Word Confusion: Hew versus Hue

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

There’s a hue and cry out on this pair of heterograhs, hew versus hue, one that seems so appropriate for the start of the holiday season.

When the holidays roll around, some like to hew down their own tree, and trust me, it is not hueing a pine to decorate in hews… Wait. I suppose you could count spraying a green tree with fake white snow, hueing. Except, hue is a noun, not a verb. And one could decorate a tree with hews, except that would mean hacking away at the branches…not too decorative for most tastes.

Hmmm, we might want to stick with: Father hewing a pine for the Christmas tree, which the children will decorate in the hues of the season.

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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Hew Hue
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: hew and hue

A black-and-white photo of a workman shaping a large beam with an ax

“Rye Shipyard- the Construction of Motor Fishing Vessels”, 1944, Rye, Sussex, England, UK, by a photographer for the Ministry of Information Photo Division is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Shipwright Herbert Page from Hastings uses an adze to hew a large timber destined for use in the construction of a fishing vessel at Rye shipyard.

A closeup of a rose whose petals are all the hues of the rainbow

“Rainbow Rose” by Michael Kobayashi, ©ROSESHOP, is under the GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

This rose actually grows like this with all the hues of the rainbow.

Part of Grammar:
Abbreviation; Verb, intransitive & transitive

Third person present verb: hews
Past tense: hewed
Past participle: hewed, hewn
Gerund or present participle: hewing

Noun 1, 2, and 3
Plural for noun: hues
[Historical; U.S.] The name of a federal government department

Verb, intransitive:
[Hew to; North American] Conform or adhere to a code, principle, etc.

To strike with cutting blows

  • Cut

[Usually followed by to] To uphold, follow closely, or conform

Verb, transitive:
Chop or cut something, especially wood, with an ax, pick, or other tool

  • [Usually be hewn] Make or shape (something) by cutting or chopping a material such as wood or stone
  • Chop
  • Hack

To make, shape, smooth, etc., with cutting blows

  • [Often followed by out] To shape or carve from a substance

[Often followed by away, down, from, off, etc.] To sever (a part) from a whole or another portion by means of cutting blows

To cut down

  • Fell
Character or aspect 1

Form or appearance


A gradation or variety of a color 2

  • The attribute of a color by virtue of which it is discernible as red, green, etc., and which is dependent on its dominant wavelength and independent of intensity or lightness
  • Tint


A loud clamor or public outcry 3

  • [Historical] A loud cry calling for the pursuit and capture of a criminal. In former English law, the cry had to be raised by the inhabitants of a hundred in which a robbery had been committed, if they were not to become liable for the damages suffered by the victim.
The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) is in charge of social issues that affect Americans.

Verb, intransitive:
Some artists took photographs that hewed to more traditional ideas of art.

He hewed more vigorously each time.

If only the party would hew to a more moderate path.

Will you hew to the tenets of our political party?

Verb, transitive:
We have finished hauling and hewing timber.

The seat has been hewn out of a fallen tree trunk.

He hewed a passage through the crowd.

The artist will hew a statue from marble.

If we hew a few branches from the bottom of the tree, it should fit.

We’ll need to hew enough wood to get through what promises to be a hard winter.

It’s so depressing how many trees were hewn down by the storm.

It took war before men of all political hues submerged their feuds.

Verdigris may be greenish-blue or -yellow in hue.

Her face lost its golden hue.

Omigod, they must have used all the hues of the rainbow.

The cover has a purple hue with touches of green and blue.

Marion raised a hue and cry as the thief slipped out the window.

Adjective: hewable, unhewable, unhewed
Noun: hewer
Adjective: hued, hueless
History of the Word:
Old English hēawan is of Germanic origin and related to the Dutch houwen and the German hauen. 1 Old English hīw, hēow meaning form, appearance, is obsolete except in Scotland and is of Germanic origin;. It’s probably related to the Swedish hy meaning skin, complexion.

2 Mid-19th century was when the meaning color, shade arose.

3 Late Middle English from the Anglo-Norman French legal phrase hu e cri, literally defined as outcry and cry and is from the Old French hu meaning outcry, from huer meaning to shout.

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:

Pastel-coloured Houses at Chiswell by Mike Smith is under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

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