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Commonly Confused Words: Cereal vs. Serial


What does each word mean?

Cereal is a type of grass which is used to produce edible grains. Examples of cereal grains are rice, corn, and oats. The word is also used to refer to a type of breakfast food prepared from these grains.

Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word.

Here is cereal used in some example sentences:

  • Each year the farmers must decide on which cereals to plant.
  • My favourite cereal is Corn Flakes.

Click here to find the Spellzone vocabulary lists featuring the word cereal.

Serial is used to describe something that happens in a series. As a noun, serial refers to a set of programmes that appear at scheduled times.

Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word.

Here is serial used in some example sentences:

  • The university press is putting out a serial publication featuring the students’ work.
  • What is your favourite TV serial?

Click here to find the Spellzone vocabulary lists featuring the word serial.

Where does each word come from?

Cereal has been used in English to mean ‘grass yielding edible grain’ since 1832. Before that it was used as an adjective meaning ‘having to do with edible grain’. It comes from the French ‘céréale’, which comes from the Latin ‘Cerealis’ which means ‘of grain’ and derives from ‘Ceres’ who was the goddess of agriculture.

Serial (from series + al) has been used in English since 1840. The word became popular because of Charles Dickens’s novels, some of which were published one section at a time in periodicals. Click here to read more about Charles Dickens’s influence on the English language.

Are there any tricks to help remember the difference between these words?

  • The word serial refers to something that happens in a series. Both words begin with the letter S.
  • Think of breakfast cereals beginning with the letter C to help you remember the spelling. For example: Corn Flakes, Coco Pops,Cheerios, Corn Pops.

Where can I find other posts about easy-to-confuse words?

What words do you constantly mix up? Let us know and we’ll cover them in our Commonly Confused Words series.

Have a great week!

Sources: The Online Etymology Dictionary


10 May 2016
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