Word Confusion: Base versus Bass

Posted April 6, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Ya know, I, um, I really do prefer to eat bass, not base. There’s something so chewy or crumbly about base, especially if it’s from some Greek column or one of those busted up bags from baseball. And, nope, a toothpick just doesn’t make it more palatable.

Depending upon pronunciation, this Word Confusion pair can be an heterograph. On the other hand, bass as an instrument and bass as a fish are homophones.

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.

If you found this post on “Base versus Bass” interesting, consider tweeting it to your friends. Subscribe to KD Did It, if you’d like to track this post for future updates.

Return to top

Base Bass
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: bass

A stereoscopic view of a cut-through at the base of a redwood tree

“Wowona, Mariposa Grove, California” is from the Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Passage cut through the base of a redwood tree.

Smallmouth bass

“Detailed Underwater Photo of Smallmouth Bass Fish, Micropterus dolomieu” is by Engbretson Eric with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Part of Grammar:
Adjective 1; Noun 2, 3;
Verb 2, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: bases
Past tense or past participle: based
Gerund or present participle: basing

Adjective 4; Noun 4, 5, 6
Plural for noun: bass, basses
[Of a person or a person’s actions or feelings] Without moral principles

  • Ignoble
    • Without estimable personal qualities
    • Dishonorable
    • Meanspirited
    • Selfish
    • Cowardly
  • [Archaic] Denoting or befitting a person of low social class
    • Of illegitimate birth
  • [Of coins or other articles] Not made of precious metal

Of little or no value

  • Worthless
  • Debased
  • Counterfeit

Not classical or refined

[Old English Law] Held by tenure less than freehold in return for a service viewed as somewhat demeaning to the tenant

The lowest part or edge of something, especially the part on which it rests or is supported

  • [Architecture] The part of a column between the shaft and pedestal or pavement
  • [Botany & Zoology] The end at which a part or organ is attached to the trunk or main part
  • [Geometry] A line or surface on which a figure is regarded as standing
  • [Heraldry] The lowest part of a shield

[Surveying] A line of known length used in triangulation 3

[Chess] A key maneuver in the endgame in which the king moves thrice in a triangular path to leave the opposing king with the move and at a disadvantage

A conceptual structure or entity on which something draws or depends

  • Something used as a foundation or starting point for further work
  • A basis
  • [With modifier] A group of people regarded as supporting an organization, for example by buying its products

The main place where a person works or stays

  • [Chiefly military] A place used as a center of operations by the armed forces or others
  • A headquarters

A main or important element or ingredient to which other things are added

  • A substance used as a foundation for makeup
  • A substance such as water or oil into which a pigment is mixed to form paint

[Chemistry] A substance capable of reacting with an acid to form a salt and water, or (more broadly) of accepting or neutralizing hydrogen ions

  • [Biochemistry] A purine or pyrimidine group in a nucleotide or nucleic acid

[Electronics] The middle part of a bipolar transistor, separating the emitter from the collector

[Linguistics] The root or stem of a word or a derivative

  • The uninflected form of a verb

[Mathematics] A number used as the basis of a numeration scale

  • A number in terms of which other numbers are expressed as logarithms

[Baseball] One of the four stations that must be reached in turn to score a run

  • {Informal] Used to refer to progressive levels of sexual intimacy

[Obsolete; music] Bass

Verb, intransitive:
To have a basis

  • [Usually followed by on or upon] Be based

To have or maintain a base

Verb, transitive:
Have as the foundation for something

  • Use as a point from which something can develop

Situate as the center of operations

Low in pitch

  • Of the lowest pitch or range

Of or relating to the lowest part in harmonic music

The lowest adult male singing voice 4

  • [As modifier] Denoting the member of a family of instruments that is the lowest in pitch
  • A bass guitar, double bass, or string bass
  • The low-frequency output of a radio or audio system, corresponding to the bass in music

The common European freshwater perch 5

  • Any of a number of fish similar to or related to the perch

Another term for bast, a fibrous material from the phloem of a plant, used as fiber in matting, cord, etc. 6

The electorate’s baser instincts of greed and selfishness led to poor choices at the polls.

We hope his motives are nothing so base as money.

One must take into consideration his base origins.

The basest coins in the purse were made in the seventh century A.D..

It was hastily composed of base materials.

I will not tolerate such base language!

She sat down at the base of a tree.

I sculpted a tree trunk table base from concrete,

A shoot is produced at the base of the stem.

The base of the triangle is three-inches long.

“The shape of the triangles is important as there is a lot of inaccuracy in a long skinny triangle, but one with base angles of about 45 degrees is ideal” (Triangulation).

The base of the shield is red with a bar sinister.

With the factory gone, the town’s economic base collapsed.

They used the existing data as the base for the study.

Our client base skews toward pre-teens.

She makes the studio her base.

The corporal headed back to base.

They used it as a base for shipping operations.

Soaps with a vegetable oil base are considered to be of higher quality than fats-based.

When using a base, apply your base makeup to your forehead, cheeks, nose, and the tip of your chin.

I prefer a water-based paint when I work.

Most common acid-base reactions take place in water solutions.

The only other difference in the nucleotides of DNA and RNA is that one of the four organic bases differs between the two polymers (NCBI).

This variation in base width often is called the “Early effect” after its discoverer James M. Early.

The base of a word is a morpheme that gives a word its meaning (Linguistics: Morphemes & Allomorphs).

The decimal system is the most common base used in mathematics today.

He stole third base.

She and her boyfriend got to second base last night.

Verb, intransitive:
Fluctuating prices are usually based on a fickle public’s demand.

I believe they had based on Greenland at one time.

Verb, transitive:
The film is based on a novel by Pat Conroy.

They were inaccurate conclusions based on incomplete facts.

It’s an exclusive research program based at the University of Arizona.

They were a Chicago-based band.

Two great singers with bass voices were Richard Sterban of the Oak Ridge Boys and Bowser from Sha-Na-Na.

Charlie Mingus was an incredible bass player.

He has the most beautiful bass voice.

The four main voices are typically labelled as: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass.

This piece uses a bass clarinet and a bass drum.

Jane played double bass in her high school orchestra.

I prefer a lot of bass in a speaker.

John and I caught some bass this morning.

You have got to try the sea bass!

We’ll need more bass to mend the mats.

Adjective: baseborn, baseless, baser, basest, unbased, well-based
Adverb: baselessly, basely
Noun: baseboard, baselessness, baseline, baseload, baseman, basement, baseness, baseplate
Adjective: bassy
Adverb: bassly
Noun: bassist, basslet, bassline, bassness, basso
History of the Word:
1 Late Middle English from the Old French bas, which is from the medieval Latin bassus meaning short (found in classical Latin as a nickname).

Meanings by late Middle English included low, short and of inferior quality (from arose a sense of low on the social scale, menial, so by the mid-16th century, it came to mean reprehensibly cowardly, selfish, or mean.

2 Middle English from the Old French, which is from the Latin basis meaningbase, pedestal, from the Greek.

3 1810-20 from the medieval Latin triangulātiōn- from the stem of triangulātiō) meaning the making of triangles.

4 Late Middle English as an alteration of base2 and influenced by basso.

5 Late Middle English as an alteration of dialect barse, which is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch baars and the German Barsch.

6 Late 17th century meaning alteration.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

Return to top

Pinterest Photo Credits:

Batter at the Plate” (Grafton High School, Grafton, Wisconsin, baseball team) is Runner1928’s own work under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license and “Museu de la Música” is Enfo’s own work under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license, both via Wikimedia Commons.