10 Words That Don’t Mean What You Think They Do

Source: 24/7 Wall St.

Contingency

There’s no such thing as “a contingency of experts,” “of French chefs,” “of Chinese ministers,” or the like. A contingency is something that might happen (“We must prepare for every contingency”). A group of people is a contingent.

Source: 24/7 Wall St.

Disinterested

If you’re not interested in something, you’re uninterested. “Disinterested” means that you have no direct stake in something, financially or in some other sense. A judge in a courtroom should always be disinterested in the proceedings, though they may interest him very much.

Source: 24/7 Wall St.

Exhibit

If you go to the museum to see a Picasso exhibit, you’re just seeing one painting or print or whatever. An exhibit is a single item. Think “Exhibit A.” An exhibition is a whole collection of exhibits, which is probably what drew you to the museum.

Source: 24/7 Wall St.

Flagrant

People use “flagrant” to mean obvious, as in “a flagrant error” or “a flagrant invitation.” It means something stronger than that, though — not just obvious but particularly offensive or objectionable. The aforementioned error and invitation are more correctly “blatant.”

Source: 24/7 Wall St.

Further

San Francisco isn’t further from New York than Boston is and you didn’t run further than you should — it’s “farther” in both cases. “Farther” refers to physical distance, “further” to non-physical or metaphorical ones (“Let’s not take this argument any further,” “It is further stipulated….”)