Angela’s ABCs – Words Sometimes Confused: Titillate and Titivate

These two verbs are both rather fun, but have different meanings:


to titillate means to excite, arouse or stimulate agreeably, sometimes in a sexually suggestive way; literally, it means to tickle or to excite a tingling sensation by stroking lightly:
  • Tell me, what would titillate your taste buds, a custard tart or a cream cake?
  • The story in the newspaper was designed to titillate rather than to report the facts of the matter.
  • She decided to titillate his senses by gently allowing her arm to brush against his.


to titivate means to smarten up, adorn or spruce, to make minor enhancements, to put the finishing touches to something:
  • She spent ages in front of the mirror titivating her hair before going out for the evening.
  • They were advised to titivate the house with new cushions and carefully placed vases of flowers before putting it on the market.
  • However much you titivate, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

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