'Scapal' or 'Scalpel': Which is Correct?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on May 8, 2023

Many people wonder whether the 'scapal' or 'scalpel' is the correct name for the cutting instrument doctors use. So, if you aren't sure how to spell the word correctly, you are not alone.

In this guide, I will give you the definitions, usage examples, and the proper spelling.

Do you need need a short, quick answer?

Here it is: 

  • Scapal is an incorrect spelling of 'scalpel.'
  • Scalpel is a noun and the name of an instrument used in dermatology and other areas of medicine to excise the skin or make incisions.

The pronunciation of 'scalpel' makes it confusing to remember the correct spelling. However, you should have no problem choosing the proper word after you finish this guide.

Which Spelling is Correct?: 'Scapal' or 'Scalpel'

The correct spelling is 'scalpel.' 'Scapal' is not an English word. It is just a misspelling. 'Scalpel' is accurate because it comes from the Latin words scalpellus and scalpellum. It is also a diminutive of the Latin phrase scalprum, a derivative of the Latin word scalpere.

How to Use 'Scalpel' Correctly

You now know the correct spelling but must also learn how to use the word correctly. A 'scalpel' is a noun or the name of a surgical instrument used to dissect skin, muscle, or organs.

  • Use 'scalpel' when referring to the bladed instrument surgeons use to make precision cuts during medical procedures.

For example, if you were watching a doctor perform surgery, you might hear the surgeon say:

Please pass me the 15-blade scalpel. 

You may also hear your biology teacher say:

 Class, please take out your dissection kit and look at the contents. When taking the items out, avoid touching the scalpel's blade. 

Definition and Meaning of 'Scalpel'

Unlike other English words with many different meanings, there is only one definition of 'scalpel.' According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition is:

  • An instrument with a thin, straight, sometimes removable blade

When someone says scalpel, they could mean: 

  • A thin-bladed instrument with a small, thin, fixed blade
  • A medical instrument with a number that correlates to the blade size
  • A small knife used by a surgeon to cut tissue
  • A tool used during surgery to cut or open up the patient so the surgeon can perform a medical procedure
  • An instrument used by a dermatologist to remove growths, moles, and skin tags

Related and Similar Sounding Words

There are a few words you may hear that sound similar, like:

  • Scalpellar - An adjective meaning to be or relate to a scalpellum
  • Scalpellum - A noun, the name of the piercing organ on bloodsucking flies and bugs
  • Scapullar - A noun, the name for a part of shoulder anatomy.

Origin of 'Scalpel'

As mentioned, the instrument is unique and vital to surgeons' work. However, surgeons have used the tool since the period of Ancient Rome. The tool's shape is scalpellar or similar to that of a scapellum. Which is how it earned the name 'scalpel.'

Pronunciation: How Do You Pronounce 'Scalpel?'

Knowing how to pronounce a word properly can help you remember it. It also helps you speak English and communicate with greater confidence.

So, use this guide to ensure you know how to say 'scalpel':

  • It is pronounced with the phonetic spelling:


  • You can also pronounce it according to this spelling:


How to Use 'Scalpel' in a Sentence

You should have a firm grasp on how to spell, pronounce, and define 'scalpel.' So, let's take a look at some example sentences.


  • To the doctor's surprise, he felt queasy the first time he used his scalpel to cut into a patient's skin.
  • Please pass Dr. Smith the number 15 scalpel. She needs a smaller blade to remove the second growth.
  • After she is done with the scalpel, set it on the tray, and the surgical nurse will give it to the sanitization technician.
  • Can I talk to you about the new sanitization technician? I noticed that a scalpel was dirty yesterday. I almost handed it to the doctor to use on a patient.
  • The sanitization technician quit yesterday in the middle of her shift. All of the scalpels are dirty. So the doctor can't perform the procedure.
  • How will you tell the patient you must reschedule because there are no clean scalpels?
  • Well, I will not tell him our scalpels are not sanitized. I will have to make up a different excuse.
  • We should probably order more scalpels so this does not happen again.
  • Do you remember the first time you had to use a scalpel to dissect a frog?
  • I do not think the scalpel I used in Biology class was the same quality as those used by surgeons.
  • During surgical training, you must be careful not to cut the wrong area with your scalpel.
  • He was given a solid gold scalpel with diamond accents when he won the highest honor in his surgical specialty.
  • The gift was impractical, but the surgeon kept the expensive scalpel in his work bag.
  • He had to use that scalpel during a roadside emergency years later.
  • Many people believe that the surgeon could not have been able to save the patient's life if he didn't have the scalpel to perform the life-saving procedure quickly.

Final Advice on Whether 'Scapal' or 'Scalpel' is Correct

You should be an expert on whether 'scapal' or 'scalpel' is correct by now. However, here is a quick recap:

  • 'Scapal' is a misspelling of the word 'scalpel.'
  • 'Scalpel' is a noun meaning a thin-bladed instrument with either a fixed or removable blade that doctors use for various medical procedures. 

Do not worry about forgetting the correct spelling, though. You can always come back here if you forget.

You can also check out the other guides in the confusing words section written by myself and the other writers here. We dig deep to give you the correct definitions and spellings and teach you how and when to use specific words and phrases, so you can learn English faster or become a better writer.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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