Careful as we are in using the English language, we can still slip and make mistakes—especially when we’re too exhausted to even care. A commonly misused pair of words is wary and weary, two words that sound alike and are spelled in almost the same way but have completely different meanings. It can be tiring to see people being misunderstood or embarrassed because of this error, so we’re going to do something about it.
Weary, pronounced \ ˈwir-ē \, can be either an adjective or a verb, but it is more often used as the former. It describes a state of being “exhausted in strength, endurance, vigor, or freshness.” Another definition is “having one’s patience, tolerance, or pleasure exhausted.” This is used in conjunction with the preposition of, as in “the duchess grew weary of the duke’s political preening.” Note that weary can sometimes be used as a verb referring to the act of “becoming or making something tired or disinterested,” such as in “I weary of your impudence.”
Wary, phonetics \ ˈwer-ē \, is exclusively an adjective defining something or someone as “marked by keen caution, cunning, and watchfulness especially in detecting and escaping danger.” Think cats that speed away as soon as they see or hear anything moving toward them—those are wary cats. One can also be wary toward a specific object, such as in “The lion was wary of any creatures that entered its territory.”
To further demonstrate the uses of these two words, here are some examples:
They were weary of the attention and heat by the time they faced the press and their expectant cameras.
Catherine has always been the wary one in her family, so she took on the responsibility of managing their emergency fund.
Declan wearies of his best friend’s indecisiveness.
Izzy is wary of the devils that stalk her neighborhood.
Lisa is afraid that the implications of her medical condition will weary her increasingly fatigued husband.
The best advice that the old hermit gave the adventurers was to be wary of Greenyard’s deceitful fairies.
While the two have similar pronunciations, it helps to distinguish the slightest difference in their phonetics. Weary rhymes with teary, the same way you could be if you’re drained from a hard day’s work. Wary sounds like scary, and it is best to be careful around something you’re afraid of. It also helps to remember that weary can be a verb, so when you notice that the word was used as an action, it’s definitely weary, not wary.
And that’s it! We hope this short read didn’t make you weary, and we certainly hope this helped you on your daily effort to be wary of grammatical errors. If you’ve got other questions on things grammar and writing, just drop a line, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. See you soon!
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