American Heritage Dictionary Notes

Usage Notes


Usage Note: The orthographically unusual word !Kung refers to a language spoken by a group of San in southern Africa. This language and its relatives employ a series of consonants called clicks that are only rarely found outside of this area of Africa. In English, clicks are found only in a few interjections, such as tsk-tsk, which is technically a repeated alveolar click in which the front end of the tongue is pressed up against the alveolar ridge behind the teeth. The exclamation point in !Kung symbolizes a similar click, but with the front part of the blade of the tongue pressed against the palate close to the alveolar ridge. It is thus called a postalveolar click.


Usage Note: Reflecting its origins in the French passive participle ending - (feminine -e), the suffix -ee was first used in English to refer to indirect objects and then to direct objects of transitive verbs, particularly in legal contexts (as in donee, lessee, or trustee) and in military and political jargon (draftee, trainee, or nominee). Beginning around the mid-19th century, primarily in American English, it was often extended to denote the agent or subject of an intransitive verb, as in standee and returnee. The coining of new words ending in -ee continues to be common. A number of these coinages, such as honoree, deportee, and escapee, have become widely accepted. Many others, such as firee (one who is fired from a job), invitee, jokee, and roastee (one who is ridiculed at a roast), are created ad hoc and often have a comic effect. On rare occasions the suffix -ee has been applied to noun forms, giving us words like benefactee (from benefactor) and to transitive verbs, where the suffix denotes the agent, such as attendee.


Usage Note: Many critics have argued that there are sexist connotations in the use of the suffix -ess to indicate a female in words like sculptress, waitress, stewardess, and actress. The heart of the problem lies in the nonparallel use of terms to designate men and women. For example, the -or ending on sculptor seems neutral or unmarked. By comparison, sculptress seems to be marked for gender, implying that the task of sculpting differs as performed by women and men or even that the task should typically be performed by a man. For occupational titles, the use of -ess has been almost completely replaced by recently formed gender-neutral compounds such as flight attendant and letter carrier or by the -er/-or forms. The Usage Panel finds use of the -or suffix to refer to women perfectly acceptable. Ninety-five percent of Panelists approve of sculptor in the sentence The gallery is exhibiting work of sculptor Barbara Hepworth. Sculptress is far less accepted; sixty-five percent reject it in the sentence Georgia O'Keeffe is not as well known as a sculptress as she is as a painter. A few words ending in -ess, such as goddess and giantess, have long been established in the literature of religion and mythology and are unlikely to be construed as sexist when used in these contexts. See Usage Notes at man, mistress.


Usage Note: The suffix -wise has a long history of use to mean "in the manner or direction of," as in clockwise, otherwise, and slantwise. Since the 1930s, however, the suffix has been widely used in the vaguer sense of "with respect to," as in This has not been a good year saleswise. Taxwise, it is an unattractive arrangement. Since their introduction, these usages have been associated with informal prose, and they are still considered by many to be awkward. For this reason, they might best be avoided, especially in formal writing. The most obvious alternative is to use paraphrases, as in This has not been a good year with respect to sales. As far as taxes are concerned, it is an unattractive arrangement.


Usage Note: For Internet addresses of the United States government, .gov is the top-level domain only for federal agencies, except for the military, which uses .mil. State government agencies use the particular state's two-letter postal abbreviation, lowercased, followed by .us (for example, for Michigan).


Usage Note: In writing, the form a is used before a word beginning with a consonant sound, regardless of its spelling (a frog, a university). The form an is used before a word beginning with a vowel sound (an orange, an hour).An was once a common variant before words beginning with h in which the first syllable was unstressed; thus 18th-century authors wrote either a historical or an historical but a history, not an history. This usage made sense in that people often did not pronounce the initial h in words such as historical and heroic, but by the late 19th century educated speakers usually pronounced initial h, and the practice of writing an before such words began to die out. Nowadays it survives primarily before the word historical. One may also come across it in the phrases an hysterectomy or an hereditary trait. These usages are acceptable in formal writing.


Usage Note: By definition, 12 denotes midnight, and 12 denotes noon, but there is sufficient confusion over these uses to make it advisable to use 12 noon and 12 midnight where clarity is required.


Usage Note: Traditionally aberrant has been pronounced with stress on the second syllable. In recent years, however, a pronunciation with stress on the first syllable has become equally common and may eventually supplant the older pronunciation. This change is owing perhaps to the influence of the words aberration and aberrated, which are stressed on the first syllable. The Usage Panel was divided almost evenly on the subject: 45 percent preferred the older pronunciation and 50 percent preferred the newer one. The remaining 5 percent of the Panelists said they use both pronunciations.


Usage Note: The construction able to takes an infinitive to show the subject's ability to accomplish an action: We were able to get a grant for the project. The new submarine is able to dive twice as fast as the older model. Some people think it should be avoided when the subject does not have an ability, as in sentences with passive constructions involving forms of the verb be: The problem was able to be solved by using a new lab technique. The reasoning here is that since the problem has no ability to accomplish an action, it is not able to do anything, and therefore able to should not be used. Presumably this ban would apply to similar words like capable and to negative words like unable and incapable. In such cases one can usually avoid the problem by using can or could: The problem could be solved.... Keep in mind, however, that passives with get ascribe a more active role to their subjects, and here one can use able to: He was able to get accepted by a top law school.


Usage Note: The construction not about to is often used to express determination: We are not about to negotiate with terrorists. A majority of the Usage Panel considers this usage acceptable in speech but not in formal writing.About is traditionally used to refer to the relation between a narrative and its subject: a book about Czanne; a movie about the Boston Massacre. This use has lately been extended to refer to the relation between various nonlinguistic entities and the things they make manifest, as in The party was mostly about showing off their new offices or His designs are about the use of rough-textured materials. This practice probably originates with the expression That's what it's all about, but it remains controversial. Fifty-nine percent of the Usage Panel rejected this use in the example A designer teapot isn't about making tea; it is about letting people know that you have a hundred dollars to spend on a teapot.


Usage Note: An absolute term denotes a property that a thing either can or cannot have. Such terms include absolute itself, chief, complete, perfect, prime, unique, and mathematical terms such as equal and parallel. By strict logic, absolute terms cannot be compared, as by more and most, or used with an intensive modifier, such as very or so. Something either is complete or it isn't—it cannot be more complete than something else. Consequently, sentences such as He wanted to make his record collection more complete, and You can improve the sketch by making the lines more perpendicular, are often criticized as illogical.Such criticism confuses pure logic or a mathematical ideal with the rough approximations that are frequently needed in ordinary language. Certainly in some contexts we should use words strictly logically; otherwise teaching mathematics would be impossible. But we often think in terms of a scale or continuum rather than in clearly marked either/or categories. Thus, we may think of a statement as either logically true or false, but we also know that there are degrees of truthfulness and falsehood. Similarly, there may be degrees of completeness to a record collection, and some lines may be more perpendicular—that is, they may more nearly approximate mathematical perpendicularity—than other lines.Accordingly, the objection to modification of an absolute term like parallel by degree seems absurd when it is used metaphorically, as in The difficulties faced by the Republicans are quite parallel to those that confronted the Democrats four years ago. This statement describes the structural correspondence between two distinct situations, and concerns about the possibility of intersection seem remote indeed. In this sense, parallelism is clearly a matter of degree, so one should not hesitate to modify parallel accordingly. See Usage Notes at equal, infinite, unique.


Usage Note: For some time, absolutely has been used informally as an intensive, as in an absolutely magnificent painting. In an earlier survey, a majority of the Usage Panel disapproved of this usage in formal writing.


Usage Note: Although the pronunciation (ə-sĕs′ə-rē), with no (k) sound in the first syllable, is commonly heard, it is not accepted by a majority of the Usage Panel. In a recent survey, 87 percent of the Panelists disapproved of it. The 13 percent that accepted the pronunciation were divided on usage: more than half accepted the (k)-less pronunciation for all senses. A few approved of it only in fashion contexts, and a few others approved of it only in legal contexts.


Usage Note: When acquiesce takes a preposition, it is usually used with in (acquiesced in the ruling) but sometimes with to (acquiesced to her parents' wishes). Acquiesced with is obsolete.


Usage Note: The words act and action both mean "a deed" and "the process of doing." However, other senses of act, such as "a decision made by a legislative body" and of action, such as "habitual or vigorous activity" show that act tends to refer to a deed while action tends to refer to the process of doing. Thus, people engage in sex acts but not sex actions. By the same token, a person may want a piece of the action, but not a piece of the act. The demands of meaning or idiom will often require one word or the other. But in some cases either can be used: my act (or action) was premature.


Usage Note: The pronunciation (ə-kyo̅o̅′mən), with stress on the second syllable, is an older, traditional pronunciation reflecting the word's Latin origin. In recent years it has been supplanted as the most common pronunciation of the word by an Anglicized variant with stress on the first syllable, (ăk′yə-mən). In a recent survey, 68 percent of the Usage Panel chose this as their pronunciation, while 29 percent preferred the pronunciation with stress on the second syllable. The remaining 3 percent of the Panelists said they use both pronunciations.

ad hominem

Usage Note: As the principal meaning of the preposition ad suggests, the homo of ad hominem was originally the person to whom an argument was addressed, not its subject. The phrase denoted an argument designed to appeal to the listener's emotions rather than to reason, as in the sentence The Republicans' evocation of pity for the small farmer struggling to maintain his property is a purely ad hominem argument for reducing inheritance taxes. This usage appears to be waning; only 37 percent of the Usage Panel finds this sentence acceptable. The phrase now chiefly describes an argument based on the failings of an adversary rather than on the merits of the case: Ad hominem attacks on one's opponent are a tried-and-true strategy for people who have a case that is weak. Ninety percent of the Panel finds this sentence acceptable. The expression now also has a looser use in referring to any personal attack, whether or not it is part of an argument, as in It isn't in the best interests of the nation for the press to attack him in this personal, ad hominem way. This use is acceptable to 65 percent of the Panel.Ad hominem has also recently acquired a use as a noun denoting personal attacks, as in "Notwithstanding all the ad hominem, Gingrich insists that he and Panetta can work together" (Washington Post). This usage may raise some eyebrows, though it appears to be gaining ground in journalistic style.A modern coinage patterned on ad hominem is ad feminam, as in "Its treatment of Nabokov and its ad feminam attack on his wife Vera often border on character assassination" (Simon Karlinsky). Though some would argue that this neologism is unnecessary because the Latin word homo refers to humans generically, rather than to the male sex, in some contexts ad feminam has a more specific meaning than ad hominem, being used to describe attacks on women as women or because they are women, as in "Their recourse ... to ad feminam attacks evidences the chilly climate for women's leadership on campus" (Donna M. Riley).


Usage Note: It is often maintained that admittance should be used only to refer to achieving physical access to a place (He was denied admittance to the courtroom), and that admission should be used for the wider sense of achieving entry to a group or institution (her admission to the club; China's admission to the United Nations). There is no harm in observing this distinction, though it is often ignored. But admission is much more common in the sense "a fee paid for the right of entry": The admission to the movie was five dollars.


Usage Note: Children are adopted by parents, and one normally refers to an adopted child but to adoptive parents, families, and homes. When describing places, one can use either adopted or adoptive: She enjoys living in her adopted country. Detroit is their adoptive city.


Usage Note: Advance, as a noun, is used for forward movement (the advance of the army) or for progress or improvement in a figurative sense. Advancement is used mainly in the figurative sense: career advancement. In the figurative sense, moreover, there is a distinction between the two terms deriving from the transitive and intransitive forms of the verb advance. The noun advancement (unlike advance) often implies the existence of an agent or outside force. Thus, the advance of science means simply the progress of science, whereas the advancement of science implies progress resulting from the action of an agent or force: The purpose of the legislation was the advancement of science.


Usage Note: The use of advise in the sense of "inform, notify" was found acceptable by a majority of the Usage Panel in an earlier survey, but many members would prefer that this usage be restricted to business correspondence and legal contexts. Thus one may say The suspects were advised of their rights, but it would be considered pretentious to say You'd better advise your friends that the date of the picnic has been changed.


Usage Note: Affect and effect have no senses in common. As a verb affect is most commonly used in the sense of "to influence" (how smoking affects health). Effect means "to bring about or execute": layoffs designed to effect savings. Thus the sentence These measures may affect savings could imply that the measures may reduce savings that have already been realized, whereas These measures may effect savings implies that the measures will cause new savings to come about.


Usage Note: In the sense of "attraction," affinity may be followed by of, between, or with. Thus one may speak of the close affinity of James and Samuel, or of the affinity between James and Samuel, or of James's affinity with Samuel. In its chemical use affinity is generally followed by for: a dye with an affinity for synthetic fabrics.One might want to avoid using affinity as a simple synonym for liking since 62 percent of the Usage Panel rejects the example Her affinity for living in California led her to reject a chance to return to New York. Nevertheless, the more sophisticated tone inherent in this use of the word can lend an archness to certain contexts, as when Barbara Tuchman writes of Kaiser Wilhelm's "affinity for coarse physical jokes practiced upon his courtiers." This may be why 65 percent of the Usage Panel approved of this quotation when it was presented as an example.


Usage Note: It is true that Cicero would have used agendum to refer to a single item of business before the Roman Senate, with agenda as its plural. But in Modern English a phrase such as item on the agenda expresses the sense of agendum, and agenda is used as a singular noun to denote the set or list of such items, as in The agenda for the meeting has not yet been set. If a plural of agenda is required, the form should be agendas: The agendas of both meetings are exceptionally varied.


Usage Note: Aggravate comes from the Latin verb aggravāre, which meant "to make heavier," that is, "to add to the weight of." It also had the extended senses "to annoy" and "to oppress." Some people claim that aggravate can only mean "to make worse," and not "to irritate," on the basis of the word's etymology. But in doing so, they ignore not only an English sense in use since the 17th century, but also one of the original Latin ones. Sixty-eight percent of the Usage Panel approves of its use in It's the endless wait for luggage that aggravates me the most about air travel.


