Peel vs. Peal: What’s The Difference?

Peel vs. Peal: What’s The Difference?

In English, a bunch of words sound the same but mean totally different things. They’re called homophones – kind of like identical word twins! 

Today, we’re going to break down the mix-up between two words that often trip people up:

“Peel” and “Peal.”

 Think of “peel” as what you do when you’re getting the skin off an orange.

Now, “peal” is a whole different vibe; it’s the sound bells make when they’re ringing.

So, let’s dive in and clear up the confusion between these two!

Definition of Peel

Alright, let’s zero in on “peel.”

Simply put, “peel” means to strip away the outer layer of something. 

Imagine peeling an apple or a banana…

You’re taking off the skin to get to the good stuff inside.

BUT… “peel” isn’t just for fruit. You might hear about a car’s paint peeling off or someone peeling a sticker from a skateboard. 

This word pops up a lot in cooking, skincare (like when someone talks about a facial peel), and even in everyday chit-chat when describing things shedding their outer layers.

So, whether it’s an orange, a sunburn, or old paint, “peel” is all about getting that top layer off.

Definition of Peal

Now let’s talk about “peal.”

“Peal” refers to a loud, ringing sound, like the kind you’d hear from a bell in a church tower. 

Picture this:

You’re walking through a town, and suddenly a joyful, echoing ring fills the air. That’s a peal!

It’s not just any ring, though…

It’s usually a series of loud, clear sounds. You’ll hear about peals in scenarios like celebrations or announcements, where bells are set off in a sequence to grab attention or signify something special.

In other words…

When you hear about a “peal of laughter” or a “peal of thunder,” it’s all about that booming, resonant sound that’s hard to ignore.

Whether it’s bells marking the end of a wedding or the dramatic roll of thunder, “peal” is all about those big, bold sounds.

Etymology and Historical Usage

Diving into the past, let’s explore where “peel” and “peal” came from and how their journeys have shaped what they mean today. 

The word “peel” has its roots in the Old English word “pilian” or “pælan,” which means to strip off an outer layer. It’s been used for centuries, originally referring to removing clothes or skin, and over time it evolved to include the action we associate with fruits and vegetables.


When you’re peeling an apple, you’re part of a tradition that goes way back!

On the flip side, “peal” has a more musical background.

It comes from the French word “pele,” meaning a bell. This term started ringing through the English language in the 14th century, specifically referring to the ringing of bells.

Historically, peals were used to announce important events like weddings…


To gather people together. This historical use as a signal or celebration is why we still associate “peal” with loud, resonant sounds today.

Comparative Analysis

In the comparative analysis of “peel” and “peal,” we’re looking at two words that sound the same but carry different connotations and are used in distinct contexts. 

“Peel” is all about the physical act of removing or stripping away an outer layer. It has a tangible, hands-on feel to it.

 For instance,

“She peeled the sticker off her notebook,”


“He peeled the orange before eating it.”

It’s used when talking about physical objects and the action of revealing what’s underneath by removing the outer covering.

On the flip side…

“Peal” lives in the world of sounds and is often used in a more metaphorical or descriptive sense.

It’s about the resonant, often loud and clear ringing of bells or any similar sound.

 For example,

“The peal of church bells filled the air,”


“A sudden peal of laughter erupted from the room.”

It’s not about a physical action performed by someone but about the experience of a sound that captures attention and fills the environment.

Common Mistakes and Misuses

In navigating the tricky waters of “peel” and “peal,” people often mix them up due to their identical sounds.

A common error is using “peal” when referring to the action of removing an outer layer, as in…

“She pealed the orange,” when it should be “peeled.” Conversely, someone might say, “I heard the loud peel of bells,” instead of the correct “peal.”

To steer clear of these mix-ups, here’s a handy tip:

Associate “peel” with “peel off,” as both begin with “pe.”

Remember, “peel” is like peeling off a sticker or skin, something physical and tangible.

For “peal,” think of the “a” in “appeal.” The appeal of bells or laughter is in their sound, so “peal” is about auditory experiences.

Another tip is to visualize:

Imagine “peel” as a potato peeler, something you hold and use, whereas “peal” could be pictured as a ringing bell, something you hear.

By connecting these words to their functions and senses (touch for “peel” and hearing for “peal”), you’ll be more likely to recall the correct usage when it counts.

Practical Tips for Distinguishing Between Peel and Peal

To confidently distinguish between “peel” and “peal,” consider these simple, easy-to-remember guidelines and a handy comparison table:

Comparison Table:

DefinitionTo remove the outer layerA loud ringing sound
ContextPhysical actionAuditory experience
Example UsePeeling an orangePeal of thunder
Mnemonic“Peel” the Potato“A”udible Alarm
Sensory CueTouch (feel)Hearing (sound)

By keeping these pointers in mind, you can quickly recall the correct word.

Remember the context:

“peel” for physical actions involving touch and “peal” for anything related to hearing sounds.

Usage in Literature and Media

“Peel” and “peal” have found their places in literature and media, each painting vivid pictures with their distinct meanings.


In literature, “peel” is often used to evoke a sense of revealing or uncovering.

Charles Dickens, in “David Copperfield,” uses the act of peeling fruit as a metaphor for revealing character truths.


“Peal,” with its association with sound, often appears in literature and media to describe a rich auditory experience.

In Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights,” the peal of laughter is used to convey a sense of wild, untamed joy.

In poetry, both words are used for their sensory appeal — “peel” evoking touch and action, and “peal” evoking sound.

For instance, a poem might describe the “peel of an orange” as a bright burst of color and scent, while the “peal of church bells” might signify a call to reflection or celebration.


For readers interested in diving deeper into the fascinating world of language and usage, there are numerous resources available. Here’s a list of books, websites, and articles that offer valuable insights and information:


“The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White – A classic manual on the principles of English style.

“Eats, Shoots & Leaves” by Lynne Truss – A witty and informative book on the importance of punctuation.

“The Mother Tongue” by Bill Bryson – An engaging look at the history and quirks of the English language.

“Dreyer’s English” by Benjamin Dreyer – A modern guide to clarity and style in writing.

“Word Power Made Easy” by Norman Lewis – A comprehensive vocabulary builder that also enhances understanding of English usage. adv banner