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Commonly Confused Words: Heir vs. Air


What does each word mean?

An heir is a person who is entitled by law or by the terms of a will to inherit the estate, title, or office of another. The word is pronounced with a silent ‘h’ like ‘air’.

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

Here is heir used in an example sentence:

  • Prince Charles is the heir apparent to the British throne.
  • In the Harry Potter series, Tom Riddle is Slytherin’s heir.

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

The word air can refer to a mixture of gases (especially oxygen) required for breathing, the region of free space above the ground, or a distinctive but intangible quality or impression surrounding a person or thing. As a verb the word can refer to the act of exposing something to air or the act of broadcasting something on the television or radio.

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

Here is air used in some example sentences:

  • The swimmer came up for air.
  • The smell of fresh bread wafted through the air.
  • He carried with him an air of superiority.
  • Don’t forget to air out the bathroom after you’ve had a shower.
  • The programme will air at 9pm.

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

Where does each word come from?

Heir is an Anglo-French word dating back to around 1300. It comes from the Latin ‘heredem’.

Air is a twelfth-century Old French word meaning ‘atmosphere, breeze, weather’ that has been used in English since around 1300. It comes from the Latin ‘aer’. The word has been used to mean ‘expose to air’ since the 1520s, to mean ‘manner’ or ‘appearance’ since the 1590s, and in a broadcasting sense since 1927.

Are there any tricks to help remember the difference between heir and air?

Heir has the word he in it. Say the following sentence to yourself: ‘He was the heir to his family’s fortune.’

Try putting both words in the same sentence: ‘She is the heir to a large air travel company.’

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

Sources: The Online Etymology Dictionary.


01 May 2018
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"Spellzone fits in beautifully with our Scope and Sequence of Phonological Awareness and Spelling. It also aligns perfectly with the four areas of spelling knowledge and uses the Brain, Ears, Eyes approach to learning spelling."
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