English has a lot of confusing words in it. Some words are spelled the same with different meanings, some words are spelled differently but pronounced the same, and some words are spelled differently and pronounced differently, but they look and sound close enough that they still give us some trouble.
The trouble between deceased vs. diseased falls into this last camp. Both words are spelled differently and have slightly different pronunciations, but they are easy to confuse. Today, I want to go over the definitions of these two words, their pronunciations, and give you a few tips to remember the differences between them.
When to Use Deceased
Deceased can be used as a noun or adjective. As a noun, it means “a dead person,” and as an adjective, it means “no longer living.” For example,
- One should not speak ill of the deceased (noun).
- A proper burial for the deceased person is expected (adjective).
When to Use Diseased
Unlike deceased, which can be used as both an adjective and a noun, diseased is only used as an adjective. Diseased means, “affected with disease.” For example,
- The diseased population was quarantined to avoid further outbreak.
- These people are diseased, so we must be cautious.
Diseased also has a more figurative definition that means “unsound or corrupt.” For example,
- Your diseased view of the world is sickening.
As you can see, a “view of the world” cannot be literally be affected with diseased, but rather it is a figurative description of something that might be considered unseemly or unpalatable.
Differences in Pronunciation
Part of what makes diseased vs. deceased difficult to keep straight is that their pronunciation is quite similar. It’s not identical, however.
Deceased is pronounced di-seesed. Both the “c” and the “s” in deceased has “s” sounds.
Diseased is pronounced di-zeezed. Both of the “s’s” in diseased have “z” sounds.
Both words have similar pronunciation of their first syllables “di,” but they diverge from there.
Remember the Difference
There’s actually a pretty easy way to remember the difference between these two words. Diseased means that you are infected with disease or, in other words, you are sick. Diseased has two “s’s,” so you know that diseased means you are sick.
And while this may be a bit morbid, there is a way you can remember deceased as well. Deceased means a dead person and it has a “c” in it. If you can remember that the “c” stands for corpse, you have an easy memory tool to keep track of both words.
It’s important to keep these two words straight because they have very different meanings and mixing them up will cause your writing to look sloppy. So in order to keep our writing precise, let’s go over them one last time.
Deceased can be a noun and adjective and refers to dead people.
Diseased can only be an adjective and refers to people who are infected with disease.
If you have any other questions on English words, check out the main confusing words page.