Commonly Confused Words: Allowed vs. Aloud

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What does each word mean?

The word allow refers to the act of making it possible through a specific action or lack of action for something to happen. The past tense and past participle for allow is allowed. You can read the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word here.

Here is allowed used in some example sentences:

  • The teacher allowed the class to spend five extra minutes in the playground.
  • By leaving earlier than he needed to, he allowed himself time to stop at the shop.
  • His argument was weak, but she allowed it because she was bored of the debate.

Click here for the Spellzone Word Lists which include the word allowed.

The Spellzone dictionary defines aloud as ‘using the voice; not silently’.
Click here for the full definition of the word.

Here is aloud used in some example sentences:

  • Each student was required to read aloud from the set text.
  • Dad read the letter aloud so that we could all hear Aunt Sally’s news.

Click here for the Spellzone Word Lists which include the word aloud.

Where does each word come from?

According the Online Etymology Dictionary, allow comes from the Middle English ‘allouen’ which has various meanings: ‘to commend, praise; approve of, be pleased with; appreciate the valid’; to ‘take into account or give credit for’; to ‘recognise, admit as valid’; or to ‘sanction or permit; condone’. ‘Allouen’ in turn, comes from the Anglo-French ‘alouer’, from the Old French ‘aloer’/’alloiier’ (meaning ‘allot, apportion, bestow, assign) from the Latin ‘allocare’ (the imperative plural of the Latin word ‘allocate’, a word that is still used in English today). This Old French root was confused, and eventually merged, with ‘aloer’/ ‘alloer’ which means ‘to praise, commend’ and is from the Latin ‘adlauder’.

The prefix ‘a-’ most commonly indicates the Old English word ‘an’ which was used to form adjectives and adverbs from nouns. ‘Loud’ comes from the Old English ‘hlud’ which means ‘noisy, making noise, sonorous’ and is from the West Germanic ‘khluthaz’ which means ‘heard’. From the late fourteenth century ‘a-’ and ‘loud’ were combined into aloud to describe something that was ‘heard’, i.e. something that wasn’t silent.

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

As far as confusing words go, allowed and aloud are quite easy to tell apart once you remember one simple trick: The word ALOUD, which is another way of saying ‘out loud’, has the word LOUD in it.

Try replacing the word in your sentence with ‘out loud’ – if it makes sense, you’ll know you need to use aloud rather than allowed.

Let’s try it with some example sentences:

  • The teacher out loud the class to spend five extra minutes in the playground.

You will notice that the above sentence doesn’t make sense, which means that you need to use allowed.

  • Dad read the letter out loud so that we could all hear Aunt Sally’s news.

This time the sentence makes sense, which means you can replace the out loud with an aloud.

What words do you always find confusing? We’d love to hear from you!

Avani Shah

24 Feb 2014
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