads Mad all the time.

He was arrested yesterday — I read it in the paper.

She looked down, terrified that he would read fear on her face.

He didn’t dare look away, in case his fear was read as a sign of weakness.

For madam read madman.

He had to read the light meter again, as he didn’t believe the reading he was getting.

I’ve come to read the gas meter.

I’m reading English at Cambridge.

Has the hard drive read those files yet?

“Do you read me? Over.”

Yeah, I can read between the lines, you jerk.

Mary could read Peter like a book.

It’s as if he can read my mind!

Hey, baby…read my lips.

Her ruby red lips was sippin’ on sweet tea…” – Jake Owen, “Barefoot Blue Jean Night”

Red sky at night, sailors’ delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.

There were some red faces at headquarters.

Her eyes were red and swollen.

She was proud of her long, red hair.

Damned redskins!

Chianti is a red wine.

That red flag means he’s carrying explosives.

The force went on red alert.

The blue/red run from Cortina’s Lagazuoi peak is said to be remarkable.

Mesons can be colorless by having a red and an “anti-red” quark (HyperPhysics).

Those red commies will tear down our country, if they have their way.

“To have a thousand with red burning spits / Come hissing in upon ’em,” – Shakespeare, King Lear

The colors in their logo range from yellow to deep red.

Their work is marked in red by the teacher.

Joan and Henry loved the reds and browns of the wood.

She should not wear red.

We could have a red wine with cacciatore.

Pete and Mikey hit the red light district in Amsterdam.

A number of players in Hollywood were persecuted for being Reds.

The company was $4 million in the red.

They would have been struggling to keep their businesses out of the red.

Even those small declines in revenue can soon send an airline plunging into the red.


Adjective: self-reading
Noun: nonreading, reader, reading
Adjective: reddy
Adverb: redly
Phrasal Verb
read something into
read someone out of
read up on something
read in
read out
read out of
read up on
History of the Word:
Old English rǣdan is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch raden and German raten meaning advise or guess. Early senses included advise and interpret (a riddle or dream). 1 Old English rēad is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch rood and German rot, which are from an Indo-European root shared by Latin rufus, ruber, the Greek eruthros, and the Sanskrit rudhira- meaning red.

2 From the Latin re-, red- meaning again or back.

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