Maize - maze
Maize and maze sound the same (they are homophones, both pronounced IPA: /meɪz/), and look very similar. Do not confuse them! (Maize and maze form one of the sets of homophones listed by the then Poet Laureate Robert Bridges.
(For more, see Bridges homophones). AWE has a category listing our articles on each of these. Bridges adds a third homophone, Mays (the plural of the name of a month. In this form, it is the name of seasonal rowing races between the Colleges of Cambridge University.)
- Maize is the seed of a cereal plant, mostly known as corn or Indian corn to Americans, and usually sweet corn, or corn on the cob, in Britain.
- A maze is a labyrinth: a puzzle where people are set to find the centre, or some other target, of a structure of walls or hedges, or drawing, etc. It is also much used as a metaphor for anything in which one can get lost, either physically, as in "a maze of little streets and alleys", or mentally, as in "the maze of Wittgenstein's thought".
- Etymological note: oddly, the usage called here a 'metaphor' is the oldest meaning recorded in OED, dating back to around 1300 though probably originating in Old English: "A state of mental confusion, and related senses". Only a century and a half later is it recorded as meaning "a labyrinth". It is related to the verb 'to amaze'