Dual vs. Duel: What’s The Difference?

English has many words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and mean different things. These words are called homophones. Some homophones are spelled nearly the same, too, which does nothing to add clarity to the situation.

Dual and duel are two such homophones. Their pronunciations and spellings are very close, which can make knowing whether to use dual or duel difficult.

Luckily, once you know the difference, choosing between them is simple.

What is the Difference Between Dual and Duel?

In this article, I will compare dual vs. duel, and I will use each in a sentence to illustrate how they work. I’ll also explain a helpful trick to remember when to use each word.

When to Use Dual

duel versus dual meaningWhat does dual mean? Dual is an adjective that means having two parts.

A doctor, for instance, might say of a patient who has two diseases,

  • Melinda has a dual diagnosis of bipolar disorder and alcohol dependency.

Similarly, a boat engine with two props is called a “dual prop” engine.

Someone who is a citizen of two different countries is called a “dual citizen.”

  • Dual citizenship is not only about multiplying the benefits of citizenship; it is also about balancing responsibilities and loyalties to separate nations. –The Washington Post

When to Use Duel

duel definition and dual definitionWhat does duel mean? Duel can be a noun or a verb.

As a noun, it refers to a conflict between two entities, but may or may not imply violence. Here are some examples:

  • Aaron Burr challenged Alexander Hamilton to a duel.
  • The candidates were wrapped up in their duel for the White House.
  • Beatrice and Benedick were engaged in an ongoing duel of wits.
  • There was no other way for this championship — which morphed into one of the most epic final-round duels the sport has ever seen — to end. –New York Post

As a verb, duel means to engage in a conflict between two entities. Again, the conflict is not necessarily violent. Here are two examples:

  • We will duel in the town square at high noon.
  • I would duel her in chess, but I would probably lose.

While duel can be a synonym for verbs like battle or argue, duel should only be used when the battle or argument is between two parties. Two swordsmen can duel, for example, but if three or more swordsmen are fighting, it is more accurate to choose a different word instead.

Trick to Remember the Difference

dual meaning versus duel meaningChoosing dual or duel in your writing can be confusing, but once you know the difference, it becomes much less frustrating.

If you are stuck, remember that dual and sandal both end in -al. Since most people who wear sandals wear two sandals, these sandal-wearers have dual sandals. This mnemonic might seem ridiculous, but that makes it more memorable.

Summary: Duel vs. Dual

Is it dual or duel? The many homophones in the English language don’t make learning it or writing it very simple. Dual and duel are easy to misuse, but they have different meanings, and accidentally substituting one of these words for the other weakens your writing.

Dual is an adjective that means having two parts.

Duel is a verb or a noun, and refers to a conflict between two entities.

You can help yourself remember by using the phrase “dual sandals” as a reminder of the meaning of the adjective dual. If you still need help remembering whether duel or dual is correct, you can refer back to this article to refresh your memory.