Meat - meet - mete

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Meat,meet and mete 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..

These three homophones all exist. Their meanings are different. Do not confuse them. All three sound the same, with the vowel sound of 'eat' and 'feet' between 'm-' and '-t': IPA: /miːt/.

  • Meat is now 'the flesh of animals', considered as a foodstuff. Its original meaning was general: '[any type of] foodstuff'. (In 1523, one could be advised to give a horse meat, meaning grain or other fodder; and Shakespeare has Mercutio say, in Romeo and Juliet (III i), "Thy head is as full of quarrels as an egg is full of meat".)
  • Meet is the most varied in usage of these three spellings (OED lists five homographs - two nouns, and adjective, a verb and an adverb). Nowadays, the verb is the commonest; but Higher Education students should also be aware of the adjective which is not uncommon in academic English.
    • The verb 'to meet' is 'to encounter', 'to come face to face with', with various developments from this basic meaning. (In formal English, such prepositions as 'up' or 'with' are otiose: whenever you are tempted to write 'Mrs Thatcher met up with Geoffrey Howe and Nigel Lawson', stifle the urge and write 'Mrs Thatcher met Geoffrey Howe and Nigel Lawson' instead.) See also meet (irregular verb).
      • There is a comparatively rare noun, 'a meet', derived from this. It has been used in the UK for 'a gathering of people, horses and dogs preparing to hunt [particularly foxes]'; in the USA for 'a gathering of [track and field, cycling, swimming or other] athletes for competition'; and in Australia for an appointment with a person of the opposite sex, or 'a date'. It also has technical meanings in mathematics.
    • The archaic adjective meet means 'suitable' or 'appropriate'. It was originally derived from 'to mete' (below) and meant 'of the correct dimensions' or 'fitting', as in clothes, or 'matching the required size' in all forms of making or building. The same development in meaning can be seen in fitting itself. This word survives because of its use in Christian texts, such as the Authorised Version and in prayer books, as in The Book of Common Prayer: "It is meet and right so to do". It is also used light-heartedly by the poet Thomas Love Peacock (1785-1866) in The War-Song of Dinas Vawr:
The mountain sheep are sweeter,
But the valley sheep are fatter;
We therefore deemed it meeter
To carry off the latter.
  • 'To mete' is an archaic verb meaning 'to measure'. It is sometimes found with the preposition 'out': a mob may believe itself to be 'meting out justice' when it lynches a hated oppressor.