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Commonly Confused Words: Dual vs. Duel


What does each word mean?

Dual is an adjective used to describe something that has two parts. In British English, it is also occasionally used as a verb to describe the act of converting a road into a dual carriageway.

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

Here is dual used in some example sentences:

  • My driving instructor’s car has dual controls.
  • We use dual-language textbooks in our Spanish class.
  • There are plans to dual the road.

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

A duel is a fight with deadly weapons arranged in order to settle a quarrel over a point of honour. Today, it is mostly used metaphorically to describe any struggle between to opponents. The word can also be used as a verb to describe the act of fighting.

Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word. Here is duel used in some example sentences:

  • Historically, opponents duelled until one of them died.
  • My favourite part in the first Harry Potter book is when Harry and Draco plan to have a wizard’s duel.
  • He snapped at her, and then a verbal duel followed.

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

Where does each word come from?

Both dual and duel are linked to duo (the Latin word for two).

Dual dates back to c.1600 and comes from the Latin dualis, which comes from duo.

Duel, in English, dates back to the 1590s. It comes from the Medieval Latin duellum meaning ‘combat between two persons’. The word has been used as a verb since the 1640s.

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

  • If something is due it is expected and planned to happen at a certain time. A duel is a prearranged fight – to help you spell it, remember that it has the word due in it.
  • Take the ‘l’ off each word and then say them both aloud. Dua- has two syllables to remind you that dual describes something in two parts (whereas due- only has one syllable).

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


26 Apr 2016
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