Palate vs. Palette vs. Pallet

Have you ever eaten food that pleases the palette? The answer is “no,” unless you’re talking about paint made from chocolate and spaghetti sauce. But palette and palate are very commonly mixed up… and then there’s pallet. So here’s a quick rundown on these confusing homophones and how to remember which is which.

  • The palate is the roof of your mouth, and refers to your sense of taste. So, a roasted marshmallow might be pleasing to your palate, but if it’s flaming, it will burn your palate. >>> Remember that “pal ate” and food/taste are a natural association.
  • palette refers to the range of color a painter uses as well as the actual board that holds the paint. Claude Monet held a palette of paint and created Woman With a Parasol in a palette of blues and greens. >>> Remember that words ending in -ette are often of French origin. Think of an image of a French artist standing at an easel and holding a palette and paintbrush.
  • pallet is a flat wood or plastic platform used at warehouses to hold items for moving and storage. A smaller version can be used for holding fruits and vegetables. Today I put 27 boxes on a pallet and shrinkwrapped it. Then, I picked a pallet-full of strawberries. >>> Remember that pallet is an inelegant spelling, for an inelegant, industrial thing.

Here are a few more examples:

  • My pal ate some chocolate and his palate was pleased.
  • Marie Antoinette held a palette and painted a silhouette of a cigarette.
  • If you take a mallet to that pallet, your wallet will pay.

Now, I’m going to go eat a pallet full of palettes, which certainly won’t please my palate.

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