Medal - meddle

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These two homophones should be distinguished in their spelling. Both words have the stress on the first syllable and pronounce the final syllable in the same way (IPA: /'mɛ dəl/).

  • A medal looks rather like a coin. In modern times, it is an award, usually for bravery but also for distinction in fields of learning, art or scientific discovery, etc.; gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded at the Olympic Games. In the past, medals were issued to commemorate important events more than is common today. It may help you to remember its spelling if you think of the word medallion, which means much the same, and in which the letter '-a-' is pronounced as an '-a-' as in 'cat' (/æ/), and not as a schwa, as it is in medal.
    • Medallion is also used in restaurants etc. to describe a cut of meat which is shaped roughly like a medal.
    • A medallist wins medals, for example at the Olympic Games.
    • A medaller makes medals.

  • To meddle is only a verb. It means 'to interfere with'. The word 'to muddle' may help you to remember how to spell meddle.

Both meddle and medal have an '-ed' form. We can say that someone meddled (past tense) in someone else's business, or that they have meddled (past participle) in it, as to meddle is a regular verb. With the noun medal, there is a quasi-participle used as an adjective, e.g. 'The sergeant was much medalled', or, more idiomatically, 'The sergeant was much be-medalled'.

There is also a word 'medlar', which has nothing to do with either of the above. It is the name of a fruit little eaten in Britain.