Which Word Wednesday: Cite, Sight, and Site

By May 22, 2013 language No Comments

Yes, caution. Construction has the ability to see.

The trio for this week’s Which Word Wednesday is something I’ve seen a few times recently, although I’ve failed to keep track of the examples. And examples make this so much more interesting! Oh well—onward. It’s another round of homophones with cite, site, and sight. Let’s look to the New Oxford American Dictionary for our definitions:

verb :: quote (a passage, book, or author) as evidence for or justification of an argument or statement, esp. in a scholarly work; mention as an example
noun :: a citation

noun :: the faculty or power of seeing; a thing that one sees or that can be seen; places of interest to tourists and visitors in a city, town, or other place
verb :: manage to see or observe (someone or something); catch an initial glimpse of

site :: noun
an area of ground on which a town, building, or monument is constructed; short for Website

Whew—these words are versatile! Noun and verb forms alike—no wonder they get confused with all the duties they’re assigned. As is typical with homophones, the differences in definition are obvious; the trouble is remembering to match each form with its proper definition. We need some memory hooks.

Let’s start with the one starting with a C, remember that it’s connected to citation: to cite is to note something, like a citation.

For the two starting with an S, I find the easier one is site because of its use for Web sites, or Web locations. Things are constructed on a site or on a location, things like buildings or monuments or Web content.

Sight is all about seeing with your eyes—you travel to see the sights. Unless you are specifically going to see the sites of construction because you are a contractor or inspector or something . . . hmmm. This is where the confusion gets us.

How about this for a memory hook?

A site is a place where you can sit for a bit. A sight is a delight to the eye.

You see sights as a tourist; you inspect sites as a contractor.

What’s my WWW verdict? Language is often a process of elimination. So don’t use site unless you are talking about the Web or construction.

What’s your verdict? Have you confused this trio? Do you mix up your sites and sights? Do share in the comments.



Check out previous Which Word Wednesday verdicts here.

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