Wary vs. Weary: What’s The Difference?

Learning a new language is arguably the best way to broaden your horizons if you are looking at any kind of job dealing with public service or global politics.  Interpersonal relationships between countries and governments are greatly improved when people are able to communicate clearly, and if you learn a language that is rarely spoken or known, you make yourself invaluable to your employer.  However, learning a language can be difficult because it can be hard to keep track of all the rules that different languages follow in their grammar.

English is considered one of the most notorious languages for keeping track of which rules are common and which rules are broken often.  People who learn English as a second or even third language struggle to remember spellings, verb tenses, singular and plural subject/verb agreements, and several other common grammar mistakes.  

English has so many complex and convoluted grammatical concepts and structures that make it very difficult to understand.  Something that even veteran English speakers struggle with is words that sound unbelievably similar and even have similar spellings but have completely different meanings.  In this article, let’s break down the difference between the words weary and wary, what they even are, how to use the correct word, and the history and etymology of the words in English grammar.

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Definition of the Words Weary and Wary

The first step to learning any word for the first time before you try to incorporate it into your vocabulary is to actually understand what the word means.  Learning the definitions of certain words is an excellent way to begin to use them yourself.  According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the word weary means, “exhausted in strength, endurance, vigor, or freshness”, or “expressing or characteristic of weariness”.  A secondary definition is listed as, “having one’s patience, tolerance, or pleasure exhausted, used with ‘of’, e.g. weary of the situation”.  On the other hand, the word wary means, “marked by keen caution, cunning, and watchfulness for possible dangers.”  

Synonyms of weary include fatigued and tired. Synonyms of wary include leery and suspicious.

As you can definitely see, these two words are completely unrelated in their meanings, and even the ways that they are used conversationally or in writing are different.  

Is It Just a Spelling Error?

So any time you see a word that is not listed in the dictionary, your first thought may be to write it off as a spelling error. However, in this case, that might not be your best bet.  Since both words are actually listed in the dictionary and spelled correctly with definitions, it is unnecessary to label either of these words as purely a spelling error.  They are both classified as parts of speech, have fully accepted and recognized definitions, and are used commonly throughout the  English language.

However, a word not being in the dictionary does not completely invalidate that word altogether,  and that is due to the fact that language is entirely driven by culture.  Any word that becomes popular enough sees widespread use, and has an acceptable and widespread spelling will eventually become “acceptable” and worthy of being included in the dictionary.  Take the word selfie, for example, one hundred years ago, the word selfie would have never even crossed anyone’s mind, but now it is in dictionaries all over the globe.  

What Part of Speech Are Weary and Wary?

Another good step to take when trying to learn a new word is to figure out what part of speech it is.  Ask yourself where the word would fit into a sentence.  In English, the primary parts of speech are nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, and prepositions.  Learning these well opens lots of doors in terms of what you can actually handle when it comes to learning new words.

The words weary and wary are both commonly used as an adjective meaning that they describe people or their actions.  However, in some very limited circumstances, the word weary can become an intransitive verb, e.g. to become weary.  Both of these words can have the -y removed and an “-ily” suffix added to them to create an adverb.  Weary becomes wearily and wary becomes warily.  

History and Etymology Behind the Two Words

Learning a word’s history can be like opening a window into the past.  The etymology of most words in English actually reveals why things are so complicated in this language, and that is because most of English has actually been derived from a plethora of other languages.  The majority of words in modern English have gotten their roots in Western European languages by way of more ancient languages such as Latin and Greek.  

However, both of these words actually steer clear of the ancient languages and stick solidly in the middle of Western Europe.  According to EtymOnline.com, both weary and wary come from roots in the Old English, derived from the Proto-Germanic and Old High Germanic languages as well.  For example, the word weary comes from the Proto-Germanic word “worigaz” and was first introduced in the Old English language as the word “werig”, meaning tired, exhausted, or miserable. 

Example Sentences of Weary and Wary in Context

Finally, it is important to learn examples of the word in context.  Reading contextual use or hearing someone else use a word in their vocabulary are great ways to learn for yourself.

How to Use Weary in a Sentence:

  • He was weary after his long work week.  He rarely had any energy left.
  • She was weary after running the marathon and she needed to take a break.
  • Being a wife and a mother and a full-time employee was tiring her out; she was truly weary.

How to Use Wary in a Sentence:

  • It is good to enter a situation with a wary mindset.
  • Be wary, because you never know what might jump out in a haunted house.

In Summary

At the end of the day, reading your audience and communicating clearly with them is the best way to learn new words.  You will never go wrong once do the hard work to really read your audience.  Good luck!

Sources:

  1. https://thewordcounter.com/blog-common-grammar-mistakes/ 
  2. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/weary 
  3. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/wary 
  4. https://www.etymonline.com/word/weary#etymonline_v_46444 
  5. https://thewordcounter.com/midnight-and-noon/ 
  6. https://thewordcounter.com/is-vs-are/