Commonly Confused Words: Borne vs. Born

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What does each word mean?

The Spellzone dictionary defines born as ‘brought into existence’. The word can also be used to describe someone with a natural aptitude for something or someone who is particularly suited to something.

Here is born used in some example sentences:

  • My little brother was born two weeks early.
  • Do people who are born on February 29th only get to celebrate their birthday once every four years?
  • She’s a born writer.

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

The word borne, on the other hand, means ‘carried or transported by’. It is also the past participle of the verb bear.

Here is borne used in some example sentences:

  • The bacteria was air-borne.
  • While he was in company, he had borne the pain with great courage, but now he was alone he let himself cry out.

Where does each word come from?

Both born and borne come from the old English ‘beran’ meaning ‘to bear, bring; bring forth, produce; to endure, sustain; to wear’. The distinction between the two words dates back to the seventeenth century.

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

  • Borne is the past participle of bear. Both words are spelt with the letter e.
  • If something is borne, it is carried. Think of the word borne as carrying an extra letter e.
  • Think of a new-born baby as being the smallest version of a human. When you are writing about someone being born, you need the smaller of the two possible 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

18 Apr 2016
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