In this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. In this series of spelling tips we will be looking at some of the most commonly misspelled words in English and suggesting ways to improve your spelling.
People who want to look up apologize in Macmillan Dictionary often search for *appologize instead.
In these posts we have often seen that where there is a difference in frequency of particular letter combinations, people will often plump for the more frequent cluster when they are unsure how to spell a word. This makes a lot of sense and will often serve you well, but not in the case of apologize. Apo- is actually a much more frequent combination in English than appo-: there are 22 entries in Macmillan Dictionary starting with apo- as opposed to only 8 starting appo-. Stress isn’t the answer either: the stresses on words starting with apo- fall in several different positions, as do those of words starting appo-: appointment but apposite and appointee; apologize but apoplexy and apocalyptic.
The answer lies in etymology. While the words starting with appo- come ultimately from Latin and owe their double ‘p’ to the Latin preposition ‘ad-‘ plus another word, most words starting in apo- come from Greek: apologize and apology come from Greek ‘apologos’ meaning ‘story’. I can’t think of any particularly helpful ways to remember this: if you have a suggestion, please put it in the comments box below.
You can find some information on why English spelling is so difficult, as well as helpful tips on mastering it here. You can search for other posts in this series using the tag ‘spelling tips’.
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