Word Choice: Aisle vs. Isle
  • 3-minute read
  • 13th February 2021

Word Choice: Aisle vs. Isle

“Aisle” and “isle” sound almost identical. But these words differ completely in meaning (and one is quite rare outside of place names). Find out how to use these terms correctly in your writing by checking out our guide below.

Aisle (Narrow Passageway)

“Aisle” is a noun that refers to a narrow passageway or walkway. Usually, this is to allow people to walk between rows of seats (e.g., in a church or movie theater):

The usher walked us down the aisle to our seats.

Or it can refer to the gaps between shelves in shops:

He’s been standing in the frozen goods aisle for an hour now.

In all cases, though, this word is spelled with an “a” at the start.

Isle (Island)

“Isle” is also a noun, but this word refers to an island, particularly in place names:

My family has visited every corner of the British Isles.

She moved to the Isle of Wight to get away from the noise of modern life.

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It is rare to see this word outside of a place name these days, as it is a little old-fashioned. When it is used, though, it always starts with an “i” (like “island” does).

Bonus Word: I’ll (I Will)

While we’re here, we should also mention the word “I’ll.” This is a contraction of “I will” or “I shall,” but it is pronounced in the same way as the other words here:

I’ll see you tomorrow! = I will see you tomorrow!

However, this word looks very different. And as long as you remember it is short for “I will/shall,” it should be easy to avoid mixing it up with the other terms here.

Summary: Aisle or Isle?

“Aisle” and “isle” are both nouns and sound the same when spoken. However, they differ importantly in meaning, so keep the following definitions in mind:

  • Aisle refers to a narrow passageway or walkway, typically between rows of seats (e.g., on a bus or in a theater) or shelves (e.g., in a shop).
  • Isle is an old-fashioned word for “island,” now mostly used in place names.

To tell these words apart, remember that “isle” and “island” both start with “i.” Then, if you’re referring to anything other than an island, you’ll know to use “aisle.”

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