Word Confusion: Ail versus Ale

Posted June 12, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Well, it’s pretty obvious that ail and ale are heterographs. But don’t let that ail you. Have an ale. Kick back. Heck, have another ale, but not so many that you end up ailing in the morning.

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.

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Ail Ale
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com

A woman sitting at a man's sickbed.

“Mary Baker Eddy Treating the Sick” by James F. Gilman was first published in Christ and Christmas and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

When ailing, it’s nice to have someone care.

A full bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale

“Newcastle Brown Ale Bottle” is Powerresethdd’s own work under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Part of Grammar:
Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for noun and third person present verb: ails

Past tense or past participle: ailed

Gerund or present participle: ailing

Plural for noun: ales

Verb, intransitive:
To be or feel unwell

  • Feel pain
  • Be ill

Verb, transitive:
To cause pain, uneasiness, afflict, or trouble to

[North American] A type of beer that’s darker with a bitter flavor and higher alcoholic content

  • [Chiefly British] Beer
He’s got the winter ails.

Half of the staff is out sick with the usual wintertime ails

Verb, intransitive:
He’s been ailing for some time.

She ails still.

Verb, transitive:
Exercise is good for whatever ails you.

The government seems to have no understanding of what ails the country.

“O, what can ail thee, knight at arms, So haggard and so woe-begone?” – Edgar Lee Masters, Mitch Miller

The pub has a nice variety of amber-colored beers, ales, and stouts.

Ale is a type of beer brewed using a warm fermentation method, resulting in a sweet, full-bodied and fruity taste.

Theakston’s Old Peculier is a favorite of the characters in Martha Grimes’ Richard Jury series.

Ginger ale is a whole ‘nother thing.

I could really go for a steak and mushroom pie with ale.

Adjective: ailing
Noun: ailment
Noun: alehouse
History of the Word:
Old English eglian, eglan, is from egle meaning troublesome, and is of Germanic origin; related to the Gothic agls meaning disgraceful. Old English alu or ealu is of Germanic origin and related to the Old Norse ǫl. Formerly the word referred especially to unhopped or paler-colored varieties of beer.

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!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

“Pohmelye” by Pauk (Альбицкий Р.В. at ru.wikipedia under the CC BY 1.0 license, from Wikimedia Commons.