Word Confusion: Acetic versus Ascetic

Posted July 31, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Last night I read about a character with an acetic face, and I found myself wondering if his face had been pickled.

I’m sure the author meant that his face was severe looking, but hey, if they really want to go with acetic acid…that’s their choice. I did find myself craving a giant dill pickle, though.

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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Acetic Ascetic
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: acetic and ascetic

A bottle of white vinegar standing in front of an ear of corn

“Distilled White Vinegar” is courtesy of Heinz

Heinz white vinegar is made up of 5% acetic acid.


“Japanese Buddhist Monk in the Arashiyama District” is Marubatsu’s own work and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Monks are usually ascetics.

Part of Grammar:
Adjective Adjective
Also ascetical

Plural for noun: ascetics

Of or like vinegar or acetic acid Adjective:
Characterized by or suggesting the practice of severe self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons

Relating to asceticism, the doctrine that one can reach a high spiritual state through the practice of extreme self-denial or self-mortification

Exceedingly strict or severe in religious exercises or self-mortification

A person who practices severe self-discipline and abstention

Commonly referred to as acetic acid

“A pleasant effect of acetic acid is that it softens and lubricates the skin.” – Scientific American Supplement, No. 711, 17 August 1889

Acetic acid is found in vinegar which can be used to adjust the level of acidity of food.

If you want to pickle beets, cucumbers, watermelon rinds, etc., you’ll need acetic acid.

He led an ascetic life of prayer, fasting, and manual labor.

It was one of those narrow, humorless, ascetic faces.

No Internet, no cable…not even a cellphone! It was such an ascetic existence.

An ascetic, he led a life of prayer, fasting, and manual labor.

Anyone who chooses to live without at least a cellphone must be an ascetic!

He was an ascetic who preferred acetic foods.

Adjective: semiacetic, unacetic Adjective: ascetical, nonascetic, nonascetical, preascetic
Adverb: ascetically, nonascetically
Noun: asceticism, nonascetic
History of the Word:
Late 18th century from the French acétique, which is from the Latin acetum meaning vinegar. Mid-17th century from the medieval Latin asceticus or the Greek askētikos, from askētēs meaning monk, which is from askein meaning to exercise.

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:

Pickle was photographed by Renee Comet and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons while Meditating Monk is by Ben Kerckx under the CC0 1.0 license, via VisualHunt.