Words Easily Confused – Dual and Duel by Angela Caldin
Dual is an adjective meaning double, twofold, composed of two parts or having a double character or purpose:
- They decided that their children should have dual nationality so that they could live in either country later on.
- He could only conclude that she had a dual personality – at times kind and charming, at others cruel and malicious.
Duel is a noun or verb referring to a fight or struggle. It can refer to a prearranged combat between two people often using pistols or swords or to a struggle for domination or success between two individuals, groups or ideas:
- One of the most famous duels is that between David and Goliath: David killed the mighty giant Goliath by means of a small stone launched from his catapult.
- The Miliband brothers found themselves involved in a damaging duel to decide who would be the leader of the Labour Party.
- The two men met on Hampstead Heath at dawn and duelled to the death.
It’s interesting to note that these homophones have different roots. Dual comes from the Latin duo meaning two, while duel comes from the Medieval Latin duellum, meaning war. Although a duel usually involves two combatants, this numerical correspondence is just coincidence.