2.20.2012

Hone in vs. home in

The copy editor is in.
I'm going to present occasional posts on the use of English,
not to be pedantic but just for the fun of language.

pigeon eye looking at the camera


Here's a pair of words I hear confused a lot: hone vs. home, used in the phrase "to home in on something."

And that way I used it in the phrase? That's the real way.

See, "hone" means to sharpen, whereas "home" refers to — you might have guessed this — home. So, for instance, carrier pigeons home, in that they fly back to their base after delivering a message (or however the heck carrier pigeons work — how do they work?). So if you want to focus on something, you might be honing your concentration, but you will be homing in on your goal.

I don't doubt that "hone in" will soon pass into the usage books as an acceptable variant, but for now it's better to "home."
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