Delate - delete - dilate

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Delate, delete and dilate are three verbs differing only by a single letter each from each other. So they are not uncommonly confused - by careless spelling, mis-typing or spellcheckers. Don't use the wrong one!

  • 'To delate', probably the rarest of the three, is in current usage a term largely confined to Scots law, particularly to do with the Church of Scotland. It means 'to denounce', 'to accuse', 'to lay a charge against'.
  • 'To delete', the commonest in everyday usage, means 'to rub out', 'cancel', 'remove' or 'to render invisible'. This is the function abbreviated on many keyboards to DEL - and, abbreviated or in full, used by most writers many times in a session at the keyboard.
  • 'To dilate' is a word used mostly in physiological or medical contexts. It means 'to widen', 'to become wider' (as a river may be said to dilate its banks as it floods), or 'to make wider' (as an optician may dilate the pupil of an eye with special drops to see better what is going on in the eyeball). Dilatation, or dilation of the cervix of the womb is a necessary step in childbirth.
    • It is also used in the discussion of rhetoric and argument, in the sense of 'to expand': "the preacher dilated upon his topic for what seemed like hours."