What's the Difference Between Courage and Bravery?

When we’re young, there are a group of virtues that pepper the lessons that we learn, the books that we read, the movies that we watch, the games that we play: Kindness. Compassion. Bravery. Courage. We’re taught to emulate these traits in our day-to-day lives: to do unto others, to always tell the truth, to stand up for what’s good and right. 

But the bigness of these qualities can overshadow any nuance, especially when there are mysteries to solve or villains to trick or princesses to save. So the small, but worthy distinctions between them—especially something as delicate as the difference between courage and bravery—are often left unsaid, until decades later when a newsletter pops into your inbox and sets the record straight.

Bravery is the ability to confront something painful or difficult or dangerous without any fear. It’s a quality, not a state of mind; it doesn’t need a cause to awaken it. Someone is brave—full stop. To the person who has it, it’s effortless; it’s eating a caterpillar on the playground because a friend dares you to, without a second thought. It’s jumping from the highest diving board without any hesitation. 

Courage, on the other hand, is the ability to confront something painful or difficult or dangerous despite any fear. It’s not a quality, but a choice; a person feels the fear or pain or danger, but chooses to persevere anyway. Unlike bravery, courage is driven by a cause; the courageous person believes that cause is worth standing up and fighting for, despite all the clear reasons not to. It takes a great effort, because what’s on the other end merits it.  

These differences can be traced back to the etymology of the words. The root word for bravery is the Italian word “bravo,” which means “bold” but also once meant “wild, savage.” The root word for courage, however, is “coeur”—the French word for “heart.”

So if you don’t consider yourself brave, don’t despair. When a cause is worthy enough—when you have something worth fighting for—that’s where courage steps in. Courage isn’t something you need to already have; it’s something you can find. 

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What's the Difference Between Hispanic and Latino?

Words matter here at What’s the Difference HQ, and regardless of the tenor and tone of our current administration, it’s important to understand the meanings of the words and labels that we use every day. Case in point: Hispanic vs. Latino (or “Latina” for a woman, or “Latinx” as the gender-neutral or non-binary alternative). Though the words are often used interchangeably, they are, in fact, two markedly different terms: Hispanic denotes language, while Latino denotes geography. 

Let’s start with Latino (/a/x). “Latino” is shorthand for the Spanish word latinoamericano, and it refers to anyone born in or with ancestors from Latin America. (Latin America includes South America as well as Mexico, Central America, and the islands of the Caribbean where a Romance language is spoken.) There are a few exceptions to this: people from English-speaking Belize and Dutch-speaking Suriname aren’t always recognized or don’t always identify as Latino.

“Hispanic” is an English term that is used to describe people born in or with ancestors from Spanish-speaking Latin America, as well as Spain itself. With this definition, someone from Brazil could be Latino (/a/x), but not Hispanic; someone from Spain could be Hispanic, but not Latino (/a/x); and someone from, say, Ecuador could be both.

These are very top-level definitions, and there are a few things worth noting. 1) There are many indigenous people from Spanish-speaking countries who may not identify as Hispanic. 2) In any and all cases, “Latino” and “Hispanic” refer only to someone’s origin and/or ancestry, NOT their race. 3) Labels are lame!!!! Things often get problematic when we try to group people into categories. So even if you’re using the terminology correctly, remember to be thoughtful about it—and always defer to a person’s chosen way of referring to oneself. 

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What's the Difference Between a Dash, Hyphen, En Dash, and Em Dash?

Today, we’re tackling one of the more delightful intricacies of the grammatical universe: the world of dashes. 

Dashes come in three lengths: hyphens (-), en dashes (–), and em dashes (—). Generally, their lengths are indicative of how much “work” they have to do—in other words, the types of things that they’re joining together.

The hyphen—the shortest of the bunch—connects what the Chicago Manual of Style describes as “two things that are intimately related, usually words that function together as a single concept or work together as a joint modifier.” Some examples include phrases like: one-third, father-in-law, and fine-dining restaurant.

En dashes connect things that denote any sort of range, whether that’s in the form of distance, time, or amounts. For example: it’d be a April–June issue of a magazine, or pages 50–55, or 5–6 tablespoons. An en dash is also used when a joint modifier—like the “fine dining” in “fine-dining restaurant”—contains an open compound or a many-worded proper noun. (An open compound is made when an adjective and noun are combined to make a whole new noun, such as dining room, ice cream, full moon, etc.) So in the case of a phrase like “a living room–sized rug” or “a Brette Warshaw–style outfit,” you’d use an en-dash, since it’s doing the extra work of carrying an additional word along for the ride. 

Finally, an em dash has many jobs. First off, it serves as a way to insert a separate thought or phrase into a sentence—like this. It also can stand in for something that is missing or left out, such as in a bibliography; instead of repeating an author’s name over and over, for example, three em dashes can stand in for it, with the rest of the bibliographic information coming afterwards. Em dashes can also serve as bullet points in any type of list.

I’ll stop us here, but if you’re interested in learning more about the wonderful world of dashes, I highly recommend checking out Chapter 6 in the Chicago Manual of Style.

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