'Slay' vs 'Sleigh': What's the Difference?

By Katie Moore, updated on August 24, 2023

‘Slay’ vs ‘Sleigh’: What’s the difference? Two words that sound identical, but when you see them spelled out, you are usually able to see exactly when they would be used. Interestingly, one of these words has popularized itself into having a new pop culture definition. Want to learn more? You’re in the right place. 

Are you in a rush? Here’s a quick preview of what’s to come: 

  • ‘Slay’ is a word that means to kill or murder someone, or to be impressive 
  • ‘Sleigh’ is a word that means a sled drawn by an animal

What’s the Difference Between ‘Slay’ vs ‘Sleigh’?

The tricky thing about ‘Slay’ vs ‘Sleigh’ is that they are obviously spelled differently, but without seeing them in front of us, we may not know that. This is because these words are what’s called homophones. 

  • For context, homophones are words spelled differently with different definitions but sound exactly the same. The word comes from the Latin ‘homo’ which means “same,” and ‘phone’ which means “sound.”

Some other examples of homophones are:

Since ‘Slay’ vs ‘Sleigh’ are homophones, finding a way to tell them apart that isn’t just memorizing their definition can be helpful in remembering how to identify which spelling matches which meaning. A major helpful tip is learning their parts of speech, which helps dictate how a word functions in a sentence. 

  • ‘Slay’ is a verb, meaning it's a word that describes an action.
  • Meanwhile, ‘Sleigh’ is a noun, meaning it refers to a thing or object.

One way to remember that ‘Slay’ is a verb is by remembering that this spelling contains the letter “a,” which you can use to remember the word ‘action.’ You can also use the letter “a” to remember the word ‘attack’ since the verb ‘Slay’ is a rather violent one in some cases. 

While spelling clues and other memory tricks can be helpful, they’re only a stepping stone to fully learning a new word. So, let’s take a closer look individually at the definitions of ‘Slay’ vs ‘Sleigh’.

Definition of ‘Slay’: What Does it Mean?

According to Oxford Languages, ‘Slay’ is a verb that means: 

  • To kill a person or animal in a violent way
    • “St. George wanted to slay the dragon.”
  • Murder someone
    • “He was slain with a shotgun.”
  • Greatly impress or amuse someone
    • “You slay me, you really do.”
  • Be extremely impressive, stylish, or successful
    • “She slayed in a jumpsuit.”

Despite the drastic difference between these two verb meanings, you can see how the original, more violent definition would have evolved into the more modern form. For example, we sometimes say someone has “killer looks” or is “killing that outfit.” 

On a historical note, it is important to know that as a more informal or 'slang' term, the word 'Slay' emerged from the Black and LGBTQ+ communities in the mid-1980s.  It was used in admiration and support, particularly of those performing in a drag show, dance competition, or other ballroom-type performance. This sense of the word has evolved and is very common in the vocabulary of young people — and while it has taken on a sort of new meaning since being further popularized by social media, it is crucial to understand the word's pop-culture origin.

Finally, as a noun ‘Slay’ can also mean: 

  • A tool used in weaving to force the weft into place

Synonyms of ‘Slay’

  • Kill 
  • Murder
  • Maim
  • Execute
  • Destroy
  • Slaughter
  • Butcher
  • Impress
  • Amaze
  • Awe

Antonyms of ‘Slay’

  • Save
  • Bear
  • Create
  • Build
  • Preserve
  • Flop
  • Lose 
  • Embarrass

Phrases with ‘Slay’

  • She slayed
  • Slay the dragon
  • Slay queen 
  • To be slain
  • Slay the house down

Definition of ‘Sleigh’: What Does it Mean?

According to Oxford Languages, ‘Sleigh’ is a noun that means:

  • A sled is drawn by horses or reindeer, especially one used for passengers
    • “They rode the sleigh.”

As a verb, ‘Sleigh’ can also mean: 

  • Ride on a sleigh
    • “As children, we sleighed on big drifts in the winter.”

Synonyms of ‘Sleigh’

  • Sled
  • Bobsled
  • Dogsled
  • Luge
  • Sledge
  • Toboggan
  • Horse sleigh

Antonyms of ‘Sleigh’

  • Motorcycle
  • Car
  • Go by foot
  • Skis
  • Snowboard

Phrases with ‘Sleigh’

  • Sleigh ride
  • Sleigh bells
  • One horse open sleigh
  • Santa’s sleigh

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce ‘Slay’ vs ‘Sleigh’

We don’t just write words down; and we use them more often in conversations, or in some cases even in songs. Because of this, knowing how to say words properly is just as important as knowing what they mean.  Below, you’ll find the tools you need to make sure you can both say and sing these words correctly. 

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘Slay’ and ‘Sleigh’ as a guide: 

  • ‘S-lay’ (with the second syllable sounding like ‘hey’ and not ‘high’)

How to Use ‘Slay’ vs ‘Sleigh’ in a Sentence

The final step to mastering vocabulary is putting them into action because if you can’t actually use a word, there’s no point in memorizing definitions and pronunciations. But, given ‘Slay’ vs ‘Sleigh’ are homophones, when using them in real-world conversations, you’ll need to be extra careful that you’re putting the words in the right context.  We want to make sure you feel confident using these words in a variety of scenarios, so here we have a few sample sentences for you to read.

‘Slay’ Example Sentences

  • The knight in the fairytale was on a quest to travel to a distant land and slay the fearsome dragon. 
  • When she got multiple compliments on her outfit that day, she knew she had slayed her look. 
  • The investigators were trying to determine if the victim had been slain with a knife or a large blade. 
  • The drag queen knew she was going to slay her performance because of how much she practiced. 

‘Sleigh’ Example Sentences

  • He took his girlfriend on a romantic sleigh ride through the park before proposing to her under twinkling snowflakes. 
  • The kids swore they heard the sound of Santa’s sleigh landing on their roof on Christmas Eve. 
  • I convinced my band teacher to let us play Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson in concert since it is one of my favorite classical Christmas songs. 
  • While dog sleighing is a sport, it’s also mainly used now as a form of transportation. 

‘Slay’ vs ‘Sleigh’ Example Sentences

  • My friends and I named our Secret Santa group chat “Sleigh All Day” as a play on the word slay
  • His outfit slayed the holiday runway as he had attached little sleigh bells to different parts of his jacket. 

Final Advice on ‘Slay’ vs ‘Sleigh’

Learning new words can be especially confusing when the words sound identical. But if you take care to learn their definitions, as well as pay attention to learning tips and possible contextual scenarios, you’re sure to pick up the words in no time. 

Need a review? Here’s a quick recap of what was covered:

  • Homophones are words that have different definitions and spellings but sound the same. 
  • ‘Slay’ is a verb that means both to murder, and to impress someone. 
  • Meanwhile, ‘Sleigh’ is a noun that refers to a horse or reindeer-drawn sled. 

Want to learn more about homophones? Be sure to check out other confusing word articles for more tips and tricks to telling words apart, as well as more advice on parsing through context. Remember, the more careful you are when learning new words, the easier they will be to keep in mind after the fact.

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Written By:
Katie Moore
Katie is a recent graduate of Occidental College where she worked as a writer and editor for the school paper while studying linguistics and journalism. She loves helping others find their voice in writing and making their work the strongest it can be. Katie also loves learning and speaking other languages and wants to help make writing accessible for everyone.

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