By now, you’ve probably recognized that similar-sounding words with totally different meanings are sometimes mistaken for one another. You see this especially often when one of the words is used more commonly than the other. That’s why someone might confuse gait and gate or grisly and grizzly, for example. Today, we’re taking a closer look at a couple more “G” words in “graft” and “graph.”

Graph, when used as a noun, refers to a visual representation that displays the relationship between two (or more) variables. This can take on several forms, like line graphs and bar graphs. Depending on context, the word “graph” can oftentimes be used interchangeably with terms like chart or diagram. That’s how you would arrive at Venn diagrams and pie charts.

Used as a verb, “graph” simply refers to the act of plotting, tracing or creating a graph.

  • I was fascinated by this graph that shows the relationship between income and happiness.
  • When we graph average temperature against latitude, places closer to the equator tend to be warmer.

A great number of words also use -graph as a suffix, denoting something that is written or visualized in some specified form. A “cardiograph” is a medical instrument that records and displays heart muscle (cardio) activity on a chart (graph). A “topographical” map is a visual representation (graph) of the physical shape and features of an area or place (topo).

Graft has multiple possible meanings. Informally, it is British slang for hard work. It can also refer to corrupt practices for illicit gains. From a horticultural perspective, it could be a stick (or similar) that you insert into a tree to extract the sap. In some cases, you might insert a bud into a slit on another plant so that it can continue to grow. That’s also a graft.

Perhaps the more common definition, though, comes from the field of medicine.

A “graft” is a piece of living tissue that is surgically transplanted. Victims with severe burns, for instance, may receive skin grafts. If you’ve ever had a bad case of gingivitis, your dentist or periodontist may have offered a gum graft (sometimes called a gum tissue graft or a gingival graft). In both cases, the medical professional is taking some tissue (skin or gum) from one area and transplanting it to another area.

In this way, it would be incorrect to say that someone is going to the hospital to get a “skin graph” unless you’re talking about retrieving some sort of chart. If they’re going in for a medical procedure that involves transplanting some dermis, “skin graft” is probably the term you want.