Usage Note: Ain't has a long history of controversy. It first appeared in 1778, evolving from an earlier an't, which arose almost a century earlier as a contraction of are not and am not. In fact, ain't arose at the tail end of an era that saw the introduction of a number of our most common contractions, including don't and won't. But while don't and won't eventually became accepted at all levels of speech and writing, ain't was to receive a barrage of criticism in the 19th century for having no set sequence of words from which it can be contracted and for being a "vulgarism," that is, a term used by the lower classes, although an't at least had been originally used by the upper classes as well. At the same time ain't's uses were multiplying to include has not, have not, and is not, by influence of forms like ha'n't and i'n't. It may be that these extended uses helped fuel the negative reaction. Whatever the case, criticism of ain't by usage commentators and teachers has not subsided, and the use of ain't is often regarded as a sign of ignorance.But despite all the attempts to ban it, ain't continues to enjoy extensive use in speech. Even educated and upper-class speakers see no substitute in folksy expressions such as Say it ain't so and You ain't seen nothin' yet.The stigmatization of ain't leaves us with no happy alternative for use in first-person questions. The widely used aren't I? though illogical, was found acceptable for use in speech by a majority of the Usage Panel in an earlier survey, but in writing there is no acceptable substitute for the stilted am I not?


Usage Note: When used as a noun, alibi in its nonlegal sense of "an excuse" is acceptable in written usage to almost half of the Usage Panel. As a verb (they never alibi), it is unacceptable in written usage to a large majority of the Panel.


Usage Note: The construction all that is used informally in questions and negative sentences to mean "to the degree expected." In the late 1960s, the Usage Panel rejected its use, but evidently resistance to all that is crumbling. Seventy-two percent of the Panel now finds the construction acceptable in the sentence The movie is not all that interesting.Sentences of the form All X's are not Y may be ambiguous. All of the departments did not file a report may mean that some departments did not file, or that none did. The first meaning can be expressed unambiguously by the sentence Not all of the departments filed a report. The second meaning requires a paraphrase such as None of the departments filed a report or All of the departments failed to file a report. The same problem can arise with other universal terms such as every in negated sentences, as in the ambiguous Every department did not file a report. See Usage Note at every.

all right

Usage Note: Despite the appearance of the form alright in works of such well-known writers as Langston Hughes and James Joyce, the single word spelling has never been accepted as standard. This is peculiar, since similar fusions such as already and altogether have never raised any objections. The difference may lie in the fact that already and altogether became single words back in the Middle Ages, whereas alright has only been around for a little more than a century and was called out by language critics as a misspelling. Consequently, one who uses alright, especially in formal writing, runs the risk that readers may view it as an error or as the willful breaking of convention.


Usage Note: An alleged burglar is someone who has been accused of being a burglar but against whom no charges have been proved. An alleged incident is an event that is said to have taken place but has not yet been verified. In their zeal to protect the rights of the accused, newspapers and law enforcement officials sometimes misuse alleged. Someone arrested for murder may be only an alleged murderer, for example, but is a real, not an alleged, suspect in that his or her status as a suspect is not in doubt. Similarly, if the money from a safe is known to have been stolen and not merely mislaid, then we may safely speak of a theft without having to qualify our description with alleged.


Usage Note: Allude and allusion are often used where the more general terms refer and reference would be preferable. Allude and allusion normally apply to indirect references in which the source is not specifically identified: "Well, we'll always have Paris," he told the travel agent, in an allusion to Refer and reference, unless qualified, usually imply specific mention of a source: I will refer tofor my conclusion: As Polonius says, "Though this be madness, yet there is method in't." See Usage Note at refer.


Usage Note: Both alongside and alongside of are acceptable as prepositions: The barge lay alongsidealongside of the pier.


Usage Note: Some maintain that it is inappropriate to begin a sentence with also. In an earlier survey, however, 63 percent of the Usage Panel found acceptable the example The warranty covers all power-train components. Also, participating dealers back their work with a free lifetime service guarantee.


Usage Note: Some traditionalists hold that alternative should be used only in situations where the number of choices involved is exactly two, because of the word's historical relation to Latin alter, "the other of two." Despite the word's longstanding use to mean "one of a number of things from which only one can be chosen" and the acceptance of this usage by many language critics, a substantial portion of the Usage Panel adheres to the traditional view, with only 49 percent accepting the sentence Of the three alternatives, the first is the least distasteful.Alternative is also sometimes used to refer to a variant or substitute in cases where there is no element of choice involved, as in We will do our best to secure alternative employment for employees displaced by the closing of the factory. This sentence is unacceptable to 60 percent of the Usage Panel.Alternative should not be confused with alternate. Correct usage requires The class will meet on alternate alternativeTuesdays.


Usage Note: As conjunctions, although and though are generally interchangeable: Althoughthoughshe smiled, she was angry. Although is usually placed at the beginning of its clause (as in the preceding example), whereas though may occur elsewhere and is the more common term when used to link words or phrases, as in wiser though poorer. In certain constructions, only though is acceptable: Fond thoughalthoughI am of sports, I'd rather not sit through another basketball game.


Usage Note: Altogether and all together do not mean the same thing. We use all together to indicate that the members of a group perform or undergo an action collectively: The nations stood all together. The prisoners were herded all together. All together is used only in sentences that can be rephrased so that all and together may be separated by other words: The books lay all together in a heap. All the books lay together in a heap.


Usage Note: Alumnus and alumna both come from Latin and preserve Latin plurals. Alumnus is a masculine noun whose plural is alumni, and alumna is a feminine noun whose plural is alumnae. Coeducational institutions usually use alumni for graduates of both sexes. But those who object to masculine forms in such cases may prefer the phrase alumni and alumnae or the form alumnae/i, which is the choice of many women's colleges that have begun to admit men.


Usage Note: Amerasian is not a synonym for either Asian American or Eurasian. The word dates to the early 1950s and has been used primarily with reference to children fathered in Asia by American servicemen. Since American servicemen are of varying backgrounds, there is no particular racial or ethnic connotation to Amerasian apart from the fact that one parent, generally the mother, is an ethnic Asian. In contrast, Asian American is typically used of a person whose parents are both ethnic Asians but who by birth or naturalization is an American citizen, while Eurasian designates a person of mixed Asian and European, or white, parentage. Though many Amerasians are, ethnically speaking, also Eurasians, in practice the two terms do not overlap very much, with Amerasian continuing to be restricted in usage to the historical context of the American military presence in East and Southeast Asia.


Usage Note: The contractions Amerindian and Amerind occur infrequently in modern American English, especially with reference to the Native American peoples of the United States and Canada. They are somewhat more common in anthropological contexts or when used of the native peoples of the Caribbean and Central and South America.


Usage Note: It is frequently asserted that sentences beginning with and or but express "incomplete thoughts" and are therefore incorrect. But this rule has been ridiculed by grammarians for decades, and the stricture has been ignored by writers from Shakespeare to Joyce Carol Oates. When asked whether they paid attention to the rule in their own writing, 24 percent of the Usage Panel answered "always or usually," 36 percent answered "sometimes," and 40 percent answered "rarely or never." See Usage Notes at both, but, with.


Usage Note: And/or is widely used in legal and business writing. Its use in general writing to mean "one or the other or both" is acceptable but can appear stilted. See Usage Note at or1.


Usage Note: In contemporary American usage, Anglo is used primarily in direct contrast to Hispanic or Latino. In this context it is not limited to persons of English or even British descent, but can be generally applied to any non-Hispanic white person. Thus in parts of the United States with large Hispanic populations, an American of Polish, Irish, or German heritage might be termed an Anglo just as readily as a person of English descent. However, in parts of the country where the Hispanic community is smaller or nonexistent, or in areas where ethnic distinctions among European groups remain strong, Anglo has little currency as a catch-all term for non-Hispanic whites.Anglo is also used in non-Hispanic contexts. In Canada, where its usage dates at least to 1800, the distinction is between persons of English and French descent. And in American historical contexts Anglo is apt to be used more strictly to refer to persons of English heritage, as in this passage describing the politics of nation-building in pre-Revolutionary America: "The 'unity' of the American people derived ... from the ability and willingness of an Anglo elite to stamp its image on other peoples coming to this country" (Benjamin Schwarz).


Usage Note: Some people hold that anticipate is improperly used as a simple synonym for expect; they would restrict its use to situations in which advance action is taken either to forestall (anticipate her opponent's next move) or to fulfill (anticipate my desires). In earlier surveys, however, a majority of the Usage Panel accepted the use of anticipate to mean "to feel or to realize beforehand" and "to look forward to." The word unanticipated, however, is not established as a synonym for unexpected. Thus 77 percent of the Usage Panel rejected the sentence They always set aside a little extra food for unanticipated guests, inasmuch as guests for whom advance provision has been made cannot be said to be unanticipated, though they may very well be unexpected.


Usage Note: Antidote may be followed by to, for, or against: an antidote to boredom; an antidote for snakebite; an antidote against inflation.


Usage Note: Anxious has a long history of use roughly as a synonym for eager, but many prefer that anxious be used only when its subject is worried or uneasy about the anticipated event. In the traditional view, one may say We are anxious to see the strike settled soon but not We are anxious to see the new show of British sculpture at the museum. Fifty-two percent of the Usage Panel rejects anxious in the latter sentence. But general adoption of anxious to mean "eager" is understandable, at least in colloquial discourse, since it provides a means of adding emotional urgency to an assertion. It implies that the subject so strongly desires a certain outcome that frustration of that desire will lead to unhappiness. In this way, it resembles the informal adjective dying in sentences such as I'm dying to see your new baby.


Usage Note: When used as a pronoun, any can take either a singular or plural verb, depending on how it is construed: Any of these books is suitable (that is, any one). But are any (that is, some) of them available?The construction of any is often used in informal contexts to mean "of all," as in He is the best known of any living playwright. In an earlier survey this example was unacceptable in writing to 67 percent of the Usage Panel.Any is also used to mean "at all" before a comparative adjective or adverb in questions and negative sentences: Is she any better? Is he doing any better? He is not any friendlier than before. This usage is entirely acceptable. The related use of any to modify a verb is considered informal. In writing, one should avoid sentences like It didn't hurt any or If the child cries any, give her the bottle. See Usage Notes at every, they.


Usage Note: The one-word form anyone is used to mean "any person." The two-word form any one is used to mean "whatever one (person or thing) of a group." Anyone may join means that admission is open to everybody. Any one may join means that admission is open to one person only. When followed by of, only any one can be used: Any one (not anyone) of the boys could carry it by himself.Anyone is often used in place of everyone in sentences like She is the most thrifty person of anyone I know. In an earlier survey 64 percent of the Usage Panel found this sentence unacceptable in writing.Anyone and anybody are singular terms and always take a singular verb. See Usage Note at they.


Usage Note: Used before a noun, apparent means "seeming": For all his apparent wealth, Pat had no money to pay the rent. Used after a form of the verb be, however, apparent can mean either "seeming" (as in His virtues are only apparent) or "obvious" (as in The effects of the drought are apparent to anyone who sees the parched fields). One should take care that the intended meaning is clear from the context.


Usage Note: The ch in archetype, and in other English words of Greek origin such as architect and chorus, represents a transliteration of Greek X (chi), and is usually pronounced like (k). In a recent survey, 94 percent of the Usage Panel indicated that they pronounce archetype (r′kĭ-tīp′), with a (k) sound, while 6 percent preferred the pronunciation (r′chĭ-tīp′), with a (ch) sound. Of those who preferred the traditional (k) pronunciation, 10 percent noted that the (ch) pronunciation was also acceptable. Only the traditional pronunciation is widely accepted as standard, however.


Usage Note: A traditional usage rule draws a distinction between comparisons using as . . . as and comparisons using so . . . as. The rule states the so . . . as construction is required in negative sentences (as in Shakespeare's "'tis not so deep as a well"), in questions (as in Is it so bad as she says?), and in certain if- clauses (as in If it is so bad as you say, you ought to leave). But this so . . . as construction is becoming increasingly rare in American English, and the use of as . . . as is now entirely acceptable in all contexts.In a comparison involving both as . . . as and than, the second as should be retained in written style. One writes He is as smart as, or smarter than, his brother, not He is as smart or smarter than his brother, which is considered unacceptable in formal style.In many dialects, people use as in place of that in sentences like We are not sure as we want to go or It's not certain as he left. This construction is not sufficiently well established to be used in writing.As should be preceded by a comma when it expresses a causal relation, as in She won't be coming, as we didn't invite her. When as expresses a time relation, it is not preceded by a comma: She was finishing the painting as I walked into the room. When beginning a sentence with a clause that starts with as, one should take care that it is clear whether as is used to mean "because" or "at the same time that." The sentence As they were leaving, I walked to the door may mean either "I walked to the door because they were leaving" or "I walked to the door at the same time that they were leaving."As is sometimes used superfluously to introduce the complements of verbs like consider, deem, and account, as in They considered it as one of the landmark decisions of the civil rights movement. The measure was deemed as unnecessary. This usage may have arisen by analogy to regard and esteem, with which as is standardly used in this way: We regarded her as the best writer among us. But the use of as with verbs like consider is not sufficiently well established to be acceptable in writing. See Usage Notes at because, equal, like2, so1, than.

as far as

Usage Note: As far as the Usage Panel is concerned, as far as had better be followed by both a subject and a form of go or be concerned. As far as is sometimes used as a preposition meaning "as for" or "regarding," especially in speech, but a large majority of the Panel frowns upon this usage. Eighty percent find the as far as construction in this sentence unacceptable: As far as something to do on the weekend, we didn't even have miniature golf. Eighty-four percent reject the sentence The Yankees are still very much alive, as far as the divisional race. Further, 89 percent object to as far as when followed by a noun clause, as in As far as how Koresh got shot, we don't know yet.


Usage Note: Asia is the largest of the continents with more than half the world's population. Though strictly speaking all of its inhabitants are Asians, in practice this term is applied almost exclusively to the peoples of East, Southeast, and South Asia as opposed to those of Southwest Asia—such as Arabs, Turks, Iranians, and Kurds—who are more usually designated Middle or Near Easterners. Indonesians and Filipinos are properly termed Asian, since their island groups are considered part of the Asian continent, but not the Melanesians, Micronesians, and Polynesians of the central and southern Pacific, who are now often referred to collectively as Pacific Islanders. See Usage Note at oriental.


Usage Note: As with Oriental, the use of Asiatic in referring to the peoples and cultures of Asia sounds conspicuously dated in contemporary American English, tending to evoke the prejudicial and offensive stereotypes of an earlier era. The preferred ethnic term is now clearly Asian. In most other contexts, however, as in Asiatic Russia or the Asiatic elephant, the term remains a neutral geographic descriptor that need not automatically be replaced with Asian. See Usage Note at oriental.


