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Commonly Confused Words: Heal vs. Heel


What does each word mean?

To heal means to recover and become healthy again.

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

Here is heal used in some example sentences:

  • He was known for healing mild illnesses with herbal remedies.
  • It took six weeks for her ankle to heal enough for her to go running again.

Click here to find the Spellzone vocabulary lists related to the word heal.

A heel the back part of a foot below the ankle. The word is also used to describe the bottom back part of a shoe or sock.

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

Here is heel used in some example sentences:

  • These shoes give me blisters on my heels.
  • The heel of my shoe needs replacing.
  • Her ankles often hurt when she wore high heels.
  • There was a hole in the heel of his sock.
  • His pride was said to be his Achilles’ heel.

Click here to find the Spellzone vocabulary lists related to the word heel.

Where does each word come from?

Heal comes from Old English ‘hælan’ meaning ‘cure; save; make whole, sound and well’. ‘Hælan’comes from the Proto Germanic ‘hailjan’ which literally translates to ‘make whole’ and comes from the PIE ‘kailo’ meaning ‘whole’.

Heel comes from the Old English ‘hela’. ‘Hela’ comes from the Proto Germanic ‘hanhilon’ which comes from the PIE ‘kenk’ meaning ‘heel, bend of the knee’. The word has been used as a verb to mean ‘adding a heel to something’ since around 1600 and as a ‘call for a dog to stay by a person’s heels’ since 1810.

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

  • Health’ and ‘healthy’ both contain the word heal. To heal is to make/become healthy.
  • Remember that heels come on things that exist in pairs (feet, shoes, socks) to help you remember that the word is spelled with a pair of es.

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

Sources: The Online Etymology Dictionary.



13 Oct 2016
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"This is a fantastic opportunity for our students!  I'm sure Spellzone will be invaluable in helping them to improve their spellings and therefore improve the quality of their writing in all subject areas!"
Teacher, High School, UK

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