‘Cord’ or ‘Chord’: What’s the Difference?

By Kelsey Weeks, updated on July 28, 2023

When writing, one has to know the difference in the spellings of ‘cord’ and ‘chord.’ How do you know which one you need, ‘cord’ or ‘chord?’

A glance at the differences:

  • ‘Cord’ is a rope or string.
  • ‘Chord’ is something played with three or more notes.

‘Cord’ and ‘chord’ are used frequently both professionally and for personal use, especially in the digital age when most things need to be plugged in at some point. Make sure you know the difference between the two and how they are used by continuing to read this article.

What is the Difference Between ‘Cord’ and ‘Chord?’

The words ‘cord’ and ‘chord’ are homophones because they sound the same but mean something different. Homophones are common in the English language, and you can learn the difference between words that sound the same but are spelled differently.

  • ‘Cord’ comes from the Anglo-French ‘corde’ meaning string or rope, and the Middle English ‘corden’ means to string a bow. Both examples from the etymology demonstrate that this word has been around for a long time and has just evolved for present uses.
  • ‘Chord’ has changed over time, coming from Middle English ‘cord’ being short for accord. It is not frequently used as accord in present times and is more commonly thought of in a musical sense or emotional term.

Definition of ‘Cord': What Does it Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, ‘cord’ can be a noun and a verb.

As a noun, it means:

  • A long slender flexible material usually consists of several strands (as of thread of yarn) woven or twisted together.
    • The hangman’s rope.
  • A moral, spiritual, or emotional bond.
  • An anatomical structure (such as a nerve or tendon) resembling a cord, like an umbilical cord.
    • A small flexible insulated electrical cable with a plug at one or both ends connects a lamp or other appliance with a receptacle.
  • A unit of wood cut for fuel is equal to a stack of 4 x 4 x 8 feet or 128 cubic feet.
  • A rib like a cord on a textile
    • A fabric made with such ribs or a garment made of such a fabric.
    • Cords are trousers made of such a fabric.

As a verb, it means:

    • To furnish, bind, or connect with a cord.
    • To pile up wood in cords.

Synonyms of ‘Cord’

  • Cable
  • Wire
  • Rope
  • String
  • Lace
  • Line
  • Link
  • Bond
  • Tie
  • Knot
  • Connection
  • Ligature
  • Strap
  • Thread
  • Bind
  • Cinch
  • Tether

Antonyms of ‘Cord’

  • Separation
  • Parting
  • Detaching
  • Disengaging
  • Untie
  • Undo
  • Unbind
  • Unfasten
  • Unloose

Definition of ‘Chord': What Does it Mean?

 ‘Chord’ is both a noun and a verb.

As a noun, it means:

  • Three or more musical tones sounded simultaneously.
  • To strike a responsive cord with an individual emotion or disposition
  • A straight-line segment joining and included between two points on a circle
    • A straight line joins two points on a curve.
  • The web members connect and braces either of the two outside members of a truss.
  • The straight line distance joining the leading and trailing edges on an airfoil.

As a verb, it means:

  • Accord
  • To play chords, especially on a stringed instrument
  • To make chords on
  • Harmonize

Synonyms of ‘Chord’

  • Emotion
  • Feeling
  • Sense
  • Sentiment
  • Impression
  • Attitude
  • Correspond
  • Coincide
  • Conform
  • Harmony
  • Arrangement
  • Blending
  • Chorus
  • Composition

Antonyms of ‘Chord’

  • Separation
  • Parting
  • Detaching
  • Disengaging
  • Untie
  • Undo
  • Unbind
  • Unfasten
  • Unloose

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Cord’ and ‘Chord’

Pronunciation of English words can sometimes be tricky to grasp. To pronounce ‘cord’ and ‘chord,’ remember that they are said the same due to being homophones. Mastering the pronunciation of one will help you with both.

  • The phonetic spelling of 'cord’ and ‘chord’ is:


When to use ‘Cord’ vs. ‘Chord’

Here are examples of when to use ‘cord’ and ‘chord.’

  • Use ‘cord’ when referring to an electrical cable.

In this example, you could let the work IT department know:

The power cord for my computer seems to have stopped working, and I need a new one to complete my work, please.

  • Use ‘cord’ to describe a rope.

For example, when looking for camping supplies:

Do you know where I can find additional ‘cords’ to ensure that my tent stays tethered to the ground because this weekend is supposed to be especially windy?

  • You can use ‘chord’ when discussing musical instruments.

As an example, if learning the guitar:

I have learned a few notes on the guitar, so I am able to put together two chords at this point. 

  • You can also use ‘chord’ when talking about an emotional note.

You may tell someone:

The presentation from the organization we had today struck a ‘chord’ with me, and I think it will also be with others.

Sample Sentences Using 'Cord

Review these sample sentences to learn to use ‘cord’ correctly in both speech and writing.

  • I was tired of buying new ‘cords’ to charge my phone because I kept breaking them, so I invested in a stronger one that could withstand bending.
  • The young veteran learned that his spine was hurting not due to the ‘cord’ but due to the arthritis developing.
  • The builder was new to the field, so they didn’t know what a ‘cord’ of wood was until someone explained it.
  • The most precious ring she wore was on a ‘cord’ around her neck to never misplace it.
  • The most widely known fabric that uses ‘cording’ is corduroy with its ridged fabric, and it can be made in different widths.

Sample Sentences Using 'Chord'

Review these sample sentences to learn how to use ‘chord’ correctly when writing or talking.

  • The trick to staying famous is to strike a ‘chord’ with a group of fans figuratively so that they will support all endeavors for your talent and because they like you.
  • She was able to play all the ‘chords’ seamlessly while stationary after practicing for the past week.
  • The acapella group can harmonize their 'chords' to make a satisfying sound.

Closing Words on ‘Cord’ or ‘Chord’

To summarize ‘cord’ or ‘chord’:

  • ‘Cord’ and ‘chord’ can be nouns and sound alike but have different meanings.
  • ‘Cord’ means a material like a rope most frequently.
  • ‘Chord’ usually is a reference to three notes played simultaneously.

Although these words have multiple meanings and uses, their main ones are the ones to familiarize yourself with first. This will allow you to get the spelling down of the words and not be confused by the words sounding the same.

All posts on our website explain how to use tricky words correctly. Check back frequently to reduce the errors in your writing. You can find additional resources on English words in the confusing words section.

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Written By:
Kelsey Weeks
Kelsey Weeks is currently a school counselor at a high school and a previous English teacher. She loves helping others with literacy, learning more, and exploring nature. She has an undergrad in English with an emphasis on secondary education and an M.A. in Applied Psychology from NYU.

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