Rite or Right – How to Use Each Correctly

enhancedwriting/ August 31, 2017/ Uncategorized

rite versus right

What is the Difference Between Rite and Right?

Rite and right are homophones. This means that the two words have the exact same pronunciation but different spellings and pronunciations.

Rite is a noun that means a ceremonial act.

  • There are similarities between religious rites across different religions. However, Catholic rites are often different than Protestant rites.

Right has many definitions and can be a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb. It can relate to being correct, being on the side opposite from the left side, or a just claim on something.

  • My sister always thinks she’s right about everything. (adjective meaning correct)

Despite the fact that right has many meanings, none of its definitions overlap with those of rite.

Now, let’s go over a few ways to use these words in English.

Using Rite in a Sentence

When to use rite: Rite most often gets used in the context of religious ceremonies. It describes a formal act that serves some purpose. However, it can occur in other rituals outside of just religion.

For example,

  • The altar boys performed the rite of lighting the candles inside the church.
  • The man knelt before the queen for the rite of becoming a knight to commence.

There is one major idiom that uses rite:

  • a rite of passage: an occurrence that marks a new stage in someone’s life
    • A teenager’s first kiss is a rite of passage. Many people believe it is an important step between childhood and adulthood.

It is also possible to use rite for other customary practices, such as things that people do as a habit.

Using Right in a Sentence

When to use right: Right can act as a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb. It also has several different major definitions. These definitions include correct, a reference to position meaning the opposite of left, or that which is deserved or due to a person.

Although there are many nuances and more minor meanings, most can fit into one of the three definitions already mentioned.

For example,

  • It is right to say that 2 + 2 = 4. (first definition)
  • The bank is on the right of the grocery store. (second definition)
  • Some people believe that healthcare is a universal right. (third definition)

There are many idioms and expressions that use right as well.

For example:

  • right as rain: completely fine
    • Don’t worry, I fixed the problem. Now everything is right as rain.
  • by rights: in fairness
    • It’s totally unfair that no one asked your opinion. The decision affects you so by rights you should be able to help make the decision.
  • in one’s own right: by one’s own merits
    • Amadeus Wolfgang Mozart was a great musician but his sister was very talented in her own right.
  • in the right: correct
    • Everyone’s mad at me for what I said, but I’m only telling the truth. I’m totally in the right in this situation.
  • to serve one right: to get what one justly deserves
    • I’m glad she punched the bully. He shouldn’t make fun of people. It served him right.

There are quite a few more expressions using right in the sense of exactly.

Remembering Rite vs. Right

There are two mnemonic devices that use the spelling to help you to remember which word to use and when.

The first way involves the fact that rite starts with the letters rit. The word ritual starts with these same three letters. The words ritual and rite are related because they both describe a formal act that is part of a ceremony.

The second way also involves the letters. Just as right has more letters than rite, it also has more definitions. Therefore, use right for all meanings other than ritual.

Outside Examples

  • So for this rite of passage, there was nothing wrong with Grace’s choice in attire. –Chicago Tribune
  • Along with roaming from town to town in a touring company, performing on a ship is a rite of passage for up-and-coming Second City actors, who also give improv lessons to passengers. –Chicago Sun Times
  • The European Union’s top court is set to decide whether the bloc’s “right to be forgotten” policy stretches beyond Europe’s borders, a test of how far national laws can—or should—stretch when regulating cyberspace. –The Wall Street Journal
  • Andrew Luck tried to ease all doubts about his surgically-repaired right shoulder Saturday. –USA Today

Quiz: Right vs. Rite

Instructions: Fill in the blank with the correct word, either right or rite.

  • If you want to take part in the ceremony, you must learn the various __________.
  • All people deserve certain ______________, such as the _____________ to vote.
  • Tying his own shoelaces felt like an important _________ of passage to the young child.

See answers below.

Article Summary

Should I use rite or right? These words sound exactly alike, but their meanings have no overlap. Therefore, be aware of the different definitions for each so you don’t confuse one with the other.

  • Rite is a noun that refers to acts within a ritual, often within a religion.
  • Right can be four different parts of speech: noun, verb, adjective, or adverb. Usually it means correct, the opposite of left, or something a person is entitled to.

Right is much more common than rite in social conversations, and almost every other situation. Rite is most common when discussing religious ceremonies and rituals.


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