Think about the word “Pin” and “Pen”. Do you think that in any situation they could mean the same thing and be synonyms?
We want to know what each of these words means and what’s the correct way to use them. We also want to know what we should avoid.
“Pin” and “Pen” are both valid words, with proper meaning and usage. Therefore, both words are spelled correctly. However, if we’re referring to the small enclosure pets are placed on, “Dog Pen” is the correct spelling. In this context, “Dog Pin” is incorrect and makes no sense as a phrase.
Take a look at the examples below:
- We need to buy a dog pin for the puppies. (incorrect)
- We need to buy a dog pen for the puppies.
“Dog Pen” is the correct expression to indicate a small pet enclosure because this is one of the meanings of the word “Pen”. Let’s take a look at each word separately.
“Pin” is mostly known for being a small thin piece of metal with a point on one end, used to hold things together, like clothes, for example. It can also mean forcing something or someone to stay in place by putting weight on it.
The Cambridge Dictionary brings similar definitions and adds that “Pin” stands for “Personal Identification Number”, which is “a secret number that a person uses together with a special card to get money from his or her bank account out of a machine, or when by paying credit card”.
Take a look at the examples below:
- What’s the phone’s PIN?
- Lucas was too agitated, so the doctors had to pin him down.
- Luciana’s jacket was covered in enamel pins.
- The pins held the fabric in place while Julia sewed.
- Lilian had a gold pin in her hair.
The first thing people think about when hearing the word “Pen” is a long thin object used for drawing or writing. However, a “Pen” can also be a small area surrounded by a fence, like the ones where pets are kept.
The Cambridge Dictionary includes the definitions above and adds, first, that “Pen” can be used as slang for “penitentiary”, which is a synonym for jail. Second, that “Pen” can be used as a verb to refer to writing.
Here are some helpful examples:
- I need to clean the dog’s pen today.
- The farmer has many different sheep and pig pens.
- Maria was looking for a special pen her father gave to her years ago.
- I pen to pen you a letter, but I thought I should talk to you in person.
- Where can I buy a dog pen?
Which one of those forms is used more often, “Pen” or “Pin”? Take a look at the graph from Google Ngram Viewer below.
In general, the word “Pen” seems to be more common than “Pin”. But it’s a difficult comparison because those words aren’t synonyms and aren’t used for the same purpose. Still, we can see in the graph that “Pen” has always been a preferred word, except for a short time between 1980 and 1990.
How about the expression “Dog Pin” and “Dog Pen”? The graph from Google Ngram Viewer below will tell us.
This is an easier comparison, for a few reasons. First, we’re comparing similar expressions that would be used with the same purpose, “Dog Pen” and “Dog Pin”.
Second, we’re comparing a correct form (which is “Dog Pen”) with an incorrect one (which is “Dog Pin”). As expected, “Dog Pen” is the prevalent form, which appears more often in the graph.
“Dog Pin” appears closer to the bottom of the graph. And, as much as we can understand this is a common misspelling, “Dog Pin” is an incorrect form and should be avoided to indicate a small space where dogs are put.
Separately, “Pin” and “Pen” are different words with separate meanings and purposes. They aren’t synonyms. When talking about an enclosure for pets, especially dogs, the correct form is “Dog Pen”. You can use that. “Dog Pin” is incorrect and, as such, should be avoided.