Commonly Confused Words: Turbid and Turgid

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I can’t say I use either of these words often, but I have the hardest time keeping straight the words turbid and turgid. Maybe writing about them will help me.

Turbid, according to Merriam-Webster, means “thick or opaque with or as if with roiled sediment.” It can also mean “foul or muddy.”

So, streams and rivers after a heavy rain might be described as turbid.

Turgid, on the other hand, means “swollen,” but it is often used in a less literal sense in reference to language that is excessively embellished. In this sense, it means bombastic (a great word, by the way), or pompous. In other words, language that is swollen with self-importance.

So, a river might be turbid and a speech might be turgid. Got it.

But wait — after a storm, a river might be both swollen and muddy. That means it would be a turbid, turgid stream.

Rats. Can anyone think of a mnemonic to help me sort these out?

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As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. Leave them below.

About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Jason
    Jason05-14-2013

    B is for blind…you can’t see through the water.
    G is for gorge…the river gorged on water so it’s engorged. (I actually switch to Spanish and use “gordo” which means fat.)

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