• 3-minute read
  • 30th September 2019

Word Choice: Horse vs. Hoarse

What do you call a croaky equine? Before we can answer that question, we need to know the difference between “horse” and “hoarse.” These terms sound the same when spoken, but they differ significantly in meaning, so you won’t want to get them confused in your writing.

Let’s take a look, then, at the difference between “horse” and “hoarse.”

Horse (Equine Animal)

A horse is a large equine mammal, often found on a farm or in stable, and typically used for riding, carrying loads, or pulling a vehicle:

The horse galloped majestically across the field.

A carriage won’t go far without a horse to pull it.

This sense of “horse” is usually a noun, but it can also be used adjectivally. For example, in the term “horse race,” it modifies the noun “race.”

In addition, “horse” sometimes refers to an upright frame designed to be loaded or mounted, such as a “clothes horse” and a “pommel horse”:

She draped the sheets over the clothes horse to let them dry.

He leapt atop the pommel horse and began his routine.

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These are much less common than the four-legged animal usage, though!

Technically, you could use an actual horse to dry your clothes. But a clothes horse is less likely to run away.
Technically, you could use an actual horse to dry your clothes. But a clothes horse is less likely to run away.
(Photo: WolfBlur/Pixabay)

Hoarse (Rough or Harsh)

To be “hoarse” is to have a rough or harsh voice, often through illness or overuse. We could use it as follows, for example:

A hoarse voice rang out in the darkness.

You’ll end up feeling hoarse if you keep shouting like that.

I had a cold last week, so I still sound a little hoarse.

In all cases, this term is an adjective. It’s also important not to mix up “being a little hoarse” (i.e., having a sore throat) with “being a little horse” (i.e., a Shetland pony). If you find a pony with a sore throat, though, all bets are off.

Summary: Horse or Hoarse?

Although these words sound the same, they have very different meanings:

  • The noun horse typically refers to the four-legged mammal that people use for riding, pulling heavy loads, and other tasks.
  • The adjective hoarse is used to describe a voice as harsh or rough.

There’s no trick to telling these words apart, unfortunately. But the fact that “hoarse” has only one usage – to describe a rough voice – should make it easier to avoid errors. And if you’d like anyone to check the spelling in a document, why not submit it for proofreading today?

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