Sere, seer or sear?

20 Jul
Sere, seer or sear?


This Troublesome Trio was suggested to me by the ever-helpful Linda from Linda Proofreads – thank you! Those among you with good memories will recall that she’s suggested pairs before – they can’t be infinite but I certainly haven’t thought of them all yet.

So three words with very different meanings that are spelled differently but are all pronounced the same.

Sere is an adjective (and a literary one at that) which means “withered” and can also be spelled sear, and I always thought it meant dry and kind of nobly so, so that shows it’s always worth looking things up in a variety of sources before you confidently bung down what you think something means from your vast experience, etc. It’s also a fairly new word (only around 120 years old) for a series of animal or plant communities which have been formed from succession, for example the endless lavender plants that my garden produces, one from the other but still in the same area.

A seer is a person who can see visions of the future, a prophet or the like. Seer can also be used in a very old-fashioned way to describe someone who sees a specific thing, but I would shy away from using it in that sense, to be honest. It’s also an Asian unit of weight. Who knew?

To sear (a verb) means to burn or even scorch something with an intense and sudden heat, and is often used to describe browning meat or other foods at a high temperature. As an extension into a metaphor, something can be seared into your memory of mind, fixed there, the vision of something which you can’t now “unsee”, for example. A searing pain is a strong and sudden burning sensation.

You can find more troublesome pairs here, and here’s the index to them all!


Posted by on July 20, 2017 in Errors, Language use



6 responses to “Sere, seer or sear?

  1. The Story Reading Ape

    July 20, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    As well as these three words that sound the same, but mean entirely different things, Liz also gives links to more troublesome sound alike words, plus, an index to them all! 👍😃

    Liked by 1 person

  2. davidprosser

    July 20, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    Just to make life even more interesting there’s another one, cere,which has two meanings.
    1. To wrap in or as if in cerecloth (blah, blah, blah)
    2. A fleshy or waxlike membrane at the base of the upper beak in certain birds, such as parrots, through which the nostrils open. In budgies it’s coloured to you can discern the sex of the bird.
    Have fun,


    • Liz Dexter

      July 21, 2017 at 6:18 am

      I didn’t know about this one – thank you!


  3. Rebecca Foster

    July 21, 2017 at 11:47 am

    Interesting — in American pronunciation I think the middle one (“seer”) would definitely sound different, as it would have two distinct syllables.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Liz Dexter

      July 21, 2017 at 11:51 am

      Oh, that’s interesting! I would pronounce it exactly the same for the first meaning, but see-er for the second use that’s now gone out of use.


  4. Don Massenzio

    July 21, 2017 at 6:05 pm

    Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Here is a great post from the Libro Editing blog on the differences among the words sere, seer, and sear.



I love hearing from my readers - do please leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: