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Frequently Confused Words

By Gabriel Osoba

Respectfully, Respectively

The two words – respectfully and respectively are not synonyms. They are liable to be confused because they both have ‘respect’ and ‘-ly’ ending in their word formation. Please note that respectfully means ‘with respect’; respectively means ‘in the order given’.


I have three girls: Dayo, Seun and Bisola, aged 23, 19 and 14 respectively.

He listened to the elders respectfully.

The actors respectfully greeted the audience.

Remains – Relics

There is a strong resemblance in the meaning of remains and relics. Remains signifies ‘what remains’. Relics, from the Latin ‘relinquere’, ‘to leave’, ‘what is left…’ What remains after other parts have been used or consumed is termed remains. Thus the two words express ‘what is left’.

There is, however, a distinction in the application of the two words. ‘Remains’ is of general and familiar application; relic or relics is specific. ‘Remains’ is used as in the remains of a person (dead body i.e mortal remains), the remains of a meal/chicken/clothes/medicines.

‘Remains’ is also used of old buildings or of buildings mostly after a conflagration. What is left of anything after a lapse of years is the relic or relics. A relic is a historical object and reminder of the past. There are relics of antiquity in the museum, most monasteries and old churches.

‘Relics’ is also used to denote ‘a part of the body or clothes or possessions of holy person kept after his/her death as something to be deeply respected’. Sometimes, the term ‘relics’ is used to mean what remains after the decay or loss of the rest.

Rest – Remainder – Remnant

All these words – rest, remainder and remnant – express ‘that part which is separated from the other’. You can say ‘the rest’ when speaking about ‘who or what remains from an original total’.

Remainder signifies what remains after the first part is gone. It is used in a more formal context than the rest. It is usually expressed as the remainder to denote ‘the remaining people, things or time’.

Note that ‘the rest is said of any part, large or small; but the remainder commonly regards the smaller part which has been left after the greater part has been taken’. ‘What is left’ or ‘what remains’ can also be referred to as the remnants e.g. remnants of a meal/of a man’s clothes. Leftovers are ‘food remaining at the end of a meal’.

Examples: The first question was difficult but the rest were easy.

We saw a few remnants of furniture and household goods in the building.


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