Commonly Confused Words: Coarse vs. Course

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What does each word mean?

If something is coarse it is rough or vulgar.

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

Here is coarse used in some example sentences:

  • She rubbed coarse sandpaper on the chair before painting it.
  • My aunt has a coarse sense of humour.

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

A course is the route or direction of something or the way in which something develops. The word is also used to describe each of the successive part of a meal. As a verb, course describes the movement of something in a particular direction.

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

Here is course used in some example sentences:

  • He learned to play many different musical instruments over the course of his life.
  • Halfway through the race, the biker went off course and got lost.
  • She is taking a course in accountancy.
  • My doctor has put me on a course of antibiotics.
  • We are salmon for our first course.
  • The river coursed through the countryside.
  • Tears coursed down his cheeks.

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

Where does each word come from?

The modern spelling of coarse dates back to the late sixteenth century and comes from the early-fifteenth-century word ‘cors’ meaning ‘ordinary’ (referring to the rough cloth used for ordinary wear). The word developed to mean ‘rude’ in the sixteenth century and ‘obscene’ in the eighteenth century.

In the late thirteenth century, the word course was used in the English language to mean ‘onward movement’. It came from the Old French ‘cors’ meaning ‘course; run, running; flow of a river’, which in turn came from the Latin ‘cursus’ meaning ‘running race or course’. The word was used to mean parts of meal from the fourteenth century, and in its academic sense from the seventeenth century.

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

  • He told coarse jokes until his voice was hoarse.
  • The last four letters of coarse make up a rather coarse word…
  • At university you can study on various courses.
  • Think of the u in course as an empty bowl to help you remember that the word refers to parts of a meal.

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 and Oxford Dictionaries.

18 Jul 2016
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