Word Confusion: Steal versus Steel

Posted October 30, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

I suspect this is a combination of writers relying too heavily on spellcheck (which simply ensures that the word is spelt correctly and does not examine the context), not paying attention, and/or not knowing the difference. Well, or not having had enough coffee yet.

To steal is a wicked thing, for it’s a theft of some sort whereas to steel is to make oneself harder, or noun-wise, use something hard. Hmmm, that does bring to mind those romance novels with those, ahem, shafts of steel. Hope that steel is warmer than the one the gynecologist uses!

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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Steal Steel
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: steal and steel

Baseball player slid onto a base with another player hovering over him

“Tried to Steal Second” by skeeze is under the CC0-1.0 license, via VisualHunt.

A lovely red bridge arches over a river between two stone towers with the city skyline in the background

“Hell Gate Bridge” by Dave Frieder is under the CC BY 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Part of Grammar:
Noun; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun: steal
Third person present verb: steals
Past tense: stole
Past participle: stolen
Gerund or present participle: stealing

Adjective 1; Noun 1, 2; Verb, transitive 1, 3

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: steels
Past tense or past participle: steeled
Gerund or present participle: steeling

[Informal] A bargain

  • [Chiefly North American] An act of stealing something
    • Theft
  • An idea taken from another work
  • [Baseball] An act of stealing a base
  • [Chiefly basketball & hockey] An act of taking possession of the ball or puck from an opponent

[Informal] The thing stolen

  • Booty

Verb, intransitive:
Take (another person’s property) without permission or legal right and without intending to return it

Move somewhere quietly, unobserved, or surreptitiously

To pass, happen, etc., imperceptibly, gently, or gradually

[Baseball; of a base runner] To advance a base without the help of a walk or batted ball

[Medical] The diversion of blood flow from its normal course

Verb, transitive:
Take (another person’s property) without permission or legal right and without intending to return it

  • Dishonestly pass off (another person’s ideas) as one’s own
    • To appropriate (ideas, credit, words, etc.) without right or acknowledgment
  • Take the opportunity to give or share (a kiss) when it is not expected or when people are not watching
  • [In various sports] Gain an advantage, a run, or possession of the ball unexpectedly or by exploiting the temporary distraction of an opponent
  • [Games] To gain (a point, advantage, etc.) by strategy, chance, or luck
  • [Baseball; of a base runner] Advance safely to (the next base) by running to it as the pitcher begins the delivery

Direct a look quickly and unobtrusively

To take, get, or win insidiously, surreptitiously, subtly, or by chance

To move, bring, convey, or put secretly or quietly

  • [Usually followed by away, from, in, into, etc.] Smuggle

To gain or seize more than one’s share of attention in, as by giving a superior performance

Pertaining to or made of steel

Like steel in color, hardness, or strength

A hard, strong, gray or bluish-gray alloy of iron with carbon and usually other elements, used extensively as a structural and fabricating material

  • Used as a symbol or embodiment of strength and firmness
  • A rod of roughened steel on which knives are sharpened

A thing or things made of this metal

A flat strip of this metal used for stiffening, especially in corsets

  • Stay

A bar of this metal that has one end formed to hold a bit for driving through rock

[Steels] Stocks or bonds of companies producing this metal

A sword

Verb, transitive:
Mentally prepare oneself to do or face something difficult

For $5 it was a steal.

New York’s biggest art steal.

Melania Trump’s speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention was a steal.

John Lackey did his first career base steal when he was 38 years old.

Point guard Kaleb Joseph finished with eight points, four steals, and seven assists.

We’re dealing with a subclavian steal.

Verb, intransitive:
She was found guilty of stealing from her employers.

He stole down to the kitchen for more cookies.

A delicious languor was stealing over her.

The years steal by even when you’re looking.

Verb, transitive:
The thieves plan to steal her bicycle.

Accusations that one group had stolen ideas from the other were soon flying.

He was allowed to steal a kiss in the darkness.

And Mackey steals the ball, passes to Jones, only to have it stolen back by McCaffey.

Rickey steals third base…and took it home with him.

A glance back to steal a furtive glance at her was all he allowed himself.

Those jerks will steal someone blind some day.

He steals the show every night.

That jerk is gonna steal my thunder, I just know it.

We can steal the bicycle into the bedroom to surprise Henry.

Look, it’s the Man of Steel!

Wow, this must be as hard as steel.

That woman has got nerves of steel.

Our two-year-old has a steel will.

The carbon steel in my Chinese cleaver means immediate washing and then drying.

John, set out the stainless steel.

Some of these steels are rusting, milady.

Micon Products is the supplier of many types of high quality drill steel for pluggers, jack legs, bencher drills and hand held rock drills.

The stock in steels is plummeting.

You dare draw steel on me?

Those steel girders are going up fast.

Janey has a steel made for her out of an old Jeep spring, and it keeps those edges sharp.

Verb, transitive:
I speak quickly, steeling myself for a mean reply.

Peter had to steel himself to open that door.

Adjective: nonstealable, stealable
Noun: sheep-stealer, stealer
Verb, transitive: outsteal, outstealing, outstole, outstolen
Adjective: presteel, steel-like, steel-plated, steelier, steeliest, steely
Noun: presteel, steeliness, steelwork, steelworker, steelworks, steelyard
History of the Word:
Old English verb, stelan, is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch stelen and the German stehlen. 1 Old English stȳle, stēli is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch staal and the German Stahl.

2 Old English stæg is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch stag, from a base meaning be firm.

3 The verb dates from the late 16th century.

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:

Ride it Like You Stole It by Rich McPeek is under the CC BY 2.0 license, via VisualHunt. This image was leveled, flipped horizontally, and resized.

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