Word Confusion: Human versus Humane

Posted April 5, 2018 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 4 May 2018

This is not one of those “gender issues” where you need to add an e at the end to make it feminine. A human can be either gender. Well, any color or creed as well.

Human can “describe” someone or indicate that it’s a person while humane is strictly an adjective. I’m guessing that for someone to be described as humane indicates that they are capable of being human, i.e., caring and considerate of others. *snicker*, oh, heck, *guffaw*

I know, I’m in a cynical mood this morning, and considering how often war breaks out or threatens to, how cruel people can be to others, well, I’m not feeling very humane myself today.

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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Human Humane
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: humane
Six men and women of different races on a stage

Action 2015: Mobilizing Citizens to Action for People & Planet by World Bank Photo Collection under the CC BY-NC-ND, 2.0 license, via VisualHunt.

Humans come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Aged pen-and-ink poster of a woman with a thick branch coming after her child, but the boy is on his knees clinging to a besuited man, his hand out to stop her.

Humane Society Children, 1888, is from a publication of the Toronto Humane Society, which was edited by J. George Hodgins, artist unknown and is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Humane Society was originally formed to help people.

Part of Grammar:
Adjective; Noun
Plural for the noun: humans
Relating to or characteristic of people or human beings

  • Of or characteristic of people as opposed to God or animals or machines, especially in being susceptible to weaknesses
  • Of or characteristic of people’s better qualities, such as kindness, sensitivity, tenderness, and sympathy
  • [Zoology] Of or belonging to the genus Homo


  • Humane

Of or relating to humanistic studies

A human being, especially a person as distinguished from an animal or (in science fiction) an alien

Having or showing compassion or benevolence

  • inflicting the minimum of pain

[Formal; of a branch of learning] Intended to have a civilizing or refining effect on people

The human body isn’t meant to endure such strain.

They are only human and therefore mistakes do occur.

You knew the experiment was at the risk of human error.

The human side of politics is getting stronger.

Homo erectus and Homo habilis are both members of the genus Homo and are considered ancestral or closely related to modern humans.

She had such a warmly human understanding.

Each of us has our own unique human failings.

You can’t blame him, he’s only human.

Like humans, cats and dogs are omnivores.

Some people are fine with the word human, while others prefer the phrase human being.
It’s not just humans who can suffer from hangovers.

Regulations ensuring the humane treatment of animals.

There are more humane methods of killing.

The center emphasizes economics as a humane discipline.

It became the humane education of literary study.

He was very much the humane judge.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Dorothea Dix began to campaign for humane treatment of the mentally ill.

Adjective: half-human, humanist, humanistic, humanitarian, humanlike, humanoid, interhuman, overhuman
Adverb: humanistically, humanly
Noun: humanism, humanist, humankind, humanitarian, humanitarianism, humanities, humanity, humanization, humanness, humanoid
Verb, transitive: humanize
Adjective: inhumane, unhumane
Adverb: humanely, inhumanely, unhumanely
Noun: humaneness, inhumanity , unhumaneness
History of the Word:
Late Middle English humaine is from the Old French humain(e), which is from the Latin humanus, from homo meaning man, human being. The present spelling became usual in the 18th century. Late Middle English, as a variant form of human, used interchangeably to the 18th century.

After the 18th century, humane became a distinct word with the sense of having qualities befitting human beings.

The Royal Humane Society (founded 1774) was originally to rescue drowning persons. Such societies had turned to animal care by late 19 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:

A Quiet Moment by JensEnemark is in the public domain, via Pixabay.

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