Berth vs. Birth

Commonly Confused Words

difference between birth and berth

The noun berth refers to a place to sleep (usually on a train or ship), a place for a boat to moor, or a person's place or position on a team. As a verb, berth means to bring something (usually a ship) into a place where it can stay.

The noun birth refers to the arrival of a baby (that is, the emergence of an infant from its mother's body) or to the beginning of something. As a verb, birth means to be born or to give rise to something.

Examples

  • "At night, the seats pulled together to form the lower berth. The upper swung down on hinges from the wall. The upper berth contained the blankets, linens, mattresses, and pillows for both beds."
    (Rudolph L. Daniels, Trains Across the Continent: North American Railroad History. Indiana University Press, 2000)
  • When a ship arrives at the port, the planners must decide where to berth the ship for the unloading and loading of containers.
  • "[Curt Siodmak] found an assignment at Paramount Pictures rewriting the script for a Dorothy Lamour sarong saga. He then found a berth at Universal Pictures, which specialized in horror movies."
    (Lee Server, Encyclopedia of Pulp Fiction Writers. Facts on File, 2002)
  • "An outdooring is the first African rite of passage. It always begins at dawn, eight days after the child's birth, and gives family and friends a chance to see and welcome the newest soul."
    (Maya Angelou, All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes. Random House, 1986)
  • "The fact is that women can grow and birth a child independently of the father. Sadly, an increasing number of women in our modern societies are compelled to do exactly that."
    (Aviva Jill Romm, The Natural Pregnancy Book. Celestial Arts, 2011)

Idiom Alert: "Give (Someone or Something) a Wide Berth"

  • [This idiom means] "to keep well away from or avoid (someone or something): I always give the park a wide berth when I'm out at night. [A nautical idiom--a berth is the amount of space necessary for a sailing ship to maneuver safely.]"
    (Elizabeth McLaren Kirkpatrick and C.M. Schwarz, The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Wordsworth Editions, 1993)
  • "If Vito was impressed by his new school's academics, he gave a wide berth to its extracurricular activities and is notably absent from his sophomore and junior yearbooks."
    (Michael Schiavi, Celluloid Activist: The Life and Times of Vito Russo. University of Wisconsin Press, 2011)

Practice Exercises

(a) "In the history of invention a long time almost invariably elapses between the ____ of an idea and its realization in practice."
(H. W. Dickinson and Arthur Titley, Richard Trevithick: The Engineer and the Man, 1934)

(b) "Give a wide _____ to nesting birds, animals with young, and wildlife that is using a water source. Feel free to watch these wild inhabitants of the desert, but do so at a respectful distance so that your presence does not disturb them."
(Erik Molvar and Tamara Martin, Hiking Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, 2nd ed. Globe Pequot, 2005)

(c) "McDowell helped me walk back to the ship's sick bay, a small _____ walled in with panels of strong canvas."
(Paul Dowswell, Powder Monkey: Adventures of a Young Sailor. Bloomsbury, 2005)

Answers to Practice Exercises

(a) "In the history of invention a long time almost invariably elapses between the birth of an idea and its realization in practice."
(H.

W. Dickinson and Arthur Titley, Richard Trevithick: The Engineer and the Man, 1934)

(b) "Give a wide berth to nesting birds, animals with young, and wildlife that is using a water source. Feel free to watch these wild inhabitants of the desert, but do so at a respectful distance so that your presence does not disturb them."
(Erik Molvar and Tamara Martin, Hiking Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, 2nd ed. Globe Pequot, 2005)

(c) "McDowell helped me walk back to the ship's sick bay, a small berth walled in with panels of strong canvas."
(Paul Dowswell, Powder Monkey: Adventures of a Young Sailor. Bloomsbury, 2005)