Word Confusion: O’er vs Oar vs Or vs Ore

Posted July 20, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

You can take up an oar or haul the ore o’er here. Or you can haul the oar o’er the sides of the boat and take up the ore. But, and you can trust me on this, oar will be a lot more watery while ore is a lot more filthy. Or is that vice versa with this pair in this heterographic quartet? Read on to find out!

The Or of a List

Do note that when using or in a list of singular items, the verb that follows the list must be singular as well. If even one of the list items is a plural, then the following verb must agree with the plural item.

“A sandwich or other snack is included in the price” versus “a sandwich or other snacks are included in the price”.

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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O’er Oar Or Ore
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: oar, o’er

Colorful hot air balloons ascending into the sky

“International Hot Air Balloon Festival in Leon Guanajuato, Mexico 2012” © Tomas Castelazo, www.tomascastelazo.com under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Colorful hot air balloons o’er Leon Guanajuato.

Full-face and profile of a bentshaft wooden paddle

“Double Bentshaft Wood Paddle” is Hans Lauterbach Furchenstein’s own work under the CC0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

An oar that has achieved art status.

A display case full of desserts

“Tea Room’s Store Front in Collins Street, Melbourne” is by Patrick M (Flickr: [1]) under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Nope, you can have only one: that one or that one or that or this one or…

A chunk of green lead ore set against a size chart

“Lead Ore US GOV” by Chris 73 is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Part of Grammar:
Adverb; Preposition Noun;
Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: oars
Past tense or past participle: oared
Gerund or present participle: oaring

Conjunction 1;
Noun 1, 2
Plural for noun: ORs
Suffix 3, 4, 5, 6
Plural for noun: ores
Adverb and Preposition:
[Archaic; Poetic; Literary] Contraction for over
A pole with a flat blade, pivoting in an oar lock, used to row or steer a boat through the water

  • A rower

Something resembling a pole with a flat blade or having a similar purpose

Verb, intransitive:
To row
To move or advance as if by rowing
Verb, transitive:

  • Propel with or as with oars

To traverse or make one’s way by, or as if by, rowing

Operational research

Operations research

Owner’s risk

[Law] One’s own recognizance

[Official postal use] Oregon

[British Military] other ranks (as opposed to commissioned officers)

Operating room

Used to link alternatives

Introducing a synonym or explanation of a preceding word or phrase

Otherwise (used to introduce the consequences of something not being done or not being the case)

Introducing an afterthought, usually in the form of a question

[Literary] Either


  • Or else

A Boolean operator that gives the value one if at least one operand (or input) has a value of one, and otherwise has a value of zero 1

  • [Also OR gate] A circuit that gives an output signal if there is a signal on any of its inputs

[Heraldry; postpositive] Gold or yellow, as an official color used in heraldic devices 2


[Forming nouns] Denoting a person or thing performing the action of a verb, or denoting another agent 3

[Forming adjectives] Expressing a comparative sense 4

[Forming nouns] Denoting a state or condition 5

US form of the British suffix, -our 6

A naturally occurring solid material from which a metal or valuable mineral can be profitably extracted
Adverb and Preposition:
“Sweeps in pride his sounding chariot till it almost seems to fly, Arjun lords it o’er the battle like the comet in the sky!” – Dutt, Romesh, Maha-bharata

“You cannot sure forget A prison-roof is o’er you, Strafford?” – Helen Archibald Clarke, Browning’s England

“Wide o’er the ethereal walks extends thy sway, And o’er the infernal mansions void of day!Look upon us on earth!” – Various, Old English Chronicles

Don’t think you’ll be able to rest on your oars, Bobby.

I was stroke oar and John was in the bow.

Jane dipped her oars in and pulled smoothly away.

Must he always stick his oar in!

If we each take an oar, it’ll be easier and give us a chance to get to know each other.

The difference between oars and paddles are that oars are connected to the boat while paddles are held by the rowers.

I don’t think anyone has used these beat-up oars in years.

Ship the oars, lad, so we can drag the boat up on shore.

I was doing quite well until you stuck your oar in.

Verb, intransitive:
We oared carefully through the weeds.

Verb, transitive:
They were oaring the sea like madmen.

Since the wind had completely died, they had to oar the sailboat back to shore.

OR is a discipline that deals with the application of advanced analytical methods to help make better decisions.

Address it to Henry Stanton, 1319 West Main, Portland OR 97205.

That corporal shouldn’t be in the officers’ mess. He’s OR!

Get him into the OR, stat!

They released him on OR.

Be cautious of that OR clause in a mover’s contract.

Would you like a cup of tea or coffee?

Are you coming or not?

She couldn’t read or write.

I either take taxis or walk everywhere.

It doesn’t matter whether the theory is right or wrong.

I prefer the espionage novel, or as it is known in the trade, the thriller.

Hurry up or you’ll miss it all.

John’s indifference — or was it? — left her unsettled.

To love is the one way to know or God or man.

I don’t know. There were a dozen or so people.

An OR gate is sometimes called an any or all gate.

The most celebrated armorial dispute in English heraldry is that of Scrope v. Grosvenor in 1390, in which two different men claimed the right to bear azure, a bend or.

Let’s take the escalator.

Is that the governor?

Is it a bad resistor?

I can’t decide if it needs a minor or major beat.

It’s an unholy error.

Look at the pallor of her face!

She’s in terror of her life.

This egg salad has a weird flavor.

He was our Lord and Savior.

I want to savor every moment.

An extractive metallurgist knows how to get the ore out.

Copper ore is commonly found scattered more or less uniformly through a large volume of rock.

Ore is always mixed with unwanted or valueless rocks and minerals that are collectively known as gangue.

Gold is usually extracted by crushing the ore.

Adjective: oarless, oarlike
Noun: oarlock, oarsman, oarsmanship, oarsmen, oarweed, oarswoman, oarswomen
History of the Word:
First known use was in 1592. Old English ār is of Germanic origin and related to the Danish and Norwegian åre. 1 Middle English in a reduced form of the obsolete conjunction other, which superseded the Old English oththe meaning or and is of uncertain ultimate origin.

2 Early 16th century from the French, which is from the Latin aurum meaning gold.

3 From Latin, sometimes via the Anglo-Norman French -eour or the Old French -eor (see also -ator).

4 Via Anglo-Norman French from Latin.

5 From Latin, sometimes via the Old French -or, -ur.

6 1828 when Webster’s dictionary popularized this form.

Old English ōra meaning unwrought metal was influenced in form by the Old English ār meaning bronze, which is related to the Latin aes meaning crude metal, bronze.

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

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Boat Fair“, 28 November 2009, is de:User:Ralf Roletschek Fahrradmonteur.de’s own work under the GFDL 1.2 license and “Gold Crystals” is Alchemist-hp (talk)’s own work under the FAL or CC BY-SA 3.0 de licenses; both are via Wikimedia Commons.