Humanities › English Sole vs. Soul: How to Choose the Right Word Share Flipboard Email Print PM Images/Getty Images English English Grammar An Introduction to Punctuation Writing By Richard Nordquist English and Rhetoric Professor Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester B.A., English, State University of New York Dr. Richard Nordquist is professor emeritus of rhetoric and English at Georgia Southern University and the author of several university-level grammar and composition textbooks. our editorial process Richard Nordquist Updated March 06, 2019 The words sole and soul are homophones: they sound alike but have different meanings. Definitions The noun sole refers to the underside of a foot or shoe or to a kind of flatfish. The adjective sole means single, solitary, or the only one. The noun soul refers to spirit, a vital principle, the spiritual nature of humans. Examples Social Security is the sole source of income for many senior citizens.For decades the Japanese fished for sole off the coast of Alaska."True sympathy is the personal concern which demands the giving of one's soul." (Martin Luther King, Jr.)"I go on these teams Hospice sends around. Even at the very end, there's something in there, a soul or whatever, you have to love." (John Updike, Rabbit Remembered. Knopf, 2000) Idiom Alerts The expression not a soul (or not a living soul) means not anyone. "It was quiet; not a soul was in sight except, over by the mess hall, four K.P.s sitting around a pan, sloped forward from their waists, gabbing and peeling potatoes in the sun." (Philip Roth, "Defender of the Faith." The New Yorker, 1960) The expression bare your soul means to tell someone your secret thoughts and feelings. "I want to be worthy of the trust he has in me, to go ahead right now and confess everything. . . . After all, it's the tried and true template for our relationship—that I bare my soul and he listens and forgives. But I want more. I want give-and-take. I want him to bare his soul to me. Until he does that, I can't confide in him." (Lenore Appelhans, Chasing Before. Simon & Schuster, 2014) The expression soul of discretion means very discreet, able to keep quiet about things that another person doesn't want known. "'This matter is very delicate, Mr. Holmes,' he said. 'Consider the relation in which I stand to Professor Presbury both privately and publicly. I really can hardly justify myself if I speak before any third person.'"'Have no fear, Mr. Bennett. Dr. Watson is the very soul of discretion, and I can assure you that this is a matter in which I am very likely to need an assistant.'" (Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Adventure of the Creeping Man." The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, 1923) Practice (a) "I shall allow no man to belittle my _____ by making me hate him."(Booker T. Washington) (b) "The _____ meaning of life is to serve humanity."(Leo Tolstoy) (c) Franklin Pierce was New Hampshire's _____ contribution to the presidency. (d) "In a real dark night of the _____, it is always three o'clock in the morning."(F Scott Fitzgerald) Answers to Practice Exercises: Sole and Soul (a) "I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him." (b) "The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity." (c) Franklin Pierce was New Hampshire's sole contribution to the presidency. (d) "In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o'clock in the morning."