• 3-minute read
  • 24th April 2020

Word Choice: Dying vs. Dyeing

Get busy living, or get busy dying. This famous line, delivered by Andy Dufresne in the movie The Shawshank Redemption, would have made a lot less sense had he used the spelling “dyeing”! Let’s have a look at how and where you should use the words dying and dyeing in your writing.

Dying (Approaching Death)

The word “dying” can be a verb, adjective, or noun, but typically refers to approaching death. It is principally the present participle (i.e., an -ing verb) of the word “die.” For example, we could say:

We could stop people dying of preventable diseases with better medical resources.

As an adjective, meanwhile, it means “on the point of death”:

With his dying breath, he said “Take care of my daughter.”

And used as a noun, it refers to the process of dying or people near to death:

In this hospital, we are surrounded by the dead and dying.

More figuratively, we can use this word to describe something that is ceasing to exist or function, or something that is losing its force or popularity:

Letter writing is a dying art.

Informally, we also use the phrase “dying for” to express a need for something:

It’s been a long day and I’m dying for a coffee.

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It’s best not to mistake this usage with the literal ones above, though!

Dyeing (Altering the Color of Something)

“Dyeing” can be a verb or a noun. As a verb, it is the present participle of “dye” and refers to coloring something with a special liquid (also known as a dye). This is usually clothes or hair. For instance, we could say:

The tailor was dyeing the waistcoat to match the jacket.

Dyeing my hair is expensive and it fades so quickly!

Used as a noun, meanwhile, it refers to the process of coloring something:

Dyeing is a key stage in fabric manufacturing.

In all cases, though, “dyeing” is related to coloring something.

Summary: Dying or Dyeing?

Although these words sound and look similar, they have very different meanings! Remember the following definitions:

  • Dying typically refers to approaching death or ceasing to exist.
  • Dyeing refers to coloring something with a liquid, usually textiles or hair.

If you can remember that a “dye” is a liquid used to color something, it should be easy to tell these words apart, as “dye” is at the start of “dyeing.”

However, if you’d like an expert to check the spelling in a document, we have proofreaders available 24/7. Just let us know how we can help!

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