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Commonly Confused Words: Stationary vs. Stationery


Today we’re looking at two words that are pronounced in the same way, and are also spelt very similarly – no wonder they’re easy to mix up!

What does each word mean?

  • The word stationary is an adjective used to describe something that is standing still or something that is not capable of moving.

    Here is the word used in some example sentences:

    • That traffic was stationary.
    • The class remained stationary until they were given permission to leave.

Click here for our full dictionary definition of the word stationary, as well as the Spellzone word lists featuring this word.

  • The word stationery is a noun that refers to paper and other office supplies.

    Here is the word used in some example sentences:

    • She enjoyed writing letters and collected unusual stationery.
    • Even though the two teams work in separate rooms, they share the same stationery cupboard.

Click here for our full dictionary definition of the word stationery, as well as the Spellzone word lists featuring this word.

Don’t forget that the letters tion are used to denote a tion make the sound /shEnglish spelling schwa soundn/ sound. To learn more about these types of words, see Unit 28 of our course. Click here to try spelling other tion words.

Where does each word come from?

  • Stationary is a late fourteenth-century term, which comes from the Middle French ‘stationnaire’ meaning ‘motionless’, from the Latin ‘stationarius’. The Latin stem ‘statio’ means ‘a standing, post, job, position’, from which the word ‘station’ (as in ‘position’) also derives. Click here to read more about Latin word roots.

  • Stationery also comes from the Latin ‘stationarius’ which, in this case, describes a ‘tradesman who sells from a station or shop’. The word was first used to describe ‘the articles sold by a stationer’ in 1727.

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

  • If something is stationary, it is standing still - think of the a in stand to help you remember that stationary is spelt with an a too.

  • If you use stationery, you will need a pen or a pencil – think of these two words to help you remember that stationery is spelt with an e. You will also need stationery to write letters, which is spelt with an e too.

If you found this post useful, why not check out some of our other articles?

If you found this post useful, why not check out some of our other articles on commonly confused words?

Are there any words that you always mix up? Let us know and we’ll blog about them in our future Commonly Confused Words posts. Have a good week!

Sources: Online Etymology Dictionary.


02 Mar 2015
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