Commonly Confused Words: Palate vs. Palette

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What does each word mean?

The palate is the upper surface of the mouth that separates the oral and nasal cavities. The word is also used to describe the ability to distinguish between different flavours.

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

Here is palate used in some example sentences:

  • The palate is sometimes called the roof of the mouth.
  • She loved wine and had a sophisticated palate

A palette is a group of colours used for a particular project or by a particular artist or school of art. The word also describes a board on which artists mix paints. 

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

Here is palette used in some example sentences: 

  • The artist mixed red and yellow on her palette
  • In Autumn I like to wear clothes from a colour palette of reds, oranges, yellows, and browns. 

Where does each word come from?

Palate dates to the late-fourteenth century and comes from the Old French ‘palat’ which comes from the Latin ‘palatum’. 

Palette has been used in English since the 1620s. It comes from the French ‘palette’, from the Old French ‘palate’. ‘Palate’ is the diminutive of ‘pale’ which means ‘shovel’ or ‘blade’ and comes from the Latin ‘pala’ meaning ‘spade’ or ‘shoulder blade’. 

Are there any tricks to help remember the difference between palate and palette?

Palate has the word ate in it. Since you use your mouth to eat, use ate to remember palate refers to the upper surface of the mouth

Palette has the word pale in it. Imagine an artist mixing pale colours to help you remember a palette is an artist’s mixing board or a colour scheme

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Click here for a list of all our Commonly Confused Words blog posts.

19 Nov 2020
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