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An endowment is a gift. It might be money given to an institution like a college. Or, an endowment might be a natural gift, say of a physical attribute or a talent. If you lack the endowment of musical talent, you could play the tambourine.

To endow means "to give or bequeath," and the background of the word endowment goes back to the 15th Century, where it was used to refer to money or property that is given to an institution. An example can be found in the National Endowment for the Arts, an organization dedicated to providing grants to fund artistic endeavors. Your natural endowments — speed, agility, endurance — make you an excellent soccer player. If only you could wake up in time for practice.

Choose your words

Caught between words? Learn how to make the right choice.

than/ then

Than compares things, but then is all about time. They sound similar and were even spelled the same until the 1700s. Not anymore! Vive la difference!

inflammable/ inflammatory

Inflammable and inflammatory can be confused with one another, but they also offer their own source of confusion with the prefix in-.

luxuriant/ luxurious

In yet another attempt to reduce English to features and selling points, advertisers often use luxuriant to describe their products or services.

their/ there/ they're

How do you comfort grammar snobs? Pat them on the back and say, their, there. You see, they're easily comforted, but you have to get it in writing because those words sound alike. Their shows possession (their car is on fire), there is a direction (there is the burning car), and they're is short for "they are" (they're driving into the lake). read more...

affect/ effect

Choosing between affect and effect can be scary. Think of Edgar Allan Poe and his RAVEN: Remember Affect Verb Effect Noun. You can't affect the creepy poem by reading it, but you can enjoy the effect of a talking bird. read more...

turbid/ turgid

Turbid can refer to something thick with suspended matter, while turgid means swollen or bombastic. read more...

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