Commonly Confused Words: Curb vs. Kerb

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What does each word mean?

The word curb is a verb used to describe the act of restraining or restricting something. As a noun, the word can also describe the restraint or restriction itself. In American English, curb also refers to the edge between a sidewalk (pavement) and a road.

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

Here is curb used in some example sentences:

  • He needs to learn how to curb his temper.
  • In England, there are curbs on watching television without a license.

Click here to create a Spellzone vocabulary list including the word curb.

In British English, the word kerb describes the raised edge that separates a road from the pavement.

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

Here is kerb used in an example sentence:

  • The boy sat on the kerb while waiting for his mother.

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

Where does each word come from?

Curb dates back to late fifteenth century and referred to a type of strap used restrain a horse. It comes from the Old French ‘courbe’ meaning ‘curb on a horse’, from the Latin ‘curvare’ meaning ‘to bend’. By the early seventeenth century, the word was also used in reference to a figurative restraint. In the sixteenth century, the word took on the meaning ‘enclosed framework’ and by the eighteenth century was used to describe the edge of flowerbeds and pavements.

Kerb was used as an alternate spelling for curb from the seventeenth century.

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

  • Imagine someone kicking a kerb in anger to help you remember that kerb is spelt with a k.
  • Draw a face in profile with the letter c as an open mouth. Imagine someone saying something inappropriate and needing to be restrained to help you remember that curb is spelt with a c.

What words do you constantly mix up? Let us know and we’ll cover them in our Commonly Confused Words series.

Sources: The Online Etymology Dictionary.

29 Mar 2017
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