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Flare vs. Flair

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As I’m sure you are well aware, English has a lot of confusing words—and flare and flair are no exception. Both native and non-native English speakers alike commonly confuse these two words. They are a classic example of a set of homophones, meaning they are pronounced the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings.

Unlike some homophones that share a similar origin and common history, flare is an unrelated word that is distinct entirely from flair. Today, I want to go over the definitions of these two words, what their differences are, and give you a few tips to make sure you’re using the correct one. By the end of this post, you won’t ever confuse flair vs. flare again.

Origin:

The word flare originated in mid-16th century (in the sense ‘spread out one's hair’): of unknown origin. Current senses date from the 17th century. The word flair originated from late 19th century: from French, from flairer ‘to smell’, based on Latin fragrare ‘smell sweet’. Compare with fragrant.

Flare as noun:

The word flare is used as a noun which means a sudden brief burst of bright flame or light.

The flare of the match lit up his face.

Flare also means a gradual widening in shape, especially towards the hem of a garment.

She wore a skirt with a flare to the party.

Flare as verb:

Flare means to burn or shine with a sudden intensity.

The bonfire crackled and flared up.

Flair as noun:

Flair is used as a noun which means a special or instinctive aptitude or ability for doing something well.

She had a flair for languages.

Examples:

The flare will come and go in a few seconds and will get brighter than Venus in the evening sky. [Mankato Free Press]

Like Novotny, Streever is a scientist with a flair for anecdotes. [Powell’s Books]

Wildfires flare up in western valley [Times-News]

The July 4th weekend is notorious for boaters shooting off their emergency flares as a substitute for fireworks. [KHON 2]

The fair included free food, games and activities with a Western flair. [NewsOK]

Flare-ups caused by the heat and wind on Thursday were quickly doused with the use of helicopter water buckets and water bombers, provincial officials said. [CBC News]

A white cropped sweater bearing the midriff and high-waisted fit and flared skirt looked positively fresh. [NYT]

Flair or flare:

These two words, despite sounding the same, are unrelated and have different meanings. For this reason, it’s important to know when to use the correct word, flare vs. flair. Flair is a noun that refers to an outstanding talent or originality and stylishness. Flare can be both a noun and a verb. It is most commonly used to mean a sudden outburst, whether that is a bright light, a flame, or emotion. A good way to remember the difference between these two words is to look at the word flared. Flared has the word red in it, and a flare is a sudden burst of light, oftentimes a flame. Flames are red and flared has the word red in it. Flared is also commonly paired with the word up, so in sentences where you see an up directly following, flare is probably the right word to pick.

 

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"Flare vs. Flair." Grammar.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2017. Web. 24 Nov. 2017. <http://www.grammar.com/flare_vs._flair>.

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