Angel and Angle

Commonly Confused Words

angel and angle
On the left is an image of an angel. Next to it is an image of two right angles on a soccer field. (Getty Images)

To borrow a phrase from Bishop Atterbury, there's "a little sort of jingling" between the sounds of the words angel and angle. Their meanings, however, are quite different.
 

Definitions

The noun angel refers to a guiding spirit or supernatural being. The word can also be applied to a person who appears to be like an angel in looks or behavior.

The noun angle refers to an aspect, a point of view, or the shape made by the meeting of two lines.

As a verb, angle means to move or adjust at an angle or to scheme or use tricks to get something.

Keep in mind that your spellchecker can't tell these words apart.


Examples

  • As George Bailey contemplates committing suicide by jumping from the town bridge, he is confronted by his guardian angel, Clarence Oddbody.
     
  • "The writer once taught her brother and sister to make 'angels' by lying down in the snow and moving their arms to create wing shapes. Her brother always jumped up carelessly, leaving an angel with a crippled wing."
    (Alice Munro, "Meneseteung." Friend of My Youth. McClelland & Stewart, 1990)

     
  • "One of his boots was at a strange angle, as if his foot wasn't in it. It pointed out to the left. bent at the ankle."
    (Joyce Carol Oates, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" Epoch, 1967)
     
  • Cissy kept trying to angle her way into the back office for an interview, but she was sent back to wait.

     

    Usage Notes

    "Jessica then asked, 'What does "The Angle of Death" mean?' I looked at Jessica and then glanced up at the text on tattoo boy's back, and I was beyond astonished that I had not caught the misspelling earlier. . . .

    "Tattoo boy turned around toward Jessica and said, 'Angle of Death?' Whatchoo mean Angle of Death?

    It says Angel of Death!'

    "Jessica shook her head at him. 'No, it says Angle. Angel is spelled a-n-g-e-l, and yours is spelled a-n-g-l-e. Angle.'"
    (James Wintermote, Failing Mr. Fisher. AuthorHouse, 2010)

     

    Idiom Alerts

    • On the Side of the Angels
      The expression on the side of the angels means to be doing or supporting something that's morally just and good.
      "My mind was still reeling at the thought of Michael X. Johnson, International Art Thief, working on the side of the angels."
      (Hailey Lind, Brush With Death.  Signet, 2007)
       
    • Know All the Angles
      The expression know all the angles means to understand all the aspects of an issue or all the ways of dealing with somebody or something.  
      "He sticks his cigar in his mouth and walks through the crowded streets in his flowered sports shirts. He knows everyone, he knows all the angles . . .."
      (Roger Ebert, "Saint Jack." Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert. The University of Chicago Press, 2006)
       

    Practice

    1. Her father was the most important man in her life, and she was his little _____.
    2. The beauty of a painting may be seen more clearly and strikingly from one _____ than from another.
    3. The truck was at an odd _____, its left rear wheel spinning wildly.

       

      Answers to Practice Exercises

      Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

      Answers to Practice Exercises: Angel and Angle

       

      1. Her father was the most important man in her life, and she was his little angel.
      2. The beauty of a painting may be seen more clearly and strikingly from one angle than from another.
      3. The truck was at an odd angle, its left rear wheel spinning wildly.

       

      Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words