One of the most common word pairs that are easy to confuse and misspell are “aisle” and “isle.” After all, they’re both nouns, they sound the same and spell nearly the same. The only difference is that pesky “a” at the beginning. But, this pesky “a” is your key to remembering the difference between the two.
Aisle means a narrow pathway, usually in organized rows at a larger venue. An “isle,” on the other hand, only refers to smaller yet sizable landmasses in water, also known as islands.
The word “aisle” has many uses in reference to a narrow passageway that you find in a myriad of buildings and places of public gathering. For instance, you will almost always find an “aisle” in any one of the following places:
Reception or Concert Hall
When referring to an “aisle” at places such as the ones listed above, you might say:
Actors and dancers filled the aisles at the theater.
The aisle was completely empty.
Coming down the aisle was the beautiful bride.
However, aisle can also refer to political or social strata. It’s still a noun, but used in such a way as to be a metaphorical concept rather than a tangible one.
We need bipartisan efforts across the aisle.
Everyone on this side of the aisle believes in freedom of speech.
No matter what side of the aisle you sit on, we can all agree no one should starve during winter.
The good thing about using the word “isle” is that it only refers to a small patch of land resting in a large body of water. There are no exceptions or metaphorical inferences. It’s simple and straightforward.
They say leprechauns live on the Emerald Isle.
The Greek Isles have a long, ancient, and fabled history.
Using a hidden isle was common for pirates.
Memorizing the Difference between Aisle; Isle
Since the word “isle” only refers to a small island, understanding the difference is simple. If you know someone isn’t talking about a landmass in a vast body of water, assume it refers to “aisle.”
For a simple mnemonic device:
Aisle = what you find on an airplane
Isle = what you find on an island
To further help commit the difference to memory, consider the following examples:
Correct: The Emerald Isle refers to Ireland.
The Emerald Aisle refers to Ireland.
Correct: Pirates stash their booty among many hidden isles.
Pirates stash their booty among many hidden aisles.
Correct: The church aisles were far too narrow for her wedding dress.
Incorrect: The church isles were far too narrow for her wedding dress.
While “aisle” and “isle” seem confusing, they’re not. Just remember, when in doubt or you know the context isn’t about the ocean, assume the correct word is “aisle.”