Gorilla or Guerrilla

Though they sound alike, you must be careful when choosing either gorilla or guerrilla because they have completely different meanings.

Gorilla or Guerrilla? Which one is the soldier lying in wait to ambush a group of soldiers and which is the giant ape that’s a close relative to a human being?

The two words are homophones: they sound the same, but they are spelled differently and have very different meanings.


The gorilla is a large ape. The name came into being in 1847, according to the Etymology Dictionary, when U.S. missionary Thomas Savage named them. But what’s curious is that no one knows exactly where the word came from.

It’s believed to be a word that originated somewhere in Africa, but it dates back to the 6th century, when the Carthaginian admiral Hanno traveled down the western coast of Africa. There, he observed hairy, aggressive creatures his interpreters called “gorillai,” but we don’t know which language the interpreters spoke. We also don’t know whether the original meaning of the word was meant to describe people, apes, or even smaller chimpanzees.

But today, it’s used to describe larger apes. Gorillas are the largest living primates; their DNA of is highly similar to that of humans, from 95–99% depending on what is counted, and they are the next closest living relatives to humans after chimpanzees and bonobos.


The word guerrilla comes from the Spanish word guerra, which means “war.” Guerrilla is a diminutive of guerra.

The term became popular during the early 1800s during the Peninsular War. Wikipedia points out that in correct Spanish usage, a male fighter is a guerrillero and a female fighter is a guerrillera.

The term guerrilla was initially used to refer to a group of individual fighters, though now it’s used to a type of fighting or an individual fighter.

So what makes a guerrilla a guerrilla? Because they’re made up of smaller numbers than an army, the typical objective is small attacks that slowly deplete the enemy of needed supplies or personnel. It relies on the notion that even small losses add up quickly. Guerrillas may rely on destroying infrastructure and the use of “improvised explosive devices” rather than more formal military ordnance.

One of the best-known guerrilla fighters was Che Guevara who was a major figure in the Cuban Revolution. American soldiers often faced guerrilla tactics from Taliban and al-Qaida fighters and their sympathizers in Afghanistan.

So now you know the difference between the two. But there’s one thing they both might just have in common: if you encounter either one, you might be well served to flee as quickly as you can!

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.