No one would blame you if you mixed up exercise and exorcise. They sound the same and are just one letter apart, but one is about physical fitness and the other is about removing demons and spirits.
Exercise is the more common of the two words. It is most often associated with physical activity performed to maintain and develop personal fitness. It can also mean putting something into use or action, as in “exercising one’s rights.”
Exercise comes from the Old French word exercice, meaning “a condition of being in active operation” or “practice for the sake of training.” The root comes from Latin exercitium, meaning “training or physical exercise,” specifically for soldiers and horsemen.
To exorcise means "to expel an evil spirit or demon from a person or place by command, prayer or incantation." An exorcism is the specific ritual for doing that, and an exorcist is the person performing that ritual. More broadly, it can mean eliminating negative feelings or bad vibes.
Exorcise comes from the Old French word exorciser, meaning “to invoke spirits.” This is rooted in the late Latin word exorcizare, borrowed from Ancient Greek exorkizein, meaning “binding by oath to banish an evil spirit.”
Even understanding the different meanings of the two words, you may still have trouble seeing how they are used in real life. You are thankfully (hopefully) more likely to experience exercise over exorcise, but here are sentence examples to help:
- She always starts with warm-up exercises before she even begins lifting weights.
- The priest said a prayer and a blessing in preparation for exorcising the evil spirits.
- I exercised my little demon, a sweet but feisty Labrador retriever, this morning.
- I exorcised my demons this morning with enough sage, holy water and blessings to drive out Satan himself.
- In an attempt to exorcise her sadness and heartbreak, she threw the necklace into the lake.
- Before exorcising the demons possessing the home, the priest went on a quick morning jog to get some exercise.
Exorcise and exercise are only one letter apart and pronounced exactly the same, which is how you get people asking about exercisms or going to the gym to exorcise. Fun fact and further confusion: Exorcize was the initial form of exorcise, but some language experts believe that the influence of exercise changed that “z” to an “s.”
A good way to remember the difference: Exercise has the “errr” like the straining groan of lifting heavy weights.
Even with vastly different meanings, exercise and exorcise are easy for anyone to mix up, but don’t sweat the small stuff. One person’s marathon training is another person’s casting out of evil spirits. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to expand your word knowledge with: