Dam and Damn

Commonly Confused Words

getty_hoover_dam-188074461.jpg
Hoover Dam, on on the border between Arizona and Nevada. (Spaces Images/Getty Images)

The words dam and damn are homophones: they sound the same but have different meanings.

The noun dam refers to a barrier that holds back water. As a verb, dam means to hold back or confine.

As a verb, damn means to criticize or to condemn as bad or inferior. As an interjection, damn is used to express anger, frustration, or disappointment. As an adjective, damn serves as a shorted form of damned.

Examples

  • "Are you that little Dutch boy with the finger in the dam trying to prevent the wall from coming down and the water from flooding your valley?"
    (Jeanette C. Morgan, The Voice That Must Be Heard. Tate, 2010)​
  • The Boers were unsuccessful in their efforts to dam up the Klip River in order to flood the town.
  • "Damn them, he cursed inwardly, years of bitter resentment welling up inside him. Damn them for laughing, damn the driver for swearing at him! Damn the whole town."
    (James Herbert, The Fog. Pan Macmillan, 1999)

Practice

(a) "The man could be concealing the fact that his stones were enchanted by black magic, helping to _____ the person who used them."
(Piers Anthony, On a Pale Horse. Del Rey Books, 1983)

(b) Waves were crashing against the _____ in front of us, and we were drenched by the wild spray.

(c) "There was a treaty that said the Indians could always fish the falls. But the government wanted to build a _____ to generate electricity for the cities and store water for the farmers."
(Craig Lesley, Winterkill. Houghton Mifflin, 1984)

Answers to Practice Exercises

(a) "The man could be concealing the fact that his stones were enchanted by black magic, helping to damn the person who used them."

(Piers Anthony, On a Pale Horse. Del Rey Books, 1983)

(b) Waves were crashing against the dam in front of us, and we were drenched by the wild spray.

(c) "There was a treaty that said the Indians could always fish the falls. But the government wanted to build a dam to generate electricity for the cities and store water for the farmers."
(Craig Lesley, Winterkill.

Houghton Mifflin, 1984)

S​ee also: Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Dam and Damn." ThoughtCo, Apr. 10, 2017, thoughtco.com/dam-and-damn-1689359. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, April 10). Dam and Damn. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/dam-and-damn-1689359 Nordquist, Richard. "Dam and Damn." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/dam-and-damn-1689359 (accessed January 17, 2018).