metal, mettle

metal, mettle
   For all his lexicographical genius, Samuel Johnson was not always the most consistent of spellers. It is thanks to him that we have such discordant pairs as deign but disdain and deceit but receipt, among many others. With metal and mettle, however, his inconsistency of spelling was by design. Though both come from the Greek metallon (meaning "a mine") and before Johnsons time were often spelled the same, he thought it would be useful to distinguish them. Thus metal is the spelling reserved for chemical elements such as gold and copper and mettle for contexts describing courage or spirit. A common misspelling is seen here: "Market conditions have put the hoteliers on their metal" (Observer).

Dictionary of troublesome word. . 2013.

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  • metal / mettle —    Metal is the hard stuff we make things out of: Gold is a soft metal that is easily shaped.    Mettle is the stuff we are made of, our character, spirit: If she were made of tougher mettle, she would not give up and quit her job …   Confused words

  • metal / mettle —    Metal is the hard stuff we make things out of: Gold is a soft metal that is easily shaped.    Mettle is the stuff we are made of, our character, spirit: If she were made of tougher mettle, she would not give up and quit her job …   Confused words

  • metal, mettle —    For all his lexicographical genius, Samuel Johnson was not always the most consistent of spellers. It is thanks to him that we have such discordant pairs as deign but disdain and deceit but receipt, among many others. With metal and mettle,… …   Dictionary of troublesome word

  • metal — metal, mettle 1. Both are in origin the same word. In the 16c mettle began to move apart as a separate word used only in figurative meanings, of which the dominant one still current is ‘ardent or spirited temperament; spirit, courage’, as in the… …   Modern English usage

  • mettle — metal, mettle 1. Both are in origin the same word. In the 16c mettle began to move apart as a separate word used only in figurative meanings, of which the dominant one still current is ‘ardent or spirited temperament; spirit, courage’, as in the… …   Modern English usage

  • Mettle — Met tle, n. [E. metal, used in a tropical sense in allusion to the temper of the metal of a sword blade. See {Metal}.] Substance or quality of temperament; spirit, esp. as regards honor, courage, fortitude, ardor, etc.; disposition; usually in a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Metal — Met al (? or ?; 277), n. [F. m[ e]tal, L. metallum metal, mine, Gr. ? mine; cf. Gr. ? to search after. Cf. {Mettle}, {Medal}.] 1. (Chem.) An elementary substance, as sodium, calcium, or copper, whose oxide or hydroxide has basic rather than acid… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • mettle — ► NOUN ▪ spirit and resilience in the face of difficulty. ● be on one s mettle Cf. ↑be on one s mettle ORIGIN variant spelling of METAL(Cf. ↑metal) …   English terms dictionary

  • metal —  , mettle  Metal denotes chemical elements such as gold and copper; mettle is for contexts describing courage or spirit …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • mettle — (n.) 1580s, variant spelling of METAL (Cf. metal), both forms used interchangeably (by Shakespeare and others) in the literal sense and in the figurative one of stuff of which a person is made (1550s) until the spellings and senses diverged early …   Etymology dictionary

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