English is full of homophones: words that are pronounced the same but have different meanings.
Straight and strait are two English homophones. Strait is a noun, while straight is an adjective. Their usages do not overlap.
Continue reading to discover the differences between these two words, and when you should use each one.
What is the Difference Between Strait and Straight?
In this article, I will compare strait vs. straight. I will each word in an example sentence to illustrate its proper context. Then, at the end, I will discuss a useful mnemonic to help you choose whether strait or straight is appropriate for your writing.
When to Use Strait
What does strait mean? Strait is a noun. It can refer to several things.
It can mean a narrow but navigable body of water. It could also mean any position of hardship, especially one that is financial in nature.
- The crew set a course for the Strait of Gibraltar.
- Rebecca’s recent pay cut put him in dire financial straits.
- The Chinese themselves have sometimes used the terms Nan Hai (south sea) or Nan Yang (southern ocean) to refer to the southern maritime region as a whole, including such waters as the Java Sea and Malacca strait. –The Wall Street Journal
It also finds its way into some compound words. A straitjacket is a constricting garment designed to limit freedom of movement. To be straitlaced is to be prudish or morally rigid.
- Law enforcement officers put Hannibal Lecter in a straitjacket, but he got out.
- Henrietta was so straitlaced that she declined George’s invitation to the harvest festival because she knew there would be dancing.
You can see that all of these words deal in some way with the quality or narrowness or tightness.
When to Use Straight
What does straight mean? Straight is an adjective. It can describe something which does not curve or bend. It has also been accepted into standard usage as a particular sexual orientation.
- We cannot build our house with these boards; they are not straight enough.
- Park the car straight in the driveway so that other cars can fit next to it.
- I am interested in Carlos, but I’m pretty sure Carlos is straight.
- On Sunday, Team USA crushed Serbia, 96-66, finishing with an unblemished 8-0 record in Rio and winning the program’s third straight gold medal. –The Washington Post
You can see how each of these words deals, even in an abstract sense, with the quality of not curving, bending, or deviating from a norm.
Trick to Remember the Difference
Here is a helpful mnemonic to help you remember straight vs. strait.
To generalize, straits have the quality of narrowness, while straight describes the quality of not bending or curving.
You can remember to use strait in contexts where something is narrow since strait has fewer letters than straight. It is quite simply a narrower word.
Is it strait or straight? If the word in question is a noun, you mean strait. If it is an adjective, you mean straight.
You can also remember to use strait in contexts concerned with something that is narrow since strait has fewer letters that straight, and is thus a narrower word.
- Strait is a noun that can refer to a body of water or a challenging situation.
- Straight is an adjective that refers to a particular sexual orientation or the quality of not bending or curving.
If you still need help remembering whether to use straight or strait in your writing, you can check this article for a refresher.