Usage Note: Assure, ensure, and insure all mean "to make secure or certain." Only assure is used with reference to a person in the sense of "to set the mind at rest": assured the leader of his loyalty. Although ensure and insure are generally interchangeable, only insure is now widely used in American English in the commercial sense of "to guarantee persons or property against risk."


Usage Note: The verb author, which had been out of use for a long period, has been rejuvenated in recent years with the sense "to assume responsibility for the content of a published text." As such it is not quite synonymous with the verb write; one can write, but not author, a love letter or an unpublished manuscript, and the writer who ghostwrites a book for a celebrity cannot be said to have "authored" the creation. The sentence He has authored a dozen books on the subject was unacceptable to 74 percent of the Usage Panel, probably because it implies that having a book published is worthy of special lexical distinction, a notion that sits poorly with conventional literary sensibilities and seems to smack of press agentry. The sentence The Senator authored a bill limiting uses of desert lands in California was similarly rejected by 64 percent of the Panel, though here the usage is common journalistic practice and is perhaps justified by the observation that we do not expect that legislators will actually write the bills to which they attach their names.The use of author as a verb in computer-related contexts is well established and unexceptionable.


Usage Note: Awhile, an adverb, is never preceded by a preposition such as for, but the two-word form a while may be preceded by a preposition. In writing, each of the following is acceptable: stay awhile; stay for a while; stay a while (but not stay for awhile).


Usage Note: The adverb may be spelled backward or backwards, and these forms are interchangeable: stepped backward; a mirror facing backwards. In Standard English, however, the adjective has no -s: a backward view.


Usage Note: Bad is often used as an adverb in sentences such as The house was shaken up pretty bad or We need water bad. This usage is common in informal speech but is widely regarded as unacceptable in formal writing. In an earlier survey, the sentence His tooth ached so bad he could not sleep was unacceptable to 92 percent of the Usage Panel.The use of badly with want was once considered incorrect but is now entirely acceptable: We wanted badly to go to the beach.The adverb badly is often used after verbs such as feel, as in I felt badly about the whole affair. This usage bears analogy to the use of other adverbs with feel, such as strongly in We feel strongly about this issue. Some people prefer to maintain a distinction between feel badly and feel bad, restricting the former to emotional distress and using the latter to cover physical ailments; however, this distinction is not universally observed, so feel badly should be used in a context that makes its meaning clear.Badly is used in some regions to mean "unwell," as in He was looking badly after the accident. Poorly is also used in this way. In an earlier survey, however, the usage was found unacceptable in formal writing by 75 percent of the Usage Panel.


Usage Note: The word baited is sometimes incorrectly substituted for the etymologically correct but unfamiliar word bated ("abated; suspended") in the expression bated breath.


Usage Note: Baleful and baneful overlap in meaning, but baleful usually applies to something that is menacing or foreshadows evil: a baleful look. Baneful most often describes that which is actually harmful or destructive: baneful effects of their foreign policy.


Usage Note: The pronunciation of banal is not settled among educated speakers of American English. Sixty years ago, H.W. Fowler recommended the pronunciation (băn′əl, rhyming with panel), but this pronunciation is now regarded as recondite by most Americans: no member of the Usage Panel prefers this pronunciation. In our 2001 survey, (bənăl′) is preferred by 58 percent of the Usage Panel, (bā′nəl) by 28 percent, and (bə-nl′) by 13 percent (this pronunciation is more common in British English). Some Panelists admit to being so vexed by the problem that they tend to avoid the word in conversation. Speakers can perhaps take comfort in knowing that these three pronunciations each have the support of at least some of the Usage Panel and that none of them is incorrect. When several pronunciations of a word are widely used, there is really no right or wrong one.


Usage Note: There is a significant difference in meaning between barbarism and barbarity. Both denote some absence of civilization, but the word civilization itself has several different senses, one the opposite of barbarism, the other the opposite of barbarity. On the one hand civilization may refer to the scientific, artistic, and cultural attainments of advanced societies, and it is this sense that figures in the meaning of barbarism. The English word barbarism originally referred to incorrect use of language, but it is now used more generally to refer to ignorance or crudity in matters of taste, including verbal expression: Thewould never tolerate such barbarisms. On the other hand, civilization may refer to the basic social order that allows people to resolve their differences peaceably, and it is this sense—that is, civilization as opposed to savagery—that figures in the meaning of barbarity, which refers to savage brutality or cruelty in actions, as in The accounts of the emperor's barbarity shocked the world.


Usage Note: When this class of drugs was introduced in the early part of this century, barbiturate had its main stress on the penultimate syllable, a pronunciation that is still used in the medical profession. As the word passed into the general vocabulary the stress shifted to the antepenultimate syllable, bringing the stress pattern more in line with words like acculturate, accurate, and saturate. Either pronunciation is considered correct now. Since at least the 1960s the pronunciation (br-bĭch′ə-wĭt), without the second r, has been considered nonstandard despite the fact that it is quite common. In a recent survey 62 percent of the Usage Panel still disapprove of this pronunciation, while 38 percent approve of it, suggesting that the usage is becoming less stigmatized. One reason for this may be that the pronunciation without the second r is simply easier to say, since the combination (-ər-ĭt) occurs relatively infrequently in English. In addition, the presence of the first r may influence the dropping out of the second r by the phonological process of dissimilation.


Usage Note: Traditional grammar requires the nominative form of the pronoun in the predicate of the verb be: It is I (not me); That must be they (not them), and so forth. Nearly every speaker of Modern English finds this rule difficult to follow. Even if everyone could follow it, in informal contexts the nominative pronoun often sounds pedantic and even ridiculous, especially when the verb is contracted, as in It's we. But constructions like It is me have been condemned in the classroom and in writing handbooks for so long that there seems little likelihood that they will ever be entirely acceptable in formal writing.?・?The traditional rule creates additional problems when the pronoun following be also functions as the object of a verb or preposition in a relative clause, as in It is not them/they that we have in mind when we talk about "crime in the streets" nowadays, where the plural pronoun serves as both the predicate of is and the object of have. In this example, 57 percent of the Usage Panel prefers the nominative form they, 33 percent prefer the objective them, and 10 percent accept both versions. Writers can usually revise their sentences to avoid this problem: They are not the ones we have in mind, We have someone else in mind, and so on. See Usage Notes at I1, we.


Usage Note: Thanks to the vagaries of English spelling, bear has two past participles: born and borne. Traditionally, born is used only in passive constructions referring to birth: I was born in Chicago. For all other uses, including active constructions referring to birth, borne is the standard form: She has borne both her children at home. I have borne his insolence with the patience of a saint.


Usage Note: A traditional rule holds that the construction the reason is because is redundant, and should be avoided in favor of the reason is that. The usage is well established, however, and can be justified by analogy to constructions such as His purpose in calling her was so that she would be forewarned of the change in schedule or The last time I saw her was when she was leaving for college. All three constructions are somewhat less than graceful, however.A favorite rule of schoolteachers (but curiously absent from the tradition of usage commentary) is that a sentence must not begin with because. Sometimes, however, because is perfectly appropriate as the opening word of a sentence, as in the beginning of one of Emily Dickinson's best-known poems: "Because I could not stop for Death—/He kindly stopped for me." In fact, sentences beginning with because are quite common in written English.Another rule states that one should not use a clause beginning with because as the subject of a sentence, as in Just because he thinks it a good idea doesn't mean it's a good idea. This construction is perfectly acceptable, but it carries a colloquial flavor and may best be reserved for informal situations. See Usage Note at as1.


Usage Note: A traditional rule holds that in behalf of and on behalf of have distinct meanings. In behalf of means "for the benefit of," as in We raised money in behalf of the earthquake victims. On behalf of means "as the agent of, on the part of," as in The guardian signed the contract on behalf of the minor child. The two meanings are quite close, however, and the phrases are often used interchangeably, even by reputable writers.


Usage Note: Due to the derogatory implications implicit in the etymology of berdache, contemporary Native Americans have suggested that its scholarly use be discontinued. Among the alternatives in current use, the most widely employed is two-spirit. Other scholars use specific native terms, such as winkte (from Lakota) or nadle (from Navajo), or else use a literal translation, such as "man-woman," of a native word.


Usage Note: Some critics argue that beside and besides should be kept distinct when they are used as prepositions. According to that argument, beside is used only to mean "at the side of," as in There was no one in the seat beside me. For the meanings "in addition to" and "except for" besides should be used: Besides replacing the back stairs, she fixed the broken banister. No one besides Smitty would say a thing like that. But this distinction is often ignored, even by widely respected writers. While it is true that besides can never mean "at the side of," beside regularly appears in print in place of besides. Using beside in this way can be ambiguous, however; the sentence There was no one beside him at the table could mean that he had the table to himself or that the seats next to him were not occupied. See Usage Note at together.


Usage Note: According to a traditional rule of grammar, better, not best, should be used in comparisons between two things: Which house of Congress has the better attendance record? This rule is often ignored in practice, but it still has many devoted adherents. In certain fixed expressions, however, best is used idiomatically for comparisons between two: Put your best foot forward. May the best team win! See Usage Notes at have, rather.


Usage Note: According to a widely repeated but unjustified tradition, "between is used for two, and among for more than two." It is true that between is the only choice when exactly two entities are specified: the choice between (not among) good and evil, the rivalry between (not among) Great Britain and France. When more than two entities are involved, however, or when the number of entities is unspecified, the choice of one or the other word depends on the intended sense. Between is used when the entities are considered as distinct individuals; among, when they are considered as a mass or collectivity. Thus in the sentence The bomb landed between the houses, the houses are seen as points that define the boundaries of the area of impact (so that we presume that none of the individual houses was hit). In The bomb landed among the houses, the area of impact is considered to be the general location of the houses, taken together (in which case it is left open whether any houses were hit). By the same token, we may speak of a series of wars between the Greek cities, which suggests that each city was an independent participant in the hostilities, or of a series of wars among the Greek cities, which allows for the possibility that the participants were shifting alliances of cities. For this reason, among is used to indicate inclusion in a group: She is among the best of our young sculptors. There is a spy among you. Use between when the entities are seen as determining the limits or endpoints of a range: They searched the area between the river, the farmhouse, and the woods. The truck driver had obviously been drinking between stops.


Usage Note: Bimonthly and biweekly mean "once every two months" and "once every two weeks." For "twice a month" and "twice a week," the words semimonthly and semiweekly should be used. Since there is a great deal of confusion over the distinction, a writer is well advised to substitute expressions like every two months or twice a month where possible. However, each noun form has only one sense in the publishing world. Thus, a bimonthly is published every two months, and a biweekly every two weeks.


Usage Note: The Oxford English Dictionary contains evidence of the use of black with reference to African peoples as early as 1400, and certainly the word has been in wide use in racial and ethnic contexts ever since. However, it was not until the late 1960s that black (or Black) gained its present status as a self-chosen ethnonym with strong connotations of racial pride, replacing the then-current Negro among Blacks and non-Blacks alike with remarkable speed. Equally significant is the degree to which Negro became discredited in the process, reflecting the profound changes taking place in the Black community during the tumultuous years of the civil rights and Black Power movements. The recent success of African American offers an interesting contrast in this regard. Though by no means a modern coinage, African American achieved sudden prominence at the end of the 1980s when several Black leaders, including Jesse Jackson, championed it as an alternative ethnonym for Americans of African descent. The appeal of this term is obvious, alluding as it does not to skin color but to an ethnicity constructed of geography, history, and culture, and it won rapid acceptance in the media alongside similar forms such as Asian American, Hispanic American, and Italian American. But unlike what happened a generation earlier, African American has shown little sign of displacing or discrediting black, which remains both popular and positive. The difference may well lie in the fact that the campaign for African American came at a time of relative social and political stability, when Americans in general and Black Americans in particular were less caught up in issues involving radical change than they were in the 1960s.?・?Black is sometimes capitalized in its racial sense, especially in the African-American press, though the lowercase form is still widely used by authors of all races. The capitalization of Black does raise ancillary problems for the treatment of the term white. Orthographic evenhandedness would seem to require the use of uppercase White, but this form might be taken to imply that whites constitute a single ethnic group, an issue that is certainly debatable. Uppercase White is also sometimes associated with the writings of white supremacist groups, a sufficient reason of itself for many to dismiss it. On the other hand, the use of lowercase white in the same context as uppercase Black will obviously raise questions as to how and why the writer has distinguished between the two groups. There is no entirely happy solution to this problem. In all likelihood, uncertainty as to the mode of styling of white has dissuaded many publications from adopting the capitalized form Black.

Black English

Usage Note: In the United States, the term Black English usually refers to the everyday spoken varieties of English used by African Americans, especially of the working class in urban neighborhoods or rural communities. Linguists generally prefer the term African American Vernacular English, although some use the term Ebonics, which saw widespread use in the late 1990s. It is an error to suppose that Black English is spoken by all African Americans regardless of their background. In fact, the English spoken by African Americans is highly varied—as varied as the English spoken by any other racial or ethnic group.Sometimes Black English is used to refer to other varieties of English spoken by Black people outside of the United States, as in the Caribbean and the United Kingdom.


Usage Note: It is not surprising that blatant and flagrant are often confused, since the words have overlapping meanings. Both attribute conspicuousness and offensiveness to certain acts. Blatant emphasizes the failure to conceal the act. Flagrant, on the other hand, emphasizes the serious wrongdoing inherent in the offense. Certain contexts may admit either word depending on what is meant: a violation of human rights might be either blatant or flagrant. If it was committed with contempt for public scrutiny, it is blatant. If its barbarity was monstrous, it is flagrant.Blatant is sometimes used to mean simply "obvious," as in the blatant danger of such an approach, but this use has not been established and is widely considered an error.


Usage Note: Some have objected to the use of boast as a transitive verb meaning "to possess or own (a desirable feature)," as in This network boasts an audience with a greater concentration of professionals and managers than any other broadcast vehicle. This usage is by now well established, however, and is acceptable to 62 percent of the Usage Panel.


Usage Note: Both indicates that the action or state denoted by the verb applies individually to each of two entities. Both books weigh more than five pounds, for example, means that each book weighs more than five pounds by itself, not that the two books weighed together come to more than five pounds. Both is inappropriate where the verb does not apply to each of the entities by itself.In possessive constructions of both is usually preferred: the mothers of both (rather than both their mothers); the fault of both (rather than both their fault or both's fault).When both is used with and to link parallel elements in a sentence, the words or phrases that follow them should correspond grammatically: in both India and China or both in India and in China (not both in India and China).


