Wary or Weary – How to Use Each Correctly

enhancedwriting/ August 31, 2017/ Uncategorized

wary versus weary

What’s the Difference Between Wary and Weary?

Wary and weary are two words that sound almost—but not exactly—alike. Both words are adjectives. However, their similarities end there. These two words have no overlap in meaning.

Wary has a long a sound and means cautious or suspicious of something or someone.

  • I don’t think you should work with that man. However, if you must do so, you should constantly be wary of him.

Weary has a long e sound and means tired or exhausted.

  • I am weary after my long journey. I shall require some rest.

The main error that people make with these two words is saying weary when they mean wary.

Let’s look at the usage of these two words.

Using Wary in a Sentence

When to use wary: This adjective describes feeling uneasy about a person or situation. People use it to describe being careful around someone or something.

Wary comes an Old English word that meant prudent or alert.

For example,

  • Always be wary of pickpockets when you travel abroad.
  • My dog is always wary of strangers.

It is possible that people accidentally say weary when they mean wary because they are combining the word wary with the word leery. Leery has the same meaning as wary, but it has a long e sound, just like weary.

Using Weary in a Sentence

When to use weary: Weary means tired. People often use this word to describe feeling spent after a long day of work. They can also use it when they are figuratively tired of something, such as tired of listening to excuses or complaining. It can also act as a verb, meaning to make someone tired.

For example,

  • I’m weary of your constant whining! (figurative adjective meaning)
  • I spent 14 hours hiking, so I am quite weary. (literal adjective meaning)
  • Your endless need for approval wearies me. (verb meaning)

When acting as a verb, people often use weary with the verb grow:

  • to grow weary: to become tired
    • I grow weary of always having to fix your problems.

People don’t often use weary as a verb in conversation. It sounds more flowery than typical spoken English. However, weary does occur frequently in novels and movies.

Remembering Wary vs. Weary

One way to help you remember the difference between these two words is to use their spelling. Wary starts with the letters war. In a war, soldiers must always be wary. Also, the word aware contains the letters war, and to be wary means a person must also be aware.

Another way involves the word weary. Weary starts with the letters wear. One of the meanings of wear is to wear someone down. In other words, make them tired through constant nagging or other pressure. The fact that wear down and weary both relate to being tired can also help you remember weary’s meaning.

Remember not to let the rhyming of leery and weary confuse you. Wary and leery share a meaning, but not their pronunciation.

Outside Examples

  • North Korea on Friday test-fired its second intercontinental ballistic missile, which flew longer and higher than the first according to its wary neighbors, leading analysts to conclude that a wide swath of the U.S. including Los Angeles and Chicago is now within range of Pyongyang’s weapons. –Denver Post
  • And police are wary of lawsuits that might result from working in the river. –OC Register
  • Romantic, restless and weary Russians experience extraordinary encounters and personal breakthroughs in “Moscow Never Sleeps,” a tapestry inspired by “Short Cuts” and “Magnolia” and resembling “Paris, je t’aime” and “New York, I Love You” in terms of affection expressed for the title city.–San Francisco Examiner
  • Weary Republicans in Washington may be ready to move on from health care, but conservatives across the United States are warning the GOP-led Congress not to abandon its pledge to repeal the Obama-era health law — or risk a political nightmare in next year’s elections. –New York Daily News

Quiz: Weary vs. Wary

Instructions: Fill in the blank with the correct word, either weary or wary.

  1. Some nationals are _______________ of immigrants, although some of the nationals’ parents and grandparents were immigrants at one time as well.
  2. By the end of the school year, teachers and students are _____________ from all their work and ready for a break.
  3. I thought I could handle climbing this mountain, but I have already grown ________.

See answers below.

Article Summary

Should I use wary or weary? These words look alike at first glance, but they have completely unrelated meanings. Therefore, you can never interchange them.

  • Wary means to be cautious and aware of possible danger.
  • Weary means to feel exhausted.

Be especially cautious to use the long a sound in wary, like in the word aware.


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