Grammar Chaos: No Man Is an (A)Isle

Posted on Oct 10, 2018

English can be a pretty weird language most of the time. Plenty of words sound very alike when they aren’t even spelled the same way and mean two very different things. This time around, we’ll be chopping up the differences between the words aisle and isle.

Aisle vs Isle

The only thing that’s similar about these two is their pronunciation. They both have a silent s and sound like the contraction “I’ll.” In speech, these words aren’t that hard to differentiate because context helps. But that’s where the similarity ends.

Aisle with an a is a passageway for people to walk through. You can see aisles in supermarkets and grocery stores. A bride walks down an aisle, which is the main passageway in a church. In politics, an aisle is also an imaginary line that divides parties. Here are some examples to illustrate.

  1. My dad was crying as he walked my sister down the aisle.

  2. You’ll be able to find dog food in aisle 7.

Wedding Aisle

Isle without an a is another word for “island.” Often, the word isle refers to a small island. However, there aren’t no strict size restrictions when using the word. Here are some examples.

  1. They will go on honeymoon on an isle in Greece.

  2. The story takes place in a remote isle.


How did these two words, with very different meanings, end up sounding so alike? Evolution. Aisle comes from the 14th-century Middle English word ele, meaning the lateral division of a church. Isle, on the other hand, comes from the 13th-century Middle English word ile, derived from insula, the Latin word for island. So as you can see, these two words have always been very similar. People were just as confused about ele and ile as we are with aisle and isle.

There are many ways for you to remember the differences, but this is one of the best: remember that isle starts with the letter i, a letter that has its own “isle” on top. (Wink, wink!)


Disclaimer: Images are not ours. Credit to the owner.

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