Commonly Confused Words: Prescribe vs. Proscribe

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What does each word mean?

  • The Spellzone dictionary defines ‘prescribe’ as to ‘issue commands or orders for’.

    Here is prescribe used in some example sentences:
    • The doctor prescribed antibiotics to his patient.
    • My mother prescribes a cup of tea whenever I’m feeling sad.
    • The headteacher is in charge of prescribing the appropriate punishments for misbehaving children.
  • The Spellzone dictionary defines ‘proscribe’ as to ‘command against’.

    Here is proscribe used in some example sentences:
    • The university administration decided against proscribing the hockey team’s weekly socials.
    • Some religious groups proscribe divorce.

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

These two words are particularly frustrating because while they are spelt and pronounced similarly, they have almost opposite meanings. Luckily, we’ve come up with some tricks to help you tell them apart:

  • To help you remember the ‘o’ in ‘proscribe’, think of ‘prohibit’ – another ‘pro-’ word with a similar meaning.
  • Use the vowels in ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to help you remember the difference between ‘prescribe’ and proscribe’. Think of ‘prescribe’ as meaning ‘yes – you should do this’, and ‘proscribe’ as meaning ‘no – this is not allowed.

Where can I find other posts about easy-to-confuse words?

What words do you always mix up? Let us know and we’ll feature them in a future blog post!

Have a good week!

01 Jun 2015
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