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Commonly Confused Words: Balmy vs. Barmy


What does each word mean?

The word balmy is an adjective used to describe mild and pleasant weather. Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word.

Here is balmy used in an example sentence:

  • The weather was unexpectedly balmy.

Click here to create a Spellzone vocabulary list using the word balmy.

Barmy means mad, crazy, or foolish. Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word.

Here is barmy used in an example sentence:

  • It drives my sister barmy when I leave the television on standby instead of turning it off properly.

Click here to create a Spellzone vocabulary list using the word barmy.

Where does each word come from?

The word balmy (from ‘balm’ + ‘-y’) dates back to around 1500 when it used to mean ‘fragrant’. The word took on its figurative meaning of ‘soothing’ and ‘mild’ in reference to breezes on hot days around 1600.

Barmy (from ‘barm’ meaning ‘yeast’ and ‘-y’) dates back to the 1530s when it meant ‘frothing’. From around 1600, the word was used figuratively to mean ‘frothing with excitement’.

Are there any tricks to help remember the difference between balmy and barmy?

  • Barmy has the word arm in it.
  • Say the following sentence to yourself: ‘His time in the army turned him barmy’.
  • Balmy has the word balm in it.

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

Sources: The Online Etymology Dictionary.


15 Mar 2018
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