When Should I Use Aisle or Isle?

When deciding between aisle or isle, there are some simple tricks that can help you choose the right spelling. 

The words aisle and isle are two homophones that have different spellings and meanings, but similar sounds, making them homophones. If you are walking a bride down the center of some rows of seats, you need to know whether you are talking about an aisle or isle. 

Taking a closer look at the different meanings of these words and their etymology will help you understand why one has an “a” and the other does not. This guide will help eliminate the problem with these confusing words, so you can get them right every time.

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Aisle Or Isle – Decoding Often Confused Words

When should I use aisle or isle?
Aisle and isle have the same pronunciation, but in English grammar, you must choose the correct spelling when writing them

If you find yourself pausing to think about your answer when deciding between aisle and isle, you need a quick refresher on these two words. Both words have the same pronunciation, but in English grammar, you must choose the correct spelling when writing them.

Definition of Aisle

The word aisle means “a passage separating sections of seats.”  The word also has a context in the grocery store, when the store aisle is the path between the store shelves. 

Here are some example sentences:

  • She walked down the aisle to receive her diploma.
  • During the musical, keep the aisles free for our performers.
  • He paid extra to reserve an aisle seat on his flight.

Aisle can also have a political context. Often, when members of opposing political parties work together with their opposition, they call the gesture “reaching across the aisle.” The dictionary defines this as “a passage regarded as separating opposing parties in a legislature,” and these are good examples:

  • The politician straddled both sides of the aisle, sometimes voting Republican and sometimes voting Democrat.
  • To find a true solution to the national debt, we can’t look to just one side of the aisle.
  • Are you willing to reach across the aisle to find a solution?

Etymology of Aisle

Aisle comes from the Middle English word ile, which comes from ele in the Anglo-French. This word means wing. The a in the spelling comes from the Latin word axis or ala.

Its first use occurred in the 15th century.

Definition of Isle

Aisle or isle
Isle means an island More specifically, this shortened version of the word refers to a small island

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word isle means an island more specifically, this shortened version of the word refers to a small island, not a large one like Australia. Sometimes the phrase desert isle refers not to an island, but rather a desert oasis.

Here are some example sentences:

  • We will visit the southern isles on our vacation.
  • The Isle of Man is a popular tourist destination
  • The British Isles have an interesting history.

Etymology of Isle

Like the word aisle, isle comes from the Middle English word ile. It also has roots in the Latin insula. Its first use occurred in the 13th century.

A Final Word on Aisle or Isle

When you are trying to decide between the words aisle or isle, remember that isle is short for island. Since island does not have an “a” at the beginning of the word, neither does isle.

An aisle, on the other hand, is a path between rows of seats or shelving in a grocery store. It can also be metaphorical, referring to two sides of a political argument. Since an airplane has an aisle, and both words start with ai, you can more easily keep these words separate in your mind.

FAQs About Aisle or Isle

Is it wedding isle or aisle?

Since the phrase wedding aisle typically refers to a path between groups of chairs in a church or other wedding venue, you would use the word aisle.

Is it spelled aisle or isle?

The answer depends on the usage. If you are referring to an island, you use isle. If you are referring to the path between two sides of something, you use aisle.

How is aisle pronounced?

Aisle is pronounced ˈī(-ə)l with a long i sound and a short e sound, but the s and a are silent.

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  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.