Confusing words

Confusing words: B

Many words in the English language get misused or confused. For B, I’ll explain the difference between born and borne, if you’ll bear with me.

Born and borne are both past participles of the verb bear and they’re easy to muddle.

  • Born refers to bearing in the sense of giving birth, literally or metaphorically. So you could say “I was born in London” or you could say that something was “born of necessity”.
  • Borne refers to  bearing in the sense of carrying, literally or metaphorically. So you can have “airborne contaminants” for example. Or if you think someone’s going to make a good job of something and then it turns out they do make a good job of it, you might say that your confidence in them was “borne out” by their performance.

People sometimes write “borne out of” or “borne of” incorrectly when they really mean “born (out) of”, For example, “The shift to remote working is borne out of Covid restrictions.” Here it’s not borne. It’s born.

You can read about the difference between born and borne and whole lot more, in the Clifford & Co editorial style guide.