"Commiserate" Versus "Commensurate"

Can you remember how to spell these? Grammar Girl has the trick.

Mignon Fogarty
1-minute read

  by Mignon Fogarty 

Lisa McLendon is an editor at The Wichita (Kansas) Eagle and often tweets amusing “when spell-check won’t help” messages on the @GrammarMonkeys Twitter account. Saturday, she noted that she often sees writers use “commiserate” when they mean “commensurate.”


"Commiserate" means to sympathize or empathize with someone. You can commiserate with your girlfriends after you get dumped by a jerk who wasn’t good enough for you anyway, and you can commiserate with your siblings when your parents won’t let you go to a late movie.

When I looked up "commiserate," I discovered that it has the same root as misery, and suddenly it was easy for me to remember the spelling!


Commensurate is a tougher one to remember. It means “equal to,” and comes from a Latin root that means “measure,” but the problem is that it’s not spelled like “measure.” It has that darn “n” in the middle. I can’t come up with a memory trick. If you have one, please leave it in the comments.

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About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show.