Cord or Chord – How to Use Each Correctly
What’s the Difference Between Chord and Cord?
Both chord and cord function as nouns in English, and both have the same pronunciation. Therefore, context is important in identifying the differences between them.
Chord is a group of notes played together to create a harmony. People use it in the context of music.
- The guitarist strummed his instrument to produce beautiful chords.
Cord is another word for rope.
- The robber used a cord to tie the victim’s hands together.
It seems plausible that these words could come from the same root, especially because cord means string, and many instruments use strings to produce chords. However, chord comes from the English word accord, which means to be in agreement or harmony. This in turn came from the Latin ad + cord, meaning to heart.
Cord comes from Greek origins, and originally specifically meant the string of an instrument. Ironically, the spelling of chord was originally cord, but people confused it with the Latin spelling so it changed.
Now, let’s go over a few ways to use these words in English.
Using Chord in a Sentence
When to use chord: Use chord in the context of music. It refers to musical notes played together to create a harmonious effect.
- Many people think major chords sound happy and minor chords sound sad.
- The violinist in the symphony played the wrong chord, which angered the conductor.
Phrases That Use Chord
There are several phrases and collocations that use chord.
- to strike a chord: to cause people to connect with a topic.
- The story of the stray dog who saved a family from a fire struck a chord with many animal lovers, and the hero dog quickly found a new home.
- major/minor/diminished/augmented chord: These are all technical musical terms.
- This song involves some diminished chords.
- chord progression: a succession of chords
- The cellist practices the same chord progressions many times in preparation for her solo.
Using Cord in a Sentence
When to use cord: A cord can be one of many different types of rope or string. It can be made of natural material, such as cords within the body or made from plant matter. They can also be made of synthetic material, such as electronic cords.
- Where is the cord for my computer? I need to charge it.
- This broke apart into two pieces. I could tie it back together if I had some cord.
Cord is used in all anatomical senses, e.g., umbilical cord, vocal cords, etc.
Phrases That Use Cord
There are some common phrases and collocations that use cord.
- umbilical cord: the body part that extends from a baby’s belly button to the mother while the baby is in utero.
- The doctor cut the baby’s umbilical cord after the mother gave birth.
- vocal cord: the body part that allows humans to speak.
- The singer needed to rest her vocal cords before her big performance.
- spinal cord: the body part that allows nerves throughout the body to communicate with the brain.
- The man injured his spinal cord in the car accident and became paralyzed.
- nylon/leather/electrical cord: different materials that cords are made of.
- They discovered a cut in the power cord that made it too dangerous to use.
Remembering Cord vs. Chord
There are two ways to remember which word to use and when.
The first way involves the fact that chord occurs in the context of music. Chord means harmony, and harmony starts with an h.
The second way is a little more morbid. Corpse is a dead body. Bodies have cords in them (vocal cords, spinal cord, umbilical cord), and neither corpse nor cord has an h.
- The tune may be overly familiar, but Schneider quickly moved beyond it, playing muscular improvisations on its underlying chord changes. –Chicago Tribune
- Berry acknowledges she was “feeling fiery and determined” when the “Kidnap” script arrived in 2014. The story of a mother fighting to pull her son from the clutches of predators “struck a chord,” says Berry, who produces and stars in her first leading screen role since 2013’s “The Call.” –Chicago Sun Times
- Pay-TV providers could lose nearly $1 billion in revenue as 800,000 customers cut the cord during the next 12 months, according to a new study from the firm cg42. –The Wall Street Journal
- As the five women propelled themselves from the ground and into the air, a bungee cord fastened to their waists brought them back to earth. –USA Today
Quiz: Chord vs. Cord
- I learned a new _________ on the guitar today.
- This book really struck a _____________ with me. I felt it really applied to my own life.
- We need a longer power _______ to reach the outlet.
- Spinal ____________ injuries are very serious and can be fatal.
- The construction crew marked off the area with a heavy ______________.
See answers below.
Should I use chord or cord? When talking about music, use chord. When talking about a string, use cord. Remember that these two words sound the same, so context must be your guide in writing.
- A chord is multiple musical notes played simultaneously.
- A cord is a rope or other string-like material