Altar vs. Alter

Lexical Vexations

altar n. a table on which sacrificial offerings are placed.

alter v. to change a thing into something different or new.

Words in the Wild: His experience worshipping at the altar of the ruined St. Luke’s Chapel had somehow changed him, altered him in ways he couldn’t verbalize.

This week I saw these words confused twice, once in a romance novel and once in a academic paper, so I decided it was time to include them here. In both cases the writer had intended to make reference to a metaphorical altar, but instead wrote  “_____ worshipped at the alter of _____.” It’s an easy mistake to make, so you’ll want to watch out for it, too.

The contributor of the photo of the ruined St. Luke’s Chapel is Val Ghose. The photo is copyrighted but also licenced for further reuse.

Still vexed? You can find a complete list of the Word Blog’s lexical vexations here.

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