Usage Note: In most dialects of American English bring is used to denote motion toward the place of speaking or the place from which the action is regarded: Bring it over here. The prime minister brought a large retinue to Washington with her. Take is used to denote motion away from such a place: Take it over there. The President will take several advisers with him when he goes to Moscow. When the relevant point of focus is not the place of speaking itself, the difference obviously depends on the context. We can say either The labor leaders brought or took their requests to the mayor's office, depending on whether we want to describe things from the point of view of the labor leaders or the mayor. Perhaps for this reason, the distinction between bring and take has been blurred in some areas; a parent may say of a child, for example, She always takes a pile of books home with her from school. This usage may sound curious to those who are accustomed to observe the distinction more strictly, but it bears no particular stigma of incorrectness or illiteracy.The form brung is common in colloquial use in many areas, even among educated speakers, but it is not standard in formal writing.


Usage Note: Traditional grammarians have worried over what form the pronoun ought to take when but is used to indicate an exception in sentences such as No one but INo one but mehas read it. Some have argued that but is a conjunction in these sentences and therefore should be followed by the nominative form I. However, many of these grammarians have gone on to argue somewhat inconsistently that the accusative form me is appropriate when the but phrase occurs at the end of a sentence, as in No one has read it but me. While this treatment of the construction has a considerable weight of precedent on its side and cannot be regarded as incorrect, a strong case can be made on grammatical grounds for treating this use of but as a preposition. For one thing, if but were truly a conjunction here, we would expect the verb to agree in person and number with the noun or pronoun following but; we would then say No one but the students have read it. What is more, if but were a true conjunction here we would not expect that it could be moved to the end of a clause, as in No one has read it but the students. Note that we cannot use the conjunction and in a similar way, saying John left and everyone else in the class in place of John and everyone else in the class left. These observations suggest that but is best considered as a preposition here and followed by accusative forms such as me and them in all positions: No one but me has read it. No one has read it but me. These recommendations are supported by 73 percent of the Usage Panel when the but phrase precedes the verb and by 93 percent when the but phrase follows the verb.But is redundant when used together with however, as in But the army, however, went on with its plans; one or the other word should be eliminated.But is generally not followed by a comma. Correct written style requires Kim wanted to go, but we stayed, not Kim wanted to go, but, we stayed.But may be used to begin a sentence at all levels of style. See Usage Notes at and, cannot, doubt, however, I1.


Usage Note: Do not confuse the adjective callous, as in Years of dealing with criminals had left her callous, with the noun callus, as in I have a callus on my thumb. Also, do not confuse the verb callous, which means "to make or become callous," with the verb callus "to form or develop hardened tissue."


Usage Note: Generations of grammarians and teachers have insisted that can should be used only to express the capacity to do something, and that may must be used to express permission. But children do not use can to ask permission out of a desire to be stubbornly perverse. They have learned it as an idiomatic expression from adults: After you clean your room, you can go outside and play. As part of the spoken language, this use of can is perfectly acceptable. This is especially true for negative questions, such as Can't I have the car tonight? probably because using mayn't instead of can't sounds unnatural. Nevertheless, in more formal usage the distinction between can and may still has many adherents. Only 21 percent of the Usage Panel accepts can instead of may in the sentence Can I take another week to submit the application? The heightened formality of may sometimes highlights the speaker's role in giving permission. You may leave the room when you are finished implies that permission is given by the speaker. You can leave the room when you are finished implies that permission is part of a rule or policy rather than a decision on the speaker's part. For this reason, may sees considerable use in official announcements: Students may pick up the application forms tomorrow.


Usage Note: The idiomatic phrase cannot but has sometimes been criticized as a double negative, perhaps because it has been confused with can but. The but of cannot but, however, means "except," as it does in phrases such as no one but, while the but of can but has the sense only, as it does in the sentence We had but a single bullet left. Both cannot but and can but are established as standard expressions.The construction cannot help is used with a present participle to roughly the same effect as cannot but in a sentence such as We cannot help admiring his courage. This construction usually implies that a person is unable to affect an outcome normally under his or her control. Thus, saying We could not help laughing at such a remark would imply that one could not suppress one's laughter.The construction cannot help but probably arose as a blend of cannot help and cannot but; it has the meaning of the first and the syntax of the second: We cannot help but admire his courage. The construction has sometimes been criticized as a redundancy, but it has been around for more than a century and appears in the writing of many distinguished authors.The expression cannot (or can't) seem to has occasionally been criticized as illogical, and so it is. Brian can't seem to get angry does not mean "Brian is incapable of appearing to get angry," as its syntax would seem to dictate; rather, it means "Brian appears to be unable to get angry." But the idiom serves a useful purpose, since the syntax of English does not allow a logical equivalent like Brian seems to cannot get angry; and the cannot seem to construction is so widely used that it would be pedantic to object to it. See Usage Notes at but, help.


Usage Note: The term for a town or city that serves as a seat of government is spelled capital. The term for the building in which a legislative assembly meets is spelled capitol.


Usage Note: The implication of rapidity that most often accompanies the use of careen as a verb of motion may have arisen naturally through the extension of the nautical sense of the verb to apply to the motion of automobiles, which generally careen, that is, lurch or tip over, only when driven at high speed. There is thus no reason to conclude that this use of the verb is the result of a confusion of careen with career, "to rush." Whatever the origin of this use, however, it is by now so well established that it would be pedantic to object to it.


Usage Note: Although celebrant is most often used to describe an official participant in a religious ceremony or rite, a majority of the Usage Panel accepted the use of celebrant to mean "a participant in a celebration" in an earlier survey. Still, while New Year's Eve celebrants may be an acceptable usage, celebrator is an uncontroversial alternative in this more general sense.


Usage Note: Historically, celibate means only "unmarried"; its use to mean "abstaining from sexual intercourse" is a 20th-century development. But the new sense of the word seems to have displaced the old, and the use of celibate to mean "unmarried" is now almost sure to invite misinterpretation in other than narrowly ecclesiastical contexts. Sixty-eight percent of the Usage Panel rejected the older use in the sentence He remained celibate , although he engaged in sexual intercourse.


Usage Note: Traditionally, the verb center may be freely used with the prepositions on, upon, in, or at; but some language critics have denounced its use with around as illogical or physically impossible. But the fact that writers persist in using this phrase in sentences such as The discussion centered around the need for curriculum reform, a sentence that 71 percent of the Usage Panel accepts, suggests that many people perceive center around to best represent the true nature of what they are trying to say. Indeed, in an example like A storm of controversy centered around the king, the only appropriate choice seems to be around. Still, if one wishes to avoid the phrase center around, the phrase revolve around is available as an option. Since center can represent various relations involving having, finding, or turning about a center, the choice of a preposition depends on what is intended. There is ample evidence for usages with each preposition listed above. The Panel accepts all of these uses except the one with at. Seventy-seven percent reject the sentence The company has been centered at Atlanta for the last five years. See Usage Note at equal.


Usage Note: Although certain appears to be an absolute term, it is frequently qualified by adverbs, as in fairly certain or quite certain. In an earlier survey a majority of the Usage Panel accepted the construction Nothing could be more certain.


Usage Note: People who object to the terms disabled and handicapped as being too negative sometimes propose the substitution of challenged instead, as in referring to persons with physical disabilities as physically challenged. While this particular phrase is quite popular, it is sometimes taken to be condescending, and similar usages such as mentally challenged have failed to win equal acceptance. Indeed, the widespread parody of challenged in such expressions as electronically challenged for "inept at using computers" has effectively eliminated it as an all-purpose alternative to disabled or handicapped.


Usage Note: Chicano is used only of Mexican Americans, not of Mexicans living in Mexico. It was originally an informal term in English (as in Spanish), and the spelling of the first recorded instance in an American publication followed the Spanish custom of lowercasing nouns of national or ethnic origin. However, the literary and political movements of the 1960s and 1970s among Mexican Americans established Chicano as a term of ethnic pride, and it is properly written today with a capital.While Chicano is a term of pride for many Mexican Americans, it remains a word with strong political associations. Since these politics are not necessarily espoused by all Mexican Americans, and since usage and acceptance of this word can vary from one region to another, an outsider who is unfamiliar with his or her audience may do well to use Mexican American instead. See Usage Note at Hispanic.

child-directed speech

Usage Note: Although motherese popularly describes the language patterns of mothers speaking to their infants, these patterns are not limited to them; therefore, child-language researchers often employ the term child-directed speech to include a wider range of speakers and addressees. Others use caregiver speech, which reflects a still wider range, or, less commonly, parentese.


Usage Note: Clinically speaking, claustrophobic refers to an abnormal tendency to feel terror in closed spaces. But like other terms used to describe psychological conditions (narcissistic and schizophrenic, for example), claustrophobic has been applied more loosely in general usage over time. At first it referred to any kind of temporary feeling of being closed in or unable to escape (I felt claustrophobic in that tiny room). Then it became common to use it to refer to any kind of space that might make a person feel such sensations (The staff members are jammed into a nest of claustrophobic offices). This latter usage is unacceptable to 74 percent of the Usage Panel, implying that claustrophobic should be used only to describe a psychological state. Nevertheless, this usage is well established, and it follows a tendency to combine adjectives with nouns according to a progressively looser interpretation of the relationship between the two. For example, the phrase topless swimsuit came to be followed by topless dancers, which led in turn to topless bars, topless districts, and topless ordinances. By the same token, a room that induces a particular emotion may be described as sad or cheerful without objection, and there seems to be no reason for drawing the line at calling it claustrophobic.


Usage Note: In Caesar's Gallic War a cohort was a unit of soldiers. There were 6 centuries (100 men) to a cohort, 10 cohorts to a legion (therefore 6,000 men). A century, then, would correspond to a company, a cohort to a battalion, and a legion to a regiment. Because of the word's history, some critics insist that cohort should be used only to refer to a group of people and never to an individual. In recent years, however, the use of cohort to refer to an individual rather than a group has become very common and is now in fact the dominant usage. Seventy-one percent of the Usage Panel accepts the sentence The cashiered dictator and his cohorts have all written their memoirs, while only 43 percent accepts The gangster walked into the room surrounded by his cohort.Perhaps because of its original military meaning and paramilitary associations, cohort usually has a somewhat negative connotation, and therefore critics of the President rather than his supporters might use a phrase like the President and his cohorts.

collective noun

Usage Note: In American usage, a collective noun takes a singular verb when it refers to the collection considered as a whole, as in The family was united on this question. The enemy is suing for peace. It takes a plural verb when it refers to the members of the group considered as individuals, as in My family are always fighting among themselves. The enemy were showing up in groups of three or four to turn in their weapons. In British usage, however, collective nouns are more often treated as plurals: The government have not announced a new policy. The team are playing in the test matches next week. A collective noun should not be treated as both singular and plural in the same construction; thus The family is determined to press itstheirclaim. Among the common collective nouns are committee, clergy, company, enemy, group, family, flock, public, and team. See Usage Notes at government, group.


Usage Note: Dissatisfaction with the implications of nonwhite as a racial label has doubtless contributed to the recent popularity of the term person of color and others, such as woman of color, with the same construction. In effect, person of color stands nonwhite on its head, substituting a positive for a negative. It is interesting that the almost exclusive association in American English of colored with Black does not carry over to terms formed with "of color," which are used inclusively of most groups other than those of European origin. See Usage Notes at colored, nonwhite.


Usage Note: As a racial label, colored can simply mean nonwhite, but in the United States its usage has generally been restricted to persons of African descent. Though long a preferred term among Black Americans, it lost favor as the 20th century progressed, and its use today is often taken to be offensive. In South Africa, where it is spelled as in British English and usually written uppercase, Coloured has generally been used to refer to persons of mixed racial descent as opposed to those of unmixed Black African, Asian, or European origin. Its use as an official ethnic label ended when apartheid was dismantled in 1991. See Usage Note at color.

compact disk

Usage Note: When new words come into the language, they often have different forms for a period until one form wins out over the others. There are occasions when competing forms remain in use for a long time. The word disk and its descendant compound compact disk represent good examples of this phenomenon. Disk came into English in the mid-17th century and was originally spelled with a k on the model of older words such as whisk. The c-spelling arose a half century later as a learned spelling derived from the word's Latin source discus. Both disc and disk were used interchangeably into the 20th century, with people in Britain tending to use disc more often, and Americans preferring disk. The spellings also began to be sorted out by function. Late in the 19th century, for reasons that are not clear, people used disc to refer to the new method of making phonograph recordings on a flat plate (as opposed to Edison's cylindrical drum). In any case, the c-spelling became conventional for this sense, which is why we listen to disc jockeys and not disk jockeys. In the 1940s, however, when American computer scientists needed a term to refer to their flat storage devices, they chose the spelling disk, and this became conventionalized in such compounds as hard disk and floppy disk. When the new storage technology of the compact disk arose in the 1970s, both c- and k-spellings competed for an initial period. Computer specialists preferred the familiar k-spelling, while people in the music industry, who saw the shiny circular plates as another form of phonograph record, referred to them as compact discs. These tendencies soon became established practice in the different industries. This is why we buy compact disks in computer stores but get the same storage devices with different data as compact discs in music stores. Similarly, the computer industry created the optical disk, the format that the entertainment industry used to create the videodisc.


Usage Note: Compare usually takes the preposition to when it refers to the activity of describing the resemblances between unlike things: He compared her to a summer day. Scientists sometimes compare the human brain to a computer. It takes with when it refers to the act of examining two like things in order to discern their similarities or differences: The police compared the forged signature with the original. The committee will have to compare the Senate's version of the bill with the version that was passed by the House. When compare is used to mean "to liken (one) with another," with is traditionally held to be the correct preposition: That little bauble is not to be compared withto this enormous jewel. But to is frequently used in this context and is not incorrect.


Usage Note: Complected has a long history in American folk speech, showing up, for example, in 1806 in the journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition: "[The Indians] are . . . reather lighter complected . . . than the Indians of the Missouri" (Meriwether Lewis). In 1915 its reported use in west Texas extended its semantic domain beyond skin color to general appearance: "a fat-complected man."


