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How To Use "Meat," "Meet," & "Mete"

In this post, I talk about how to properly use meat and meet, as well as their somewhat less common homophone mete. I also explain how to distinguish between them and remember the correct spellings. To do so, I focus on their origins and provide some quick mnemonics. As usual, I also provide lots of example sentences to help you understand how these words are used.

How to Use "Meat," "Meet," and "Mete"

Meat

You are no doubt familiar with the most common usage of meat, referring to the flesh of animals (or people). By extension, this word can also refer to the edible parts of other foods—typically those that have inedible parts, such as eggs, nuts, and fruits with pits or rinds (as in the meat of a watermelon). This word's meaning can also be metaphorical, referring to the main part of anything (as in the meat of the argument).


This word has an interesting history. It is based on a Germanic root, which became the Old English word mete; this word originally referred to any food or meal—not just animal flesh. In other words, it meant what "food" means today; a common phrase in the day was "meat and drink." As late as the 1600s, it was common to refer to dairy products as "white meat" and to vegetables as "green meat." Eventually, the meaning of meat narrowed until it referred only to animal flesh, and the secondary meanings discussed above evolved from there.


Here are a few examples of meat used in sentences:

The doctor advised Luis to add more meat to his bones because he was underweight. The meat of the walnut becomes tantalizingly chewy when baked. Daniela focused the meat of her paper on three intertwined arguments.

If you are having trouble remembering the proper spelling of this word, just think of the fact that many people "eat" meat.


Meet

Meet also came to English from a Germanic root; it became the Old English word metan, which meant "to find," "to encounter," or "to be in the same place with." By around 1300, it had its current spelling, and it meant "to come into contact with" or "to collide with"; it was even used to refer to people coming together in combat. It soon gained senses related to people gathering (as in the common noun "meeting").


Today, it retains many similar meanings. Most commonly, the verb meet is used to refer to people encountering each other, often for the first time (as in let's meet at the coffeeshop). It can refer to people assembling (as in the group meets each Thursday) or waiting at a location for others to arrive (as in he met us at the station). It can even refer to encountering or experiencing a key event (as in meet one's fate). When followed by "with," it refers to the reaction to something (as in the plan met with applause). It can refer to where objects or places come together or touch (as in where the ocean meets the sky). Finally, meet refers to expectations being satisfied or fulfilled (as in your scores meet the criteria for admission).


There is also a noun form of meet, which refers to a gathering for the purpose of competition (as in a track meet).


Here are some example sentences:

Rosemarie missed out on winning a bronze medal in skiing by a fraction of a second. My most prized possession is a medal that my grandfather received for his military service. Angie hopes to medal in the state spelling bee; if she does, she will earn a large scholarship.

The spelling of this word can be figured out by comparison with the semi-synonym "see" (in the sense that "seeing" someone is the same as "meeting" them).


Mete

Finally, we have the verb mete, which has very similar-looking Germanic root words as meet, even though these roots are different. The Old English spelling of this word was also metan, in fact, but this word had a different meaning: "to measure (out)."* This explains why the spellings evolved to become distinct; all of this also shows that the confusion between these words is likely many hundreds of years old.


* Based on this, you are probably not surprised to learn that this word and "meter" share common roots.

Today, mete can still mean "to measure out," but it is most commonly used to refer specifically to the dispensing of justice or punishment by an authority figure (a metaphorical sort of "measuring"), as shown in the first example below. There is also a mostly obsolete noun sense, meaning "a boundary line or marker"; this is mostly preserved only in the phrase "metes and bounds."


As a verb, this word is nearly always used with the preposition "out." Here are a few uses of mete in sentences:

Doug and Anita's parents meted out the children's punishment: no screens for a week. Meting out the appropriate dosages of the medications took nearly an hour. Surveyors' main jobs are to measure and verify properties' metes and bounds.

To distinguish this word's spelling, think of its cousin "meter" (both originally related to measuring), or consider the similar meanings of mete and "determine" (both can be used to describe the act of figuring out a punishment).


I hope you've found this post helpful! Please let me know if you need any additional explanation, or if you have suggestions of particularly difficult homonyms that I can help with. You can leave a comment below or email me at info@elevationediting.com. Thank you for reading, and please visit ElevationEditing.com the next time you need high-quality editing services.

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