Bass and base are homophones, which means they are pronounced similarly but have different meanings. To further complicate matters, each of these words can mean multiple things and be different parts of speech.
Just because two words are confusing doesn’t mean that we can’t explore them and find out how to use each one. Continue reading to learn more.
What is the Difference Between Bass and Base?
In this post, I will compare bass vs. base and use each of these words in several example sentences to illustrate their correct use.
Then, I will show you an easy way to remember whether base or bass is the word you really mean.
When to Use Bass
What does bass mean? Bass can be a noun or an adjective.
As an adjective, bass describes the lower registers of sound or music.
As a noun, it can describe an instrument designed to play notes at low frequencies, a person who sings low notes in a choir, or, separately, a fish.
In the aquatic sense of the word, bass is pronounced so that it rhymes with brass. In the other senses, it rhymes with base.
Here are some examples,
- Eddie turned the bass up on his car stereo, but his speakers could not handle the extra power and blew.
- My ex-girlfriend has my bass guitar, and I want it back.
- The kick drum dominates the bass frequencies.
- That is why he keeps an Ovation bass guitar tuned and ready to perform at all times. –The Wall Street Journal
When to Use Base
What does base mean? Base can also be a noun or an adjective.
As a noun, base has several senses, including the foundation of something, either figuratively or literally, a main facility, or a term in mathematics.
Here are a few examples,
- “Tell me the location of the rebel base, or you will never see your friends again!” threatened the villain.
- The base of Mount Everest is 17,000 feet above sea level.
- There was a door at the base of the ziggurat, and Talia went inside.
- Yuli Gurriel has a special guest instructor this week to help him get more familiar with playing first base: newly elected Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell. –The Washington Post
As an adjective, base can mean lowly or basic, or it describes the foundation of something.
Here are two examples,
- Marion’s new watch had a stainless steel back and a base metal bezel.
- Irvington’s favorite pasta has a spicy cream base.
Trick to Remember the Difference
Bass and base each have several meanings, so there is not one easy rule that can define all usage cases.
General Rules for Choosing Bass or Base:
- If you are referring to a fish or to music, you should use bass.
- If you are referring to anything other than those two concepts, base is probably your better option.
Since the word bass is part of the word contrabass, another word for an instrument that plays low notes, you should be able to remember that bass is used in musical contexts.
Is it bass or base? Bass and base can both be nouns or adjectives, and both have several meanings.
- Use bass for musical contexts
- Use base for all other contexts (except fish).
Since bass is part of the word contrabass, this should be an easy rule to remember.
If you ever need a refresher on base vs. bass, you can check back with this article, and be sure to check this site any time you have further questions about difficult writing topics.