Usage Note: Complement and compliment, though quite distinct in meaning, are sometimes confused because they are pronounced the same. As a noun, complement means "something that completes or brings to perfection" (The antique silver was a complement to the beautifully set table); used as a verb it means "to serve as a complement to." The noun compliment means "an expression or act of courtesy or praise" (They gave us a compliment on our beautifully set table), while the verb means "to pay a compliment to."


Usage Note: Complete is sometimes considered absolute like perfect or chief, which is not subject to comparison. Nonetheless, it can be qualified as more or less, for example. A majority of the Usage Panel accepts the example His book is the most complete treatment of the subject. See Usage Note at absolute.


Usage Note: The traditional rule states that the whole comprises the parts and the parts compose the whole. In strict usage: The Union comprises 50 states. Fifty states composeconstitutemake up) the Union. Even though careful writers often maintain this distinction, comprise is increasingly used in place of compose, especially in the passive: The Union is comprised of 50 states. Our surveys show that opposition to this usage is abating. In the 1960s, 53 percent of the Usage Panel found this usage unacceptable; in 1996, only 35 percent objected. See Usage Note at include.


Usage Note: The adjective conflicted is most often associated with the jargon of pop psychology. Almost the entire Usage Panel (92 percent) rejects its use in the sentence Caught between loyalty to old employees and a recognition of the need to cut costs, many managers are conflicted about the reorganization plan.


Usage Note: The verb contact is a classic example of a verb that was made from a noun and of a new usage that was initially frowned upon. The noun meaning "the state or condition of touching" was introduced in 1626 by Francis Bacon. Some 200 years later it spawned a verb meaning "to bring or place in contact." This sense of the verb has lived an unremarkable life in technical contexts. It was only in the first quarter of the 20th century that contact came to be used to mean "to communicate with," and soon afterward the controversy began. Contact was declared to be properly a noun, not a verb, and moreover to be vague when used as a verb. However, turning nouns into verbs is one of the most frequent ways in which new verbs enter English. Sometimes there is resistance to such verbs, but often, especially when a term seems free of association with the jargon of business or bureaucracy, acceptance comes more freely, as with curb, date, elbow, interview, panic, and park. Contact is but another instance of what linguists call functional shift from one part of speech to another. As for the vagueness of contact, this seems a virtue in an age in which forms of communication have proliferated. The sentence We will contact you when the part comes in allows for a variety of possible ways to communicate: by mail, telephone, computer, or fax.Despite the lengthy history of disapproval of contact by language critics, the verb's usefulness and popularity appear to have worn down resistance to it. In 1969, only 34 percent of the Usage Panel accepted the use of contact as a verb, but in a recent survey 65 percent of the Panel accepted it in the sentence She immediately called an officer at the Naval Intelligence Service, who in turn contacted the FBI. See Usage Note at impact.


Usage Note: When contemporary is used in reference to something in the past, its meaning is not always clear. Contemporary critics of Shakespeare may mean critics in his time or critics in our time. When the context does not make the meaning clear, misunderstanding can be avoided by using phrases such as critics in Shakespeare's time or modern critics.


Usage Note: Continuance is interchangeable with continuation in some of its senses. However, only continuance is used to refer to the duration of a state or condition, as in his continuance in office. Continuation applies especially to prolongation or resumption of action (a continuation of the meeting) or to physical extension (the continuation of the street). The continuation of a story is that part of the story following a break in its narration.


Usage Note: The noun contrast may be followed by between, with, or to: There is a sharp contrast between his earlier and later works. In contrast withtohis early works, the later plays are dark and forbidding. When contrast is used as a transitive verb, both with and to may follow, though with is more common: Most scholars contrast the light comedies of his early career withtothe dark comedies that were written late in his life.


Usage Note: In the 15th century, the word controller developed the alternate spelling comptroller as a result of an association between the first part of the word, cont, and the etymologically unrelated word count and its variant compt. Although the historical pronunciation of comptroller would be the same as for controller, evidence suggests that the spelling pronunciations (kŏmp-trō′lər) and (kŏmp′trō′lər) may now be used by a majority of speakers. In a recent survey, 43 percent of the Usage Panel indicated that they pronounce comptroller like controller, while 57 percent pronounce it with mp, as it is spelled, with stress on either the first or second syllable. And half of those Panelists who pronounce comptroller like controller indicated that they also consider the spelling pronunciations acceptable.


Usage Note: According to a traditional rule, one persuades someone to act but convinces someone of the truth of a statement or proposition: By convincing me that no good could come of staying, he persuaded me to leave. If the distinction is accepted, then convince should not be used with an infinitive: He persuadedconvincedme to go. In a 1981 survey, 61 percent of the Usage Panel rejected the use of convince with an infinitive. But the tide of sentiment against the construction appears to be turning. In a 1996 survey 74 percent accepted it in the sentence I tried to convince him to chip in a few dollars, but he refused. Even in passive constructions, a majority of the Panel accepted convince with an infinitive. Fifty-two percent accepted the sentence After listening to the teacher's report, the committee was convinced to go ahead with the new reading program. Persuade, on the other hand, is perfectly acceptable when used with an infinitive or a that clause in both active and passive constructions. An overwheming majority of Panelists in the 1996 survey accepted the following sentences: After a long discussion with her lawyer, she was persuaded to drop the lawsuit. The President persuaded his advisors that military action was necessary. Thus, it seems likely that advocates of the traditional rule governing persuade and convince will find fewer and fewer allies in their camp.


Usage Note: Council, counsel, and consul are never interchangeable, though their meanings are related. Council and councilor refer principally to a deliberative assembly (such as a city council or student council), its work, and its membership. Counsel and counselor pertain chiefly to advice and guidance in general and to a person (such as a lawyer or camp counselor) who provides it. Consul denotes an officer in the foreign service of a country.


Usage Note: When used to refer to two people who function socially as a unit, as in a married couple, the word couple may take either a singular or a plural verb, depending on whether the members are considered individually or collectively: The couple were married last week. Only one couple was left on the dance floor. When a pronoun follows, they and their are more common than it and its: The couple decided to spend their (less commonly its) vacation in Florida. Using a singular verb and a plural pronoun, as in The couple wants their children to go to college, is widely considered to be incorrect. Care should be taken that the verb and pronoun agree in number: The couple want their children to go to college.Although the phrase a couple of has been well established in English since before the Renaissance, modern critics have sometimes maintained that a couple of is too inexact to be appropriate in formal writing. But the inexactitude of a couple of may serve a useful purpose, suggesting that the writer is indifferent to the precise number of items involved. Thus the sentence She lives only a couple of miles away implies not only that the distance is short but that its exact measure is unimportant. This usage should be considered unobjectionable on all levels of style.The of in the phrase a couple of is often dropped in speech, but this omission is usually considered a mistake, especially in formal contexts. Three-fourths of the Usage Panel finds the sentence I read a couple books over vacation to be unacceptable; however, another 20% of the Panel finds the sentence to be acceptable in informal speech and writing.


Usage Note: Craft has been used as a verb since the Old English period and was used in Middle English to refer specifically to the artful construction of a text or discourse. In recent years, crafted, the past participle of craft, has enjoyed a vogue as a participle referring to well-wrought writing. Craft is more acceptable when applied to literary works than to other sorts of writing, and more acceptable as a participle than as a verb. Seventy-three percent of the Usage Panel accepts the phrase beautifully crafted prose. By contrast, only 35 percent accept the sentence The planners crafted their proposal so as to anticipate the objections of local businesses.


Usage Note: The use of the participle credentialed to refer to certified teachers and other professionals is well established (She became credentialed through a graduate program at a local college), but its more general use to mean "possessing professional or expert credentials" is still widely considered jargon. The sentence The board heard testimony from a number of credentialed witnesses was unacceptable to 85 percent of the Usage Panel.


Usage Note: Credible is widely but incorrectly used where credulous would be appropriate. Credulous means "believing too readily" or "gullible," as in He was credulous (not credible) enough to believe the manufacturer's claims.


Usage Note: Crescendo is sometimes used by reputable speakers and writers to denote a climax or peak, as in noise level, rather than an increase. Although citational evidence over time attests to widespread currency, it is difficult for anyone acquainted with the technical musical sense of crescendo to use it to mean "a peak." Fifty-five percent of the Usage Panel rejected it in the sentence When the guard sank a three-pointer to tie the game, the noise of the crowd reached a crescendo.


Usage Note: Like the analogous etymological plurals agenda and data, criteria is widely used as a singular form. Unlike them, however, it is not yet acceptable in that use.


Usage Note: Critique has been used as a verb meaning "to review or discuss critically" since the 18th century, but lately this usage has gained much wider currency, in part because the verb criticize, once neutral between praise and censure, is now mainly used in a negative sense. But this use of critique is still regarded by many as pretentious jargon, although resistance appears to be weakening. In our 1997 ballot, 41 percent of the Usage Panel rejected the sentence As mock inquisitors grill him, top aides take notes and critique the answers with the President afterward. Ten years earlier, 69 percent disapproved of this same sentence. Resistance is still high when a person is critiqued: 60 percent of the Usage Panel rejects its use in the sentence Students are taught how to do a business plan and then are critiqued on it. Thus, it may be preferable to avoid this word. There is no exact synonym, but in most contexts one can usually substitute go over, review, or analyze.Note, however, that critique is widely accepted as a noun in a neutral context; 86 percent of the Panel approved of its use in the sentence The committee gave the report a thorough critique and found it both informed and intelligent.


Usage Note: The application of the term culture to the collective attitudes and behavior of corporations arose in business jargon during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Unlike many locutions that emerge in business jargon, it spread to popular use in newspapers and magazines. Few Usage Panelists object to it. Over 80 percent of Panelists accept the sentence The new management style is a reversal of GE's traditional corporate culture, in which virtually everything the company does is measured in some form and filed away somewhere. Ever since C.P. Snow wrote of the gap between "the two cultures" (the humanities and science) in the 1950s, the notion that culture can refer to smaller segments of society has seemed implicit. Its usage in the corporate world may also have been facilitated by increased awareness of the importance of genuine cultural differences in a global economy, as between Americans and the Japanese, that have a broad effect on business practices.


Usage Note: The word czar can also be spelled tsar. Czar is the most common form in American usage and the one nearly always employed in the extended senses "any tyrant" or informally, "one in authority." But tsar is preferred by most scholars of Slavic studies as a more accurate transliteration of the Russian and is often found in scholarly writing with reference to one of the Russian emperors.


Usage Note: Depending on its sense, the verb dare sometimes behaves like an auxiliary verb (such as can or may) and sometimes like a main verb (such as want or try). When used as an auxiliary verb, dare does not change to agree with its subject: Let him say that if he dare. It also does not combine with do in questions, negations, or certain other constructions: Dare we tell her the truth? I dare not mention their names. Finally, it does not take to before the verb that follows it: If you dare breathe a word about it, I'll never speak to you again. When used as a main verb, dare does agree with its subject (If he dares to show up at her house I'll be surprised), and it does combine with do (Did anyone dare to admit it?). It may optionally take to before the verb following it: No one dares (or dares to) speak freely about the political situation. The auxiliary forms differ subtly in meaning from the main verb forms in that they emphasize the attitude or involvement of the speaker while the main verb forms present a more objective situation. Thus How dare you operate this machinery without proper training? expresses indignation at the action, whereas How do you dare to operate this machinery without proper training? is a genuine request for information. When dare is used as a transitive verb meaning "challenge," only main verb forms are possible and to is required: Anyone who dares him to attempt it will be sorry.


Usage Note: The word data is the plural of Latin datum, "something given," but it is not always treated as a plural noun in English. The plural usage is still common, as this headline from the New York Times attests: "Data Are Elusive on the Homeless." Sometimes scientists think of data as plural, as in These data do not support the conclusions. But more often scientists and researchers think of data as a singular mass entity like information, and most people now follow this in general usage. Sixty percent of the Usage Panel accepts the use of data with a singular verb and pronoun in the sentence Once the data is in, we can begin to analyze it. A still larger number, 77 percent, accepts the sentence We have very little data on the efficacy of such programs, where the quantifier very little, which is not used with similar plural nouns such as facts and results, implies that data here is indeed singular.


Usage Note: The rise of the Deaf Pride movement in the 1980s has introduced a distinction between deaf and Deaf, with the capitalized form used specifically in referring to deaf persons belonging to the community—also known as Deaf culture—that has formed around the use of American Sign Language as the preferred means of communication. The issue of capitalization is different with deaf than it is for a term such as black. In the case of black, the decision whether or not to capitalize is essentially a matter of personal or political preference, while with deaf the capitalized and uncapitalized forms differ in meaning as well as style. Only persons who are self-identified as belonging to Deaf culture are appropriately referred to as Deaf.


Usage Note: Debut is widely used as a verb, both intransitively (Her new series will debut next March on network television) and transitively (The network will debut her new series next March). These usages are well established in connection with entertainment and the performing arts but are not entirely acceptable when used of other sorts of introductions, as of products (The company will debut the new six-cylinder convertible next fall) or publications (The national edition of the newspaper debuted last summer), probably because of the association of the form with the language of show-business publicity.


Usage Note: When deceptively is used to modify an adjective, the meaning is often unclear. Does the sentence The pool is deceptively shallow mean that the pool is shallower or deeper than it appears? When the Usage Panel was asked to decide, 50 percent thought the pool shallower than it appears, 32 percent thought it deeper than it appears, and 18 percent said it was impossible to judge. Thus a warning notice worded in such a way would be misinterpreted by many of the people who read it, and others would be uncertain as to which sense was intended. Where the context does not make the meaning of deceptively clear, the sentence should be rewritten, as in The pool is shallower than it looks or The pool is shallow, despite its appearance.


Usage Note: Decimate originally referred to the killing of every tenth person, a punishment used in the Roman army for mutinous legions. Today this meaning is commonly extended to include the killing of any large proportion of a group. Sixty-six percent of the Usage Panel accepts this extension in the sentence The Jewish population of Germany was decimated by the war, even though it is common knowledge that the number of Jews killed was much greater than a tenth of the original population. However, when the meaning is further extended to include large-scale destruction other than killing, as in The supply of fresh produce was decimated by the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, only 26 percent of the Panel accepts the usage.


Usage Note: Definite and definitive both apply to what is precisely defined or explicitly set forth. But definitive most often refers specifically to a judgment or description that serves as a standard or reference point for others, as in the definitive decision of the court (which sets forth a final resolution of a judicial matter) or the definitive biography of Nelson (that is, the biography that sets the standard against which all other accounts of Nelson's life must be measured).


