6th February 2019
Word Choice: Faint vs. Feint
Does thinking about homophones make you feel dizzy? Then you either feel “faint” or “feint.” But which one is correct? These terms sound identical, but you won’t want to confuse them in your writing. So check out our guide below to find out how to avoid mistakes.
Faint (Lose Consciousness)
“Faint” can be a verb, a noun, or an adjective. As verb (i.e., an action word), for instance, it means “lose consciousness for a short time.” For instance:
Daryl fainted when he saw the blood.
This would mean that Daryl passed out upon seeing blood. This is similar to the noun form of the word, as a “faint” is a sudden loss of consciousness (e.g., “He collapsed in a faint”).
As an adjective, meanwhile, “faint” can mean “weak” or “dizzy.” This refers to a feeling of faintness, such as when we are tired or unwell:
I was feeling faint all day.
But we can also say that something is “faint” if it is hard to sense:
The engine made a faint rumbling sound.
In the sentence above, “faint” shows us that the sound is hard to hear. It is still an adjective here, but it refers to a different kind of “faintness.”
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Feint (Make a Deceptive Movement)
The word “feint” can be either a verb or a noun. In both cases, it refers to a deceptive movement. As a verb, for example, we might say:
The boxer feinted to the left before landing a right hook.
This implies that the boxer faked a move to the left to mislead her opponent. If we wanted to use “feint” as a noun, meanwhile, we could say:
The boxer’s feint to the left allowed her to land a right hook.
As the examples here suggest, the word “feint” is mainly used in relation to fights or conflicts. This is most often in sport, such as boxing, but it can also apply to military or battle tactics.
Summary: Faint or Feint?
Although these words sound identical, they are very different in meaning:
- As a verb and a noun, the word faint refers to a loss of consciousness. However, it can also be used as an adjective meaning “weak” or “dizzy.”
- The verb and noun versions of feint both refer to a deceptive attack or movement. As such, this term is used when describing a fight or battle.
Importantly, “feint” is quite a rare word. In most cases, then, the correct word will be “faint.” And if you want to be 100% sure your writing is error free, you can always ask a proofreader for help.
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