Callous - callus
These two words are, historically, the same. (They both derive from the Latin word callus, meaning â€˜hardened skinâ€™.) In modern English, however, their spellings are different. In academic English, you must get them right.
- A callus is a patch of hardened skin, usually found on the hands or feet. (The word is a noun, the name of a phenomenon.) It is associated with hard physical effort: if you dig all day for a season, you will get calluses on your hands; if you walk in bare feet (or ill-fitting shoes), you will get calluses on your feet. Callus is nearly always used literally, to mean exactly the physical patch of hard skin.
- Callous is an adjective. It is nearly always used, in everyday English, figuratively, to mean â€˜hardâ€™, â€˜hardenedâ€™, or â€˜without any ordinary decency or kindnessâ€™. We say that the police are callous when they treat their prisoners violently, without paying any attention to what they may be feeling; or that a cruel trainer may treat a dog callously by, for example, not giving it enough to eat.
A callous employer may watch his workers get calluses without ever giving them time to rest.