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It is tempting to spell the verb 'to inoculate' with a double n - or with a double '-c-'. Don't fall into these traps! (The verb is derived from the Latin roots in-, meaning 'into', and oculus ('an eye'), which starts with the vowel 'o-', not with 'n-'. Therefore the full word only has one '-n-'.)

Spelling confusion may be caused by vaccinate, vaccine etc, words which have, in general use, very similar meanings - but written with two '-c-'s. (They are derived from Latin vacca, 'cow'.)

Etymological note: inoculate is derived from the Latin noun oculus, a diminutive of 'eye', with the suffix -cule. It developed figurative meanings early on:
  • in classical Latin, it was used for a 'bud' in a plant, which resembles an eye peeping out of the main growth;
  • in the Renaissance, it was used for round openings in architecture, particularly those windows also called oeil-de-boeuf (French for 'bull's eye');
  • in archaeology, an oculus is a name given to a motif of two linked circles or spirals;
  • and in more recent decorative art, the oculus is one name given to the central knob of a spiral, whether in carving (as in decorative capitals of columns) or calligraphy.

This page was suggested by the list of "25 of the most commonly misspelled words in the English language", in the article on "spelling" in Garner, Bryan A., The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style, Oxford University Press, 2000; on line at Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press, under licence to Hull University. 18 July 2006. <>. Although the list claims "25 of the most commonly misspelled words in the English language", it may reflect the American language of the book rather than AWE's experience of English teaching in Britain. Users of AWE may find more use in our categories spelling and spelling common errors.

AWE shares the confidence of the original article: "Naturally, [the commonly misspelled words] are spelled correctly here".

This is one of the 117 mis-spellings listed as 'Common difficulties' in the section on 'Spelling' within 'Writing' in UEfAP.