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Dam and Damn

Commonly Confused Words


The noun dam refers to a barrier that holds back water. As a verb, dam means to hold back or confine.

As a verb, damn means to criticize or to condemn as bad or inferior. As an interjection, damn is used to express anger, frustration, or disappointment. As an adjective, damn serves as a shorted form of damned.


  • "Are you that little Dutch boy with the finger in the dam trying to prevent the wall from coming down and the water from flooding your valley?" (Jeanette C. Morgan, The Voice That Must Be Heard)

  • The Boers were unsuccessful in their efforts to dam up the Klip River in order to flood the town.

  • "'Served you damn well right,' Dan said darkly. 'You punks can't take care o' yourselves.'" (John Steinbeck, In Dubious Battle)

  • Practice:

    (a) "The man could be concealing the fact that his stones were enchanted by black magic, helping to _____ the person who used them." (Piers Anthony, On a Pale Horse)

    (b) Waves were crashing against the _____ in front of us, and we were drenched by the wild spray.

    (c) For thousands of years, China has wanted to _____ the Yangtze River.

    Answers to Practice Exercises

    Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

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