23rd July 2021
Word Choice: Vial vs. Vile
The words “vial” and “vile” are homophones: words that sound the same but have different meanings. They also have similar spellings, so it can be easy to mix them up. Check out our guide below to find out how to use these terms correctly.
Vial (Small Container)
The word “vial” is a noun that refers to a small closed or closable vessel, used mainly for holding liquids. For example:
I sent the vial of blood to the lab for testing.
Each vial contained three doses of the medication.
In modern English, we use the word “vial” most often to refer to a container that holds medications or scientific samples. However, the term is derived from the Greek word phiale, meaning “broad flat container” more generally.
Vile (Extremely Unpleasant)
“Vile” is an adjective meaning extremely “unpleasant or morally despicable”:
He was in such a vile mood today that nobody wanted to be around him.
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When the citizens learned of the vile crime, they demanded justice.
This term always refers to someone or something that is disagreeable or immoral.
Summary: Vial or Vile?
Although these words sound the same and are spelled similarly, they have significantly different meanings. Remember:
- Vial is a noun that refers to a small container, usually one used to hold liquids.
- Vile is an adjective that means “extremely unpleasant or immoral.”
When deciding which word to use in your writing, it might help to remember the phrase “the monster’s smile was vile,” since the word “smile” has the same ending as “vile.” And then you’ll know to use “vial” to refer to a container.
Hopefully, this will help you avoid mixing up these words in your writing. And if you’d like more advice on your spelling or word choice, try our proofreading service by uploading a trial document for free today!
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