Usage Note: Among the nouns that the Usage Panel is loath to see used as a verb is demagogue, meaning "to speak about something in the manner of a demagogue." Ninety-four percent reject it in the sentence The President will demagogue Medicare, unwilling to acknowledge that fundamental reforms need to be made. Resistance to the use of traditional nouns as verbs is sometimes strong, especially when the novel usages are associated with business or bureaucratic jargon.


Usage Note: Denote and connote are often confused because both words have senses that entail signification. Denote means "to signify directly or literally" and describes the relation between the word and the thing it conventionally names. Connote means "to signify indirectly, suggest or imply" and describes the relation between the word and the images or associations it evokes. Thus, the word river denotes a moving body of water and may connote such things as the relentlessness of time and the changing nature of life.


Usage Note: In writing, depend is followed by on or upon when indicating condition or contingency, as in It depends on who is in charge. Omission of the preposition is typical of casual speech.


Usage Note: Deprecate originally meant "to pray in order to ward off something, ward off by prayer." Perhaps because the occasion of such prayers was invariably one of dread, the word developed the more general meaning of disapproval, as in this quotation from Frederick Douglass, "Those who profess to favor freedom, yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground." From here it was a small step to add the meaning "to make little of, disparage," what was once the proper meaning of depreciate. This meaning of depreciate appears to have been overwhelmed by the word's use in the world of finances, where it means "to diminish (or cause to diminish) in price or value." In similar fashion, the "disparage" sense of deprecate may be driving out the word's other uses. In our 2002 survey, only 50 percent of the Usage Panel accepted deprecate when it meant "to express disapproval of" in the sentence He advocates a well-designed program of behavior modification and deprecates the early use of medication to address behavioral problems. Moreover, a similar example in the same survey elicited the same split in opinions among Panelists: He acknowledged that some students had been wronged by the board's handling of the matter and deprecated the board's decision to intervene. It seems clear, then, that the Panel has very mixed feelings about the use of deprecate to mean "disapprove of." But a great majority of Panelists accept deprecate when used to mean "make little of, disparage." Fully 78 percent accepted the example He deprecated his own contribution to the success of the project, claiming that others had done just as much. It may be that the widespread use of the word in the compound adjective self-deprecating has helped bolster this use of the verb.


Usage Note: In recent years the verb sense of dialogue meaning "to engage in an informal exchange of views" has been revived, particularly with reference to communication between parties in institutional or political contexts. Although Shakespeare, Coleridge, and Carlyle used it, this usage today is widely regarded as jargon or bureaucratese. Ninety-eight percent of the Usage Panel rejects the sentence Critics have charged that the department was remiss in not trying to dialogue with representatives of the community before hiring the new officers.


Usage Note: Different from and different than are both common in British and American English. The construction different to is chiefly British. Since the 18th century, language critics have singled out different than as incorrect, though it is well attested in the works of reputable writers. According to traditional guidelines, from is used when the comparison is between two persons or things: My book is different fromthanyours. Different than is more acceptably used, particularly in American usage, where the object of comparison is expressed by a full clause: The campus is different than it was 20 years ago. Different from may be used with a clause if the clause starts with a conjunction and so functions as a noun: The campus is different from how it was 20 years ago.Sometimes people interpret a simple noun phrase following different than as elliptical for a clause, which allows for a subtle distinction in meaning between the two constructions. How different this seems from Paris suggests that the object of comparison is the city of Paris itself, whereas How different this seems than Paris suggests that the object of comparison is something like "the way things were in Paris" or "what happened in Paris."


Usage Note: A dilemma is a situation in which a choice must be made between alternative courses of action or argument. Although citational evidence attests to widespread use of the term meaning simply "problem" or "predicament" and involving no issue of choice, 58 percent of the Usage Panel in our 1999 survey rejected the sentence Historically, race has been the great dilemma of democracy.It is sometimes claimed that because the di- in dilemma comes from a Greek prefix meaning "two," the word should be used only when exactly two choices are involved. Nevertheless, 64 percent of the Usage Panel in our 1988 survey accepted its use for choices among three or more options.


Usage Note: Disabled is the clear preference in contemporary American English in referring to people having either physical or mental impairments, with the impairments themselves preferably termed disabilities. Handicapped—a term derived from the world of sports gambling—is still in wide use but is sometimes taken to be offensive, while more recent coinages such as differently abled or handicapable have been generally perceived as condescending euphemisms and have gained little currency.The often-repeated recommendation to put the person before the disability would favor persons with disabilities over disabled persons and person with paraplegia over paraplegic. Such expressions are said to focus on the individual rather than on the particular functional limitation. Respect for the preferences of this group calls for observing this rule, especially in formal contexts, but the "person-first" construction has not found wide acceptance with the general public, perhaps because it sounds somewhat unnatural or possibly because in English the last word in a phrase tends to have the greatest weight, thus undercutting the intended purpose. See Usage Note at handicapped.


Usage Note: It is true that discomfit originally meant "to defeat, frustrate" and that its newer use meaning "to embarrass, disconcert" probably arose in part through confusion with discomfort. But the newer sense is now the most common use of the verb in all varieties of writing and should be considered entirely standard.


Usage Note: The meaning of disingenuous has been shifting about lately, as if people were unsure of its proper meaning. Generally, it means "insincere" and often seems to be a synonym of cynical or calculating. Not surprisingly, the word is used often in political contexts, as in It is both insensitive and disingenuous for the White House to describe its aid package and the proposal to eliminate the federal payment as "tough love." This use of the word is accepted by 94 percent of the Usage Panel. Most Panelists also accept the extended meaning relating to less reproachable behavior. Fully 88 percent accept disingenuous with the meaning "playfully insincere, faux-naf," as in the example "I don't have a clue about late Beethoven!" he said. The remark seemed disingenuous, coming from one of the world's foremost concert pianists. Sometimes disingenuous is used as a synonym for naive, as if the dis- prefix functioned as an intensive (as it does in certain words like disannul) rather than as a negative element. This usage does not find much admiration among Panelists, however. Seventy-five percent do not accept it in the phrase a disingenuous tourist who falls prey to stereotypical con artists.


Usage Note: In traditional usage, disinterested can only mean "having no stake in an outcome," as in Since the judge stands to profit from the sale of the company, she cannot be considered a disinterested party in the dispute. This usage was acceptable to 97 percent of the Usage Panel in our 2001 survey. But despite critical disapproval, disinterested has come to be widely used by many educated writers to mean "uninterested" or "having lost interest," as in Since she discovered skiing, she is disinterested in her schoolwork. Oddly enough, "not interested" is the oldest sense of the word, going back to the 17th century. This sense became outmoded in the 18th century but underwent a revival in the first quarter of the early 20th. Despite its resuscitation, this usage is widely considered an error. In our 2001 survey, 88 percent of the Usage Panel rejected the sentence It is difficult to imagine an approach better designed to prevent disinterested students from developing any intellectual maturity. This is not a significantly different proportion from the 89 percent who disapproved of a similar usage in 1988.


Usage Note: One cannot ordinarily attach the prefix dis- in its sense of "undo" to a verb that refers to an irreversible act or process. Disinvent is an exception. This word was apparently coined by military or political figures, as its usage is almost entirely restricted to the realm of arms-reduction talks. Disinvent, though it smacks somewhat of bureaucratese, is nonetheless quite apt for referring to the inherent (and woeful) impossibility of undoing the invention of weapons of mass destruction.


Usage Note: A thing is distinct if it is sharply distinguished from other things; a property or attribute is distinctive if it enables us to distinguish one thing from another. The warbler is not a distinct species means that the warbler is not a clearly defined type of bird. The pine warbler has a distinctive song means that the pine warbler's song enables us to distinguish it from all other birds, including other warblers.


Usage Note: Either dove or dived is acceptable as the past tense of dive. Usage preferences show regional distribution, although both forms are heard throughout the United States. According to the Dictionary of American Regional English, in the North, dove is more prevalent; in the South Midland, dived. Dived is actually the earlier form, and the emergence of dove may appear anomalous in light of the general tendencies of change in English verb forms. Old English had two classes of verbs: strong verbs, whose past tense was indicated by a change in their vowel (a process that survives in such present-day English verbs as drive/drove or fling/flung); and weak verbs, whose past was formed with a suffix related to -ed in Modern English (as in present-day English live/lived and move/moved). Since the Old English period, many verbs have changed from the strong pattern to the weak one; for example, the past tense of step, formerly stop, became stepped. Over the years, in fact, the weak pattern has become so prevalent that we use the term regular to refer to verbs that form their past tense by suffixation of -ed. However, there have occasionally been changes in the other direction: the past tense of wear, now wore, was once werede, and that of spit, now spat, was once spitede. The development of dove is an additional example of the small group of verbs that have swum against the historical tide.

domestic partner

Usage Note: Many people would now agree that a couple can consist of persons living together who are not married or who are not of opposite sexes. How to refer to such a couple, though, has posed an interesting challenge. Many new words have been coined and tested over the last 25 years, including spouse-equivalent or spousal equivalent; POSSLQ (person of the opposite sex sharing living quarters), pronounced (pŏs′əl-kyo̅o̅′) and originally used as a U.S. Census Bureau designation; and companion or lifelong (or longtime) companion. But these have never been in or have fallen out of general use. Thus the linguistic situation seems to reflect the continuing flux of the social situation.Two other terms, significant other and domestic partner, however, have seen widespread use since at least 1985 as all-purpose words for describing a spouse or a lover. Over 75 percent of Usage Panelists feel these terms can be applied to members of either straight or gay couples. Domestic partner has been used by an increasing number of companies and organizations in drafting benefits plans that include all members of such relationships. The term is often shortened to partner, especially in unofficial situations.

double negative

Usage Note: Traditional grammar holds that double negatives combine to form an affirmative. Readers will therefore interpret the sentence He cannot just do nothing as an affirmative statement meaning "He must do something" unless they are prompted to view it as dialect or nonstandard speech. Readers will also assign an affirmative meaning to constructions that yoke not with an adjective or adverb that begins with a negative prefix such as in- or un-, as in a not infrequent visitor, a not unjust decision. In these expressions the double negative conveys a weaker affirmative than would be conveyed by the positive adjective or adverb by itself. Thus, a not infrequent visitor seems likely to visit less frequently than a frequent visitor.A double (or more accurately, multiple) negative is considered unacceptable in Standard English when it is used to convey or reinforce a negative meaning, as in He didn't say nothing (meaning "he said nothing" or "he didn't say anything"). Such constructions are standard in many other languages and in fact were once wholly acceptable in English. Thus, Chaucer could say of the Friar, "Ther nas no man nowher so vertuous"; and Shakespeare could allow Viola to say of her heart, "Nor never none/Shall mistress of it be, save I alone." In spite of this noble history, grammarians since the Renaissance have objected to the double negative in English. In their eagerness to make English conform to formal logic, they conceived and promulgated the notion that two negatives destroy each other and make a positive. This rule, vigorously advocated by teachers of grammar and writing, has become established as a fundamental of standard usage.The ban on multiple negatives also applies to the combination of negatives with adverbs such as hardly and scarcely. It is therefore regarded as incorrect to say I couldn't hardly do it or The car scarcely needs no oil. These adverbs have a minimizing effect on the verb. They mean something like "almost not at all." They resemble negative adverbs such as not and never in that they are used with any, anybody, and similar words rather than none, nobody, and other negatives. Thus, in standard usage one says You barely have any time left, just as one says You don't have any time left, but You barely have no time left is considered an unacceptable double negative.Nevertheless, multiple negatives continue to be widely used in a number of nonstandard varieties of English and are sometimes used by speakers of all educational levels when they want to strike a colloquial or popular note, as when President Reagan taunted his political opponents by saying "You ain't seen nothing yet."The ban on using double negatives to convey emphasis does not apply when the second negative appears in a separate phrase or clause, as in I will not surrender, not today, not ever or He does not seek money, no more than he seeks fame. Commas must be used to separate the negative phrases or clauses in these examples. The sentence He does not seek money no more than he seeks fame is unacceptable, whereas the equivalent sentence with any is perfectly acceptable and requires no comma: He does not seek money any more than he seeks fame. See Usage Notes at hardly, scarcely.


Usage Note: Doubt and doubtful may be followed by clauses introduced by that, whether, or if. The choice among these three is partly guided by the intended meaning of the sentence but is not cast in stone. Whether normally introduces an indirect question and is therefore the traditional choice when the subject is in a state of genuine uncertainty about alternative possibilities: Sue has studied so much philosophy this year that she has begun to doubt whether she exists. Similarly, when doubtful indicates uncertainty, whether is probably the correct choice: At one time it was doubtful whether the company could recover from its financial difficulties, but the bank loan has helped. On the other hand, that is the choice when one uses doubt as an understated way of expressing disbelief: I doubt that we have seen the last of problem, meaning "I think we haven't seen the last of that problem." That is also the usual choice when the truth of the clause following doubt is assumed, as in negative sentences and questions. Thus I never doubted for a minute that I would be rescued implies "I was certain that I would be rescued." By the same token, Do you doubt that you will be paid? seems to pose a rhetorical question ("Surely you believe that you will be paid"), whereas Do you doubt whether you will be paid? may express a genuine request for information and might be followed by because if you do, you should make the client post a bond. In other cases, however, this distinction between whether and that is not always observed. If may also be used as a substitute for whether but is more informal in tone.In informal speech the clause following doubt is sometimes introduced with but: I don't doubt but (or but what) he will come. Although modern critics sometimes object to its use in formal writing, reputable precedent exists for this construction, as Richard Steele's remark "I do not doubt but England is at present as polite a Nation as any in the World." See Usage Notes at but, if.


Usage Note: The word dour, which is etymologically related to duress and endure, traditionally rhymes with tour. The variant pronunciation that rhymes with sour is, however, widely used and must be considered acceptable. In a recent survey, 65 percent of the Usage Panel preferred the traditional pronunciation, and 33 percent preferred the variant.


