Commonly confused words: bridle path and bridal path

Horse riders in the setting sun Because it’s the horses’ birthday today, I’ve used that to inspire this month’s pair of commonly confused words. Most people don’t confuse bridle (the piece of tack, or gear, that goes on a horse’s head and includes a bit – the metal mouthpiece – and the reins) with bridal (the adjective form of bride, meaning all things to do with a bride), but I have seen bridal path used when the author meant bridle path.

Horses with bridles on; a bride wearing a bridal veil

A bridle is headgear for a horse; a bridal veil is often a bride’s headgear

A bridle path is simply any path that is suitable for riding a horse on. These days, it usually means a dirt track that isn’t suitable for cars, so it does mean something different from a road (although you can, of course, ride a horse along a road).

A horse rider on a bridle path: a narrow track not suitable for cars

A bridle path

A bridal path is simply the path followed by a bride. Generally it means the aisle leading to the place where the wedding is held.

A church wedding and a set-up for a garden wedding, both with a central aisle which is the bridal path

Bridal paths

Of course, it is quite possible that a bride could use a bridle path as a bridal path . . .

A bride and groom walking across a paddock

  It is also worth noting that bridle, as well as being an adjective (bridle path) and a noun (a bridle), can also be a verb – or, more accurately, two verbs. To put a bridle on a horse is to bridle a horse. Some horses are reluctant to be bridled, and will turn their heads away or put up some other form of temporary passive  resistance: so, to bridle at something is essentially to imitate a horse that doesn’t want to be ridden, especially by moving your head away.      

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All images are from Unsplash: the sunset riders are by Tobias Keller; the bridled horses by Raphael Wicker; the veiled bride by Phakphoom Srinorajan; the horse and rider by Kajetan Sumila; the church wedding by Clotaire Folefack; the garden wedding set-up by Junior Reis; and the bride and groom quite probably on a bridle path is by Vadim Paripa


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