Friday, December 31, 2004


A Thousand Years

I often see the incorrect spelling millenium instead of millennium. One way to remember the proper spelling is to keep in mind the derivation, from Latin mille (thousand) plus annus (year). Note the double n in annus (as in annual), which matches the double n in millennium. Latin anus means something quite different (old woman with a short a, fundament with a long a). Another way to remember how to spell millennium is to recall the similarly formed biennium, which is hardly ever misspelled.

Perhaps people misspell millennium as millenium because they're misled by the single n in millenary, centenary, and similar words. But the original Latin words are built from the distributive adjectives centeni (a hundred each) and milleni (a thousand each) plus the suffix -arius. There is no annus lurking in centenary or millenary.

Double letters are a snare. While composing this post, I realized that I had initially misspelled misspell as mispell.

I hardly ever use computerized spelling checkers, even the one provided by this blog's word processor. When I write, I usually keep an old-fashioned dictionary within arm's reach and consult it often. I also rely on the kindness of friendly readers, who are quick to point out my sins against orthography.

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