Usage Note: As an adjective the form drunk is used after a verb while the form drunken is now used only in front of a noun: They were drunk last night. A drunken patron at the restaurant ruined our evening. Using drunk in front of a noun is usually considered unacceptable in formal style, but the phrases drunk driver and drunk driving, which have become fixed expressions, present an exception to this. Drunk and drunken are sometimes used to make a legal distinction, whereby a drunk driver is a driver whose alcohol level exceeds the legal limit, and a drunken driver is a driver who is inebriated.

due to

Usage Note: Due to has been widely used for many years as a compound preposition like owing to, but some critics have insisted that due should be used only as an adjective. According to this view, it is incorrect to say The concert was canceled due to the rain, but acceptable to say The cancellation of the concert was due to the rain, where due continues to function as an adjective modifying cancellation. This seems a fine point, however, and since due to is widely used and understood, there seems little reason to avoid using it as a preposition.


Usage Note: The traditional rule holds that the subject of a sentence beginning with each is grammatically singular, and the verb and following pronouns must be singular accordingly: Each of the apartments has (not have) its (not their) own private entrance (not entrances). When each follows a plural subject, however, the verb and subsequent pronouns remain in the plural: The apartments each have their own private entrances (not has its own private entrance). But when each follows the verb with we as its subject, the rule has an exception. One may say either We boys have each our own room or We boys have each his own room, though the latter form may strike readers as stilted.The expression each and every is likewise followed by a singular verb and, at least in formal style, by a singular pronoun: Each and every driver knows (not know) what his or her (not their) job is to be. See Usage Notes at every, they.

each other

Usage Note: It is often maintained that each other should be used to denote a reciprocal relation between two entities, with one another reserved for more than two: thus The twins dislike each other but The triplets dislike one another. Sixty-four percent of Usage Panelists say that they follow this rule in their own writing. But it should be pointed out that many reputable writers from Samuel Johnson onward have ignored the rule and that the use of each other for more than two, or of one another for two, cannot be considered incorrect. In particular, there are contexts in which each other and one another are subtly different in meaning. When speaking of an ordered series of events or stages, one another is the preferred form. Thus the sentence The waiters followed one another into the room was preferred by 73 percent of the Usage Panel to the sentence The waiters followed each other into the room.Each other should not be used as the subject of a clause in writing. Instead of We always know what each other is thinking, one should write Each of us knows what the other is thinking. The possessive forms of each other and one another are written each other's and one another's: The boys wore each other'seach others'coats. They had forgotten one another'sone anothers'names.


Usage Note: The traditional rule holds that either should be used only to refer to one of two items and that any is required when more than two items are involved: Anyeither of the three opposition candidates still in the race would make a better president than the incumbent. But reputable writers have often violated this rule, and in any case it applies only to the use of either as a pronoun or an adjective. When either is used as a conjunction, no paraphrase with any is available, and so either is unexceptionable even when it applies to more than two clauses: Either the union will make a counteroffer or the original bid will be refused by the board or the deal will go ahead as scheduled.In either ... or constructions, the two conjunctions should be followed by parallel elements. The following is regarded as incorrect: You may either have the ring or the bracelet (properly, You may have either the ring or the bracelet). The following is also incorrect: She can take either the examination offered to all applicants or ask for a personal interview (properly, She can either take ... ).When used as a pronoun, either is singular and takes a singular verb: The two left-wing parties disagree with each other more than either doesdowith the Right. When followed by of and a plural noun, either is often used with a plural verb: Either of the parties have enough support to form a government. But this usage is widely regarded as incorrect; in an earlier survey it was rejected by 92 percent of the Usage Panel.When all the elements in an either ... or construction (or a neither ... nor construction) used as the subject of a sentence are singular, the verb is singular: Either Eve or Herbinvited. Analogously, when all the elements in the either ... or construction are plural, the verb is plural too: Either the Clarks or the Kaysinvited. When the construction mixes singular and plural elements, however, there is some confusion as to which form the verb should take. It has sometimes been suggested that the verb should agree with whichever noun phrase is closest to it; thus one would write Either Eve or the Kaysinvited, but Either the Kays or Eveinvited. This pattern is accepted by 54 percent of the Usage Panel. Others have maintained that the construction is fundamentally inconsistent whichever number is assigned to the verb and that such sentences should be rewritten accordingly. See Usage Notes at every, neither, or1, they.


Usage Note: The adjective elder is not a synonym for elderly. In comparisons between two persons, elder means "older" but not necessarily "old": My elder sister is sixteen; my younger, twelve. (Eldest is used when three or more persons are compared: He is the eldest of four brothers.) In other contexts elder does denote relatively advanced age but with the added component of respect for a person's achievement, as in an elder statesman. If age alone is to be expressed, one should use older or elderly rather than elder: A survey of older Americans; an elderly waiter.Unlike elder and its related forms, the adjectives old, older, and oldest are applied to things as well as to persons.


Usage Note: Else is often used redundantly in combination with prepositions such as but, except, and besides. The sentence No one else but Sam saw the accident would thus be better without else.When a pronoun is followed by else, the possessive form is generally written with the 's following else: That must be someone else's (not someone's else) book. Both who else's and whose else are in use, but not whose else's: Who else's book could it have been? Whose else could it have been? See Usage Notes at who, whose.


Usage Note: Although it is a contemporary buzzword, the word empower is not new, having arisen in the mid-17th century with the legalistic meaning "to invest with authority, authorize." Shortly thereafter it began to be used with an infinitive in a more general way meaning "to enable or permit." Both of these uses survive today but have been overpowered by the word's use in politics and pop psychology. Its modern use originated in the civil rights movement, which sought political empowerment for its followers. The word was then taken up by the women's movement, and its appeal has not flagged. Since people of all political persuasions have a need for a word that makes their constituents feel that they are or are about to become more in control of their destinies, empower has been adopted by conservatives as well as social reformers. It has even migrated out of the political arena into other fields.The Usage Panel has some misgivings about this recent broadening of usage. For the Panelists, the acceptability of the verb empower depends on the context. Eighty percent approve of the example We want to empower ordinary citizens. But in contexts that are not political the Panel is markedly less enthusiastic. The sentence Hunger and greed and then sexual zeal are felt by some to be stages of experience that empower the individual garners approval from only 33 percent of the Panelists. The Panel may frown on this kind of psychological empowering because it resonates of the self-help movement, which is notorious for trendy coinages.


Usage Note: Sometimes people mistakenly use enervate to mean "to invigorate" or "to excite" by assuming that this word is a close cousin of the verb energize. In fact enervate does not come from the same source as energize (Greek energos, "active"). It comes from Latin nervus, "sinew." Thus enervate means "to cause to become 'out of muscle'," that is, "to weaken or deplete of strength."


Usage Note: Enormity is frequently used to refer simply to the property of being great in size or extent, but many would prefer that enormousness (or a synonym such as immensity) be used for this general sense and that enormity be limited to situations that demand a negative moral judgment, as in Not until the war ended and journalists were able to enter Cambodia did the world really become aware of the enormity of Pol Pot's oppression. Fifty-nine percent of the Usage Panel rejects the use of enormity as a synonym for immensity in the sentence At that point the engineers sat down to design an entirely new viaduct, apparently undaunted by the enormity of their task. This distinction between enormity and enormousness has not always existed historically, but nowadays many observe it. Writers who ignore the distinction, as in the enormity of the President's election victory or the enormity of her inheritance, may find that their words have cast unintended aspersions or evoked unexpected laughter.


Usage Note: The verb enthuse is not well accepted. Its use in the sentence The majority leader enthused over his party's gains was rejected by 76 percent of the Usage Panel in the late 1960s, and its status remains unfavorable: the same sentence was rejected by 65 percent of the Usage Panel in 1997. This lack of enthusiasm for enthuse is often attributed to its status as a back-formation; such words often meet with disapproval on their first appearance and only gradually become accepted over time. But other back-formations such as diagnose (a back-formation from diagnosis that was first recorded in 1861) and donate (first cited in 1785 as a back-formation from donation) are considered unimpeachable English words. Since enthuse dates from 1827, something more significant may be overriding the erosion of popular resistance. Unlike enthusiasm, which denotes an internal emotional state, enthuse denotes either the external expression of emotion, as in She enthused over attending the awards ceremony, or the inducement of enthusiasm by an external source, as in He was so enthused about the diet pills that he agreed to provide a testimonial. Possibly, some people's distaste for this emphasis on external emotional display and manipulation is the source of unease that is manifested by a distaste for the word itself. See Usage Note at intuit.


Usage Note: The word envelope was borrowed into English from French during the early 18th century, and the first syllable acquired the pronunciation (ŏn) as an approximation to the nasalized French pronunciation. Gradually the word has become anglicized further and is now most commonly pronounced (ĕn′və-lōp′). The earlier pronunciation is still considered acceptable, however. A recent survey reveals that the (ŏn′-) pronunciation for the word envelope is used by 30 percent of the Usage Panel and is recognized as an acceptable variant by about 20 percent of those Panelists who normally use the (ĕn′-) pronunciation. Other similar words borrowed from French in the modern period include envoy (17th century), encore, ennui, ensemble, entree (18th century), entourage, and entrepreneur (19th century). Most retain their pseudo-French pronunciations, with the exception of envoy, which, like envelope, is mainly pronounced with (ĕn) now.


Usage Note: Epicenter is properly a geological term identifying the point of the earth's surface directly above the focus of an earthquake. No doubt this is why the Usage Panel approves of figurative extensions of its use in dangerous, destructive, or negative contexts. Eighty-two percent of the Panel accepts the sentence If Rushdie were not at the terrifying epicenter of this furor, it is the sort of event he might write about. The Panel is less fond but still accepting of epicenter when it is used to refer to the focal point of neutral or positive events. Sixty-two percent approve of the sentence The indisputable epicenter of Cortina's social life is the Hotel de la Poste, located squarely in the village center.


Usage Note: Strictly speaking, an epithet need not be derogatory, but the term is commonly used as a simple synonym for term of abuse or slur, as in There is no place for racial epithets in a police officer's vocabulary. This usage is accepted by 80 percent of the Usage Panel.


Usage Note: It has been argued that equal is an absolute term—two quantities either are or are not equal—and hence cannot be qualified as to degree. Therefore one cannot logically speak of a more equal allocation of resources among the departments. However, this usage was accepted by 71 percent of the Usage Panel in an earlier survey. Objections to the more equal construction rest on the assumption that the mathematical notion of equality is appropriate to the description of a world where the equality of two quantities is often an approximate matter, and where statements of equality are always relative to an implicit standard of tolerance. When someone says The two boards are of equal length, we assume that the equality is reckoned to some order of approximation determined by the context; if we did not, we would be required always to use nearly equal when speaking of the dimensions of physical objects. What is more, we often speak of the equality of things that cannot be measured quantitatively, as when we say The college draft was introduced in an effort to make the teams in the National Football League as equal as possible, or The candidates for the job should all be given equal consideration. In all such cases equality is naturally a gradient notion and can be modified in degree. This much is evident from the existence of the word unequal, for the prefix un- attaches only to gradient adjectives. We say unmanly but not unmale; and the word uneven can be applied to a surface (whose evenness may be a matter of degree) but not to a number (whose evenness is an either/or affair).The adverb equally is generally regarded as redundant when used in combination with as. In an earlier survey, 63 percent of the Usage Panel found the following examples unacceptably redundant: Experience is equally as valuable as theory. Equally as important is the desire to learn. To eliminate the redundancy, equally should be deleted from the first example and as from the second. The solution to this usage problem usually involves using as alone when a comparison is explicit and equally alone when it is not. See Usage Notes at absolute, as1, center, perfect, unique.


Usage Note: The pronunciation (r) for the word err is traditional, but the pronunciation (ĕr) has gained ground in recent years, perhaps owing to influence from errant and error, and must now be regarded as an acceptable variant. The Usage Panel was split on the matter: 56 percent preferred (r), 34 percent preferred (ĕr), and 10 percent accepted both pronunciations.


Usage Note: Traditionally, escape is used with from when it means "break loose" and with a direct object when it means "avoid." Thus we might say The forger escaped from prison by hiding in a laundry truck, but The forger escaped prison when he turned in his accomplices in order to get a suspended sentence. In recent years, however, escape has been used with a direct object in the sense "break free of": The spacecraft will acquire sufficient velocity to escape the sun's gravitational attraction. This usage is well established and should be regarded as standard.


Usage Note: Eskimo has come under strong attack in recent years for its supposed offensiveness, and many Americans today either avoid this term or feel uneasy using it. It is widely known that Inuit, a term of ethnic pride, offers an acceptable alternative, but it is less well understood that Inuit cannot substitute for Eskimo in all cases, being restricted in usage to the Inuit-speaking peoples of Arctic Canada and parts of Greenland. In Alaska and Arctic Siberia, where Inuit is not spoken, the comparable terms are Inupiaq and Yupik, neither of which has gained as wide a currency in English as Inuit. While use of these terms is often preferable when speaking of the appropriate linguistic group, none of them can be used of the Eskimoan peoples as a whole; the only inclusive term remains Eskimo.The claim that Eskimo is offensive is based primarily on a popular but disputed etymology tracing its origin to an Abenaki word meaning "eaters of raw meat." Though modern linguists speculate that the term actually derives from a Montagnais word referring to the manner of lacing a snowshoe, the matter remains undecided, and meanwhile many English speakers have learned to perceive Eskimo as a derogatory term invented by unfriendly outsiders in scornful reference to their neighbors' unsophisticated eating habits. See Usage Note at Inuit.


Usage Note: Eurasian has been in use since the mid-19th century to refer to a person of mixed European and Asian birth. It was coined during the British rule over India and was long used primarily in designating a person born to a British father and an Indian mother. In a contemporary context Eurasian has a much wider application, denoting only that one parent is Asian and the other white—that is, either European or of European descent.The geographic sense of Eurasian is quite distinct, referring to the extended landmass of Europe and Asia and especially to the large indeterminate region where the two continents join. Peoples indigenous to this region can also be termed Eurasian, creating a potential ambiguity when referring to an individual as opposed to a group or culture. If the ambiguity is not resolved by context, it may be necessary to use a phrase such as a member of a Eurasian people or a person of European and Asian parentage for clarity. See Usage Note at Amerasian.


