On 'Currant,' 'Current,' and 'Courant'

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What to Know

Currant, current and courant are similar in pronunciation, if not usage. Currant is a raisin-like fruit that is used in pastries and jams, whereas current is both a noun (often referring to flows of electric, air, and water) and an adjective ("occurring in the present moment"). The lesser-used courant means “newspaper.”

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Usage notes are always au courant.

Meaning and Usage of 'Currant'

Currant is the spelling for the raisin-like fruit that grows on a Mediterranean shrub and is found in pastries, jams, and the like.

Enjoy this bread warm from the oven with a thick smear of Irish butter or a hunk of sharp Irish Cheddar. After a day or two, it's great toasted and spread with tart orange marmalade or currant jam.
— Beth Dooley, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, 10 Mar. 2021

Meaning and Usage of 'Current'

Current is the spelling for the noun that refers to the force of running water or the flow of an electric charge.

When hatched, five to six weeks later, the larval smelt are quickly washed downstream by river currents and out to sea. They remain in the ocean environment for three to five years before migrating to coastal rivers to spawn.
— Nick Nikkila, The Chinook Observer, 15 Mar. 2021

This is exactly the same process your average solar cell follows, but the gold layer is the true standout. With that gold coating, the device can bring about a stronger electric current when the device is partially obscured in shadow—200 percent better than ordinary solar cells, to be exact.
— Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, 5 June 2020

The same spelling is used for the adjective meaning "occurring or prevalent at the present moment":

But Ms. Cox’s interpretation is with a twist — her 12-foot-long photograph reimagines modern-day women and men of color in the place of the Founding Fathers. Her subjects are all decked out — some in current fashions, others in 1700s period clothing, and some wear dazzling African garb.
Florida Weekly, 5 Nov. 2020

I think that understanding just how the civil rights movement impacted so many of the current-day movements and the current issues that are placed in our face today is major.
— Anya Dillard, in The Washington Post, 15 Mar. 2021

For the most part, these words are easy to keep straight, though you might be inclined to use the spelling current for the fruit if you weren't already familiar with the spelling currant.

Meaning and Usage of 'Courant'

One complicating element is a third word, courant, which means "newspaper" and is used in the name of the oldest major newspaper in the U.S., the Hartford Courant. That word is usually pronounced the same as current and currant. There is also the French phrase au courant, which literally means "in the current" and describes something that is fashionable at the moment ("au courant designs").