Commonly Confused Words: Device vs. Devise

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Recently a Spellzone user got in touch with us to ask for information on the words device and devise. Naturally we thought these words would make a great subject for our Commonly Confused Words series.


In British English, when two words look similar but one is spelt with a ‘c’ and the other is spelt with an ‘s’, it is often the case that the former is a noun and the latter is a verb.

For example, when spelt with a ‘c’, the word ‘practice’ refers to application of an idea or the carrying out of a profession:

  • He tried to put his new maths skills into practice, but still needed a calculator to work out the final sum.
  • Dr Smith’s practice, in the centre of town, is closed on the weekends.

However, when spelt with an ‘s’, the word ‘practise’ refers to the act of honing an activity or skill, or the act of carrying out a particular activity habitually:

  • I practise my spelling for half an hour each day.
  • At church we practise the same rituals each week.

When it comes to device vs. devise, however, things become a little more complicated. While device is always a noun, devise can be either a verb or a noun.

Let’s start by taking a look at device. The word refers to an instrument, object, or method that is designed with a specific purpose in mind. In modern use, electronic gadgets are often referred to as devices. The word might also be used to describe an ‘ornamental pattern’ or an ‘emblematic design’ – you can click here for its full Spellzone dictionary definition!

Here is device used in some example sentences:

  • The campsite has a rainwater-collecting device.
  • My smart phone is a very useful device; I can use it to make calls, play games, take photos, and surf the internet.
  • To get marks in our English exam, we need to write about Shakespeare’s use of rhetorical devices such as alliteration, metaphor, and onomatopoeia.

You can find the Spellzone word lists which feature device here.

Now let’s take a look at devise. As a verb, the word devise refers to the act of planning or inventing something after comprehensive thought. In legal jargon, it also refers to the act of leaving something to someone in a will. Let’s practise using devise in some example sentences:

  • For A-level Drama, the students were required to devise their own play.
  • He devised a rainwater-collecting contraption to use on his campsite.
  • To my wife, I give, devise, and bequeath all of my possessions.

The Spellzone dictionary defines the noun devise as ‘a will disposing of real property’ or ‘a gift of real property by will’. Here is the word used in an example sentence:

  • Any devises or bequests must be formally declared in a will.

Click here to read both full Spellzone dictionary definitions of devise. You can also see the word lists featuring devise here.

Do let us know if you’d like us to feature any particular words or phrases in our Commonly Confused Words series – you can get in touch via Face Book or Twitter, by emailing us, or by leaving a comment below this blog post.

Happy Spelling!

Avani Shah

22 Apr 2014
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