Bass and base are homophones, which means they are pronounced similarly but have different meanings. To further complicate matters, each of these words can mean multiple things and be different parts of speech. Just because two words are confusing doesn’t mean that we can’t explore them and find out how to use each one.
In this post, I will compare bass vs. base and use each of these words in several example sentences to illustrate their correct use. Then, I will show you an easy way to remember whether base or bass is the word you really mean.
The word base originated from Middle English: from Old French, from Latin basis ‘base, pedestal’, from Greek. The word bass originated from late Middle English: alteration of base, influenced by basso.
Base as noun:
She sat down at the base of a tree.
The town's economic base collapsed.
He headed back to base.
Base as verb:
Bass as noun:
He plays a bass clarinet.
Indian troops were still battling at least two gunmen Sunday night at an air force base near the border with Pakistan, more than a day and a half after the compound came under attack, a top government official said.(U.S. News & World Report)
The European Space Agency (ESA) has reiterated a desire to explore the galaxy from a ‘moon village’ built from regolith – a naturally occurring material on the moon which would protect the base from radiation. (The Mirror)
Since there will not be a quick return to the peace process, Erdoğan’s strategy will be to monopolize the nationalist anger against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) by weakening the political base of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). (Today’s Zaman)
Base or bass:
Bass and base can both be nouns or adjectives, and both have several meanings. Generally speaking, use bass for musical contexts and use base for all other contexts (except fish). Bass and base each have several meanings, so there is not one easy rule that can define all usage cases. If you are referring to a fish or to music, you should use bass. If you are referring to anything other than those two concepts, base is probably your better option. Since the word bass is part of the word contrabass, another word for an instrument that plays low notes, you should be able to remember that bass is used in musical contexts.