Flare vs. Flair…and Why It’s So Tricky to Tell Them Apart
For this month’s edition of our “vs.” post, the words “flare” and “flair” came to mind.
Flare and flair are a couple of homophones that differ in spelling and in meaning, yet figuring out which one to use in the proper situation is often more of a guess than anything else. Here is some information on the two words that should help point you in the right direction.
The word “flare” can be either a noun or a verb and usually has to do with fire in some way, regardless of its grammatical role.
We’ve all heard of someone “lighting flares to lead the way,” and most of us have witnessed someone’s (maybe even our own) temper “flare up.” Some, like the temper comparison, are metaphorical but still have to do with something combustible.
You can also use flare to describe bellbottoms or a skirt that gets wider at the bottom. In fact, almost anything that gets wider in shape toward the bottom is said to “flare out.”
As for “flair,” this spelling is a noun with a couple of different meanings. People use the word “flair” to describe a certain elegance or style, or to describe a natural aptitude or talent for something.
Considering the multiple meanings, sentences like “He’s a stylish dresser with lots of flair,” and “She has a flair for writing short stories,” are both correct — completely different uses of the word and in different contexts, but both correct.
Nothing to Grab Onto
Even though “flare” and “flair” are obviously different words simply by looking at them, grabbing onto a difference that easily sets them apart is a little harder. Words like “then” and “than,” “your” and “you’re,” or “farther” and “further” all have the benefit of sounding different, plus you’re using two separate words to make one.
“Flare” and “flair” sound exactly the same and they aren’t used an awful lot in everyday writing, which makes it tough to remember the mild spelling difference. Even more, the multiple meanings within each word just scream out for people to mix them up.
A Simple Tip to Remember
It’s very easy to think that “flare” is a solar light in the sky and “flair” refers to style.
One tip that may help you figure it out, if you’re among the many that have trouble, is to think of “flair” as having a certain “air” about you. It refers to elegance, style, talent and aptitude, and the word “air” is right in there.
Give it a try and see how you make out, and feel free to share any more tips to remember the difference between these two words, if you’ve discovered any.