• 3-minute read
  • 17th January 2021

Word Choice: Or, Oar or Ore?

‘Or’, ‘oar’, and ‘ore’ sound identical, but these words have very different meanings. Make sure you can use them correctly in your writing with our helpful guide.

Or (A Connecting Word Between Alternatives)

‘Or’ is a conjunction (i.e. a linking word) that typically connects two or more alternatives or possibilities in a sentence. For example:

Do you want chicken or fish tonight?

I can’t decide whether to go to the cinema or the theatre.

It can also be used to show what will happen if an action doesn’t occur:

Hurry up, or we’ll be late!

Eat your crusts, or your hair won’t curl.

In these examples, not doing the first thing in the sentence will lead to the second.

Oar (A Rowing Implement)

‘Oar’ is a noun that refers to a pole with a flat end that is used to row a boat:

I found the oars and rowed across the lake.

The Vikings used oars to power their longships.

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You might also see it in the phrase ‘stick one’s oar in’, which refers to unwelcome interference of some kind. This interference does not have to involve an actual oar, but we imagine that poking someone with an oar would qualify.

Ore (Raw Source of a Metal)

‘Ore’ is also a noun, but this word refers to rock or soil that contains the raw form of a mineral, especially a metal (e.g. iron ore or copper ore):

The rock contained an extensive seam of iron ore.

The ore was sold to a silver merchant.

The ‘ore’ will then be refined (or smelted) to produce a pure version of the metal.

Gold ore.
Gold ore.
(Photo: James St. John/wikimedia)

Summary: Or, Oar or Ore?

Despite sounding the same, these three words have different meanings:

  • Or is a conjunction that usually links possibilities or alternatives.
  • Oar is a noun that refers to a tool for rowing a boat.
  • Ore is a noun that refers to the raw form of a metal or mineral.

‘Or’ is the most common term here and the only conjunction. It is also the only two-letter word here, which makes it easier to distinguish from the other two.

In addition, ‘oar’ has an ‘o’ and an ‘a’ like ‘boat’, which should help you to remember that an ‘oar’ is used for rowing! But if you’re dealing with rocks and metals rather than boats and water, the correct spelling will be ‘ore’.

If you need more help with your spelling, why not try our proofreading services? You can even upload a sample document for free today.

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