Commonly Confused Words: Stake and Steak

Homophone Corner

stake and steak
Mark Schatzker, Steak: One Man's Search for the World's Tastiest Piece of Beef (Viking Penguin, 2010). (Getty Images)

The words stake and steak are homophones: they sound alike but have different meanings.

Definitions

As a noun, stake refers to a length of wood or metal that can serve as a pole or post. The noun stake may also mean a share or interest, or something (usually money) that's bet in a wager or contest.

The verb stake means to gamble, establish a claim, mark a boundary, or provide support.

The noun steak refers to a slice of meat or fish that's usually cooked by broiling or frying.

Examples

  • When the early settlers came to a piece of land they liked, they pounded a stake into the ground to claim it.
     
  • "When you buy a company's stock, you're buying an ownership stake in that company along with a claim on its assets and future profits."
    (James J. Kramer with Cliff Mason, Jim Cramer's Getting Back to Even. Simon & Schuster, 2009)
     
  • John was a desperate gambler, willing to stake everything on a roll of the dice.
     
  • "The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook."
    (Julia Child)
     
  • "I sat down across a glass-topped table from him. He picked at a pallid salmon steak with a cafeteria fork and smiled serenely."
    (Robert Charles Wilson, Spin. Tor, 2005)
     
  • "The two of us and her mouthy teenaged son opened some presents, and then we went to this steak house near her apartment."
    (Raymond Carver, "Where I'm Calling From." Cathedral. Knopf, 1983)

Idiom Alerts

  • At Stake
    The expression at stake refers to something at risk—something that can be won or lost.
    "By giving his version of the greatest of all wars, and his own role in it, [Winston Churchill] knew he was fighting for his ultimate place in history. What was at stake was his status as a hero."
    (Paul Johnson, Churchill. Viking, 2009)
     
  • Raise the Stakes
    The expression raise the stakes means to increase the amount of money risked in a game (such as poker) or, by extension, to increase the cost or risk in taking a particular action. 
    "The French had become masters of the environment, or so they liked to think. But what they had done was to raise the stakes in their contest with nature."
    (Christopher Morris, The Big Muddy: An Environmental History of the Mississippi and Its Peoples. Oxford University Press, 2012) 

    Practice

    (a) Developing countries in Asia have a large _____ in maintaining an open global system of trade and investment.


    (b) "Over our gravied Swiss _____ and potatoes we'd buck each other up about the new and unexpected future as a married couple with a child and no money."
    (Philip Roth, The Facts: A Novelist's Autobiography. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1988)


    (c) "My God, what was going to happen? I'd never be able to leave this place. A _____ had been driven down through my head and body, rooting me forever to this spot."
    (Maya Angelou, Gather Together in My Name. Random House, 1974)

    Answers to Practice Exercises: Stake and Steak

    (a) Developing countries in Asia have a large stake in maintaining an open global system of trade and investment.

    (b) "Over our gravied Swiss steak and potatoes we'd buck each other up about the new and unexpected future as a married couple with a child and no money."
    (Philip Roth, The Facts: A Novelist's Autobiography. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1988)

    (c) " My God, what was going to happen? I'd never be able to leave this place. A stake had been driven down through my head and body, rooting me forever to this spot."
    (Maya Angelou, Gather Together in My Name. Random House, 1974)

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    Your Citation
    Nordquist, Richard. "Commonly Confused Words: Stake and Steak." ThoughtCo, Mar. 29, 2018, thoughtco.com/stake-and-steak-1689497. Nordquist, Richard. (2018, March 29). Commonly Confused Words: Stake and Steak. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/stake-and-steak-1689497 Nordquist, Richard. "Commonly Confused Words: Stake and Steak." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/stake-and-steak-1689497 (accessed May 21, 2018).