Usage Note: Every is representative of a large class of English words and expressions that are singular in form but felt to be plural in sense. The class includes, for example, noun phrases introduced by every, any, and certain uses of some. These expressions invariably take a singular verb; we say Every car has (not have) been tested. Anyone is (not are) liable to fall ill. But when a sentence contains a pronoun that refers to a previous noun phrase introduced by every, grammar and sense pull in different directions. The grammar of these expressions requires a singular pronoun, as in Every car must have its brakes tested, but the meaning often leads people to use the plural pronoun, as in Every car must have their brakes tested. The use of plural pronouns in such cases is common in speech, but it is still widely regarded as incorrect in writing.The effort to adhere to the grammatical rule causes complications, however. The first is grammatical. When a pronoun refers to a phrase containing every or any that falls within a different independent clause, the pronoun cannot be singular. Thus it is not idiomatic to say Every man left; he took his raincoat with him. Nor can one say No one could be seen, could he? Writers unwilling to use plural forms in these examples must find another way of expressing their meaning, either by rephrasing the sentence so as to get the pronoun into the same clause (as in Every man left, taking his raincoat with him) or by substituting another word for every or any (as in All the men left; they took their raincoats with them).The second complication is political. When a phrase introduced by every or any refers to a group containing both men and women, what should the gender of the singular pronoun be? This matter is discussed in the Usage Notes at he and they. See Usage Notes at all, any, each, either, he1, neither, none, they.


Usage Note: The forms everyplace (or every place), anyplace (or any place), someplace (or some place), and no place are widely used in speech and informal writing as equivalents for everywhere, anywhere, somewhere, and nowhere. These usages may be well established, but they are not normally used in formal writing. However, when the two-word expressions every place, any place, some place, and no place are used to mean "every (any, some, no) spot or location," they are entirely appropriate at all levels of style.


Usage Note: Except in the sense of "with the exclusion of" or "other than" is generally viewed as a preposition, not a conjunction. Therefore, a personal pronoun that follows except should be in the objective case: No one except me knew it. Everyone had a ticket except her.


Usage Note: Exceptionable and exceptional are not interchangeable. Only exceptionable means "objectionable" or "debatable"; exceptional means "uncommon" or "extraordinary."


Usage Note: Fact has a long history of usage in the sense "allegation of fact," as in "This tract was distributed to thousands of American teachers, but the facts and the reasoning are wrong" (Albert Shanker). This practice has led to the introduction of the phrases true facts and real facts, as in The true facts of the case may never be known. These usages may occasion qualms among critics who insist that facts can only be true, but the usages are often useful for emphasis.


Usage Note: The -oid suffix normally imparts the meaning "resembling, having the appearance of" to the words it attaches to. Thus the anthropoid apes are the apes that are most like humans (from Greek anthrōpos, "human being"). In some words -oid has a slightly extended meaning—"having characteristics of, but not the same as," as in humanoid, a being that has human characteristics but is not really human. Similarly, factoid originally referred to a piece of information that appears to be reliable or accurate, as from being repeated so often that people assume it is true. The word still has this meaning in standard usage. Seventy-three percent of the Usage Panel accepts it in the sentence It would be easy to condemn the book as a concession to the television age, as a McLuhanish melange of pictures and factoids which give the illusion of learning without the substance.Factoid has since developed a second meaning, that of a brief, somewhat interesting fact, that might better have been called a factette. The Panelists have less enthusiasm for this usage, however, perhaps because they believe it to be confusing. Only 43 percent of the panel accepts it in Each issue of the magazine begins with a list of factoids, like how many pounds of hamburger were consumed in Texas last month. Many Panelists prefer terms such as statistics, trivia, useless facts, and just plain facts in this sentence.


Usage Note: Since the Middle English period many writers have used farther and further interchangeably. According to a relatively recent rule, however, farther should be reserved for physical distance and further for nonphysical, metaphorical advancement. Thus 74 percent of the Usage Panel prefers farther in the sentence If you are planning to drive any farther than Ukiah, you'd better carry chains, and 64 percent prefers further in the sentence We won't be able to answer these questions until we are further along in our research. In many cases, however, the distinction is not easy to draw. If we speak of a statement that is far from the truth, for example, we should also allow the use of farther in a sentence such as Nothing could be farther from the truth. But Nothing could be further from the truth is so well established as to seem a fixed expression.


Usage Note: Although the variant pronunciation (fĕb′yo̅o̅-ĕr′ē) is often censured because it doesn't reflect the spelling of the word, it is quite common in educated speech and is generally considered acceptable. The loss of the first r in this pronunciation can be accounted for by the phonological process known as dissimilation, by which similar sounds in a word tend to become less similar. In the case of February, the loss of the first r is also owing to the influence of January, which has only one r.


Usage Note: The traditional rule holds that fewer should be used for things that can be counted (fewer than four players), while less should be used with mass terms for things of measurable extent (less paper; less than a gallon of paint). However, less is used in some constructions where fewer would occur if the traditional rule were being followed. Less than can be used before a plural noun that denotes a measure of time, amount, or distance: less than three weeks; less than $400; less than 50 miles. Less is sometimes used with plural nouns in the expressions no less than (as in No less than 30 of his colleagues signed the letter) and or less (as in Give your reasons in 25 words or less).


Usage Note: Once considered objectionable because of its association with the language of bureaucracy, finalize is steadily gaining acceptance. In the late 1960s, 90 percent of the Usage Panel found the example finalize plans for a class reunion unacceptable; in the late 1980s, 71 percent disapproved. By 1997, only 28 percent of the Usage Panel found it unacceptable in the sentence We will send you more information once we finalize plans for the reunion. Although substitutes for finalize can be found among complete, conclude, make final, and put into final form, none of these is an exact synonym. This may be why resistance to finalize is eroding. See Usage Note at prioritize.

First Nation

Usage Note: First Nation has gained wide acceptance in Canada since the early 1980s. Like Native American (which has little currency in Canada), First Nation provides a respectful alternative to Indian, a term that is more likely to be taken as directly offensive in Canada than it is in the United States. However, there are several differences between the Canadian and American expressions. First Nation is essentially a political term, promoted from within the indigenous community as a substitute for band in referring to any of the numerous aboriginal groups formally recognized by the Canadian government under the federal Indian Act of 1876. Unlike Native American, it is not a comprehensive term for all indigenous peoples of the Americas or even of Canada, and while it is often used loosely in referring to Indian groups or communities other than those specified in the 1876 Act, it specifically does not include non-Indian peoples such as the Inuit or the Mtis. Although each recognized band or community is a First Nation, the term is more commonly used in the plural with a general collective sense, as in a history of the First Nations in eastern Canada or a program designed for First Nations youth. There is no related form for an individual who is a member of a First Nation; officially, such a person is known as a status Indian.


Usage Note: It is well established that either first or firstly can be used to begin an enumeration: Our objectives are, firstfirstlyto recover from last year's slump. Any succeeding items should be introduced by words parallel to the form that is chosen, as in first . . . second . . . third or firstly . . . secondly . . . thirdly.


Usage Note: Historically, flammable and inflammable mean the same thing. However, the presence of the prefix in- has misled many people into assuming that inflammable means "not flammable" or "noncombustible." The prefix -in in inflammable is not, however, the Latin negative prefix -in, which is related to the English -un and appears in such words as indecent and inglorious. Rather, this -in is an intensive prefix derived from the Latin preposition in. This prefix also appears in the word enflame. But many people are not aware of this derivation, and for clarity's sake it is advisable to use only flammable to give warnings.


Usage Note: Flaunt as a transitive verb means "to exhibit ostentatiously": She flaunted her wealth. To flout is "to show contempt for": She flouted the proprieties. For some time now flaunt has been used in the sense "to show contempt for," even by educated users of English. This usage is still widely seen as erroneous and is best avoided.


Usage Note: In maritime law, flotsam applies to wreckage or cargo left floating on the sea after a shipwreck. Jetsam applies to cargo or equipment thrown overboard from a ship in distress and either sunk or washed ashore. The common phrase flotsam and jetsam is now used loosely to describe any objects found floating or washed ashore.


Usage Note: As follows (not as follow) is the established form of the idiom regardless of whether the noun that precedes it is singular or plural: The regulations are as follows.


Usage Note: In Standard English, foot and feet have their own rules when they are used in combination with numbers to form expressions for units of measure: a four-foot plank, but not a four feet plank; also correct is a plank four feet long (or, less frequently, four foot long). When foot is combined with numbers greater than one to refer to simple distance, however, only the plural feet is used: a ledge 20 feet (not foot) away. At that speed, a car moves 88 feet (not foot) in a second.


Usage Note: The word foregone has recently developed a new meaning as a truncation of the phrase a foregone conclusion, as in It is by no means foregone that the team will relocate to Baltimore next season. But the usage has not gained broad acceptance; over 80 percent of Usage Panelists disapprove of this use of foregone.


Usage Note: Grammarians have often insisted that the phrases the former and the latter should be used only to refer to the first of two things and the second of two things, respectively, as in Ernest L. Thayer's "Casey at the Bat": "But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake, and the former was a lulu and the latter was a fake." It is easy to find violations of this rule in the works of good writers; nonetheless, many readers feel uneasy when the words are used in enumerations of more than two things, just as they would feel uneasy over the similar incorrect use of a comparative in a sentence such as Her boys are 7, 9, and 13; only the younger was born in California.


Usage Note: Traditionally formidable has been pronounced with stress on the first syllable, but recently the pronunciation with stress on the second syllable, which is a common variant in British English, appears to be on the rise in American English. The traditional pronunciation is apparently still preferred by a large majority of educated speakers, however. A recent survey shows that 80 percent of the Usage Panel use the pronunciation (fr′mĭ-də-bəl), while 14 percent use (fr-mĭd′ə-bəl). A few Panelists approved both pronunciations.


Usage Note: The word forte, coming from French fort, should properly be pronounced with one syllable, like the English word fort. Common usage, however, prefers the two-syllable pronunciation, (fr′tā′), which has been influenced possibly by the music term forte borrowed from Italian. In a recent survey a strong majority of the Usage Panel, 74 percent, preferred the two-syllable pronunciation. The result is a delicate situation; speakers who are aware of the origin of the word may wish to continue to pronounce it as one syllable but at an increasing risk of puzzling their listeners.


Usage Note: In its best-established sense, fortuitous means "happening by accident or chance." Thus, a fortuitous meeting may have either fortunate or unfortunate consequences. For decades, however, the word has often been used in reference to happy accidents, as in The company's profits were enhanced as the result of a fortuitous drop in the cost of paper. This use may have arisen because fortuitous resembles both fortunate and felicitous. Whatever its origin, the use is well established in the writing of reputable authors.The additional use of fortuitous to mean "lucky or fortunate" is more controversial, as in He came to the Giants in June as the result of a fortuitous trade that sent two players back to the Reds. This use dates back at least to the 1920s, when H.W. Fowler labeled it a malapropism, but it is still widely regarded as incorrect.


Usage Note: The verbs founder and flounder are often confused. Founder comes from a Latin word meaning "bottom" (as in foundation) and originally referred to knocking enemies down; it is now also used to mean "to fail utterly, collapse." Flounder means "to move clumsily, thrash about," and hence "to proceed in confusion." If John is foundering in Chemistry 1, he had better drop the course; if he is floundering, he may yet pull through.


Usage Note: Fulsome is often used to mean "offensively flattering or insincere." But the word is also used, particularly in the expression fulsome praise, to mean simply "abundant," without any implication of excess or insincerity. This usage is etymologically justified but may invite misunderstandings in contexts in which a deprecatory interpretation could be made. The sentence I offer you my most fulsome apologies may raise an eyebrow, where the use of an adjective like full or abundant would leave no room for doubt as to the sincerity of the speaker's intentions.


Usage Note: The use of fun as an attributive adjective, as in a fun time, a fun place, probably originated in a playful reanalysis of the use of the word in sentences such as It is fun to ski, where fun has the syntactic function of adjectives such as amusing or enjoyable. The usage became popular in the 1950s and 1960s, though there is some evidence to suggest that it has 19th-century antecedents, but it can still raise eyebrows among traditionalists. The day may come when this usage is entirely unremarkable, but writers may want to avoid it in more formal contexts.


Usage Note: Critics familiar with the nature of chess gambits have sometimes maintained that the word should not be used in an extended sense except to refer to maneuvers that involve a tactical sacrifice or loss for some advantage. But gambit is well established in the general sense of "maneuver" and in the related sense of "a remark intended to open a conversation," which usually carries no implication of sacrifice.


Usage Note: The word gay is now standard in its use to refer to people whose orientation is to the same sex, in large part because it is the term that most gay people prefer in referring to themselves. Gay is distinguished from homosexual primarily by the emphasis it places on the cultural and social aspects of homosexuality as opposed to sexual practice. Many writers reserve gay for males, but the word is also used to refer to both sexes; when the intended meaning is not clear in the context, the phrase gay and lesbian may be used. Gay is often considered objectionable when used as a noun to refer to particular individuals, as in There were two gays on the panel; here phrasing such as Two members of the panel were gay should be used instead. But there is no objection to the use of the noun in the plural to refer collectively either to gay men or to gay men and lesbians, so long as it is clear whether men alone or both men and women are being discussed. See Usage Note at homosexual.


Usage Note: Traditionally, gender has been used primarily to refer to the grammatical categories of "masculine," "feminine," and "neuter," but in recent years the word has become well established in its use to refer to sex-based categories, as in phrases such as gender gap and the politics of gender. This usage is supported by the practice of many anthropologists, who reserve sex for reference to biological categories, while using gender to refer to social or cultural categories. According to this rule, one would say The effectiveness of the medication appears to depend on the sexgenderof the patient, but In peasant societies, gendersexroles are likely to be more clearly defined. This distinction is useful in principle, but it is by no means widely observed, and considerable variation in usage occurs at all levels.

General American

Usage Note: The label General American is often used to describe a variety of speech that lacks any of the stereotypical markers of regional speech or of the speech of particular social groups, as in the omission of the (r) sound in words like car and card. It should be noted, however, that this label still permits a great deal of regional and social variation. In other words, General American should not be identified with any specific American accent.


Usage Note: The use of get in the passive, as in We got sunburned at the beach, is generally avoided in formal writing. In less formal contexts, however, the construction can provide a useful difference in tone or emphasis, as between the sentences The demonstrators were arrested and The demonstrators got arrested. The first example implies that the responsibility for the arrests rests primarily with the police, while the example using get implies that the demonstrators deliberately provoked the arrests.In colloquial use and in numerous nonstandard varieties of American English, the past tense form got has the meaning of the present. This arose probably by dropping the helping verb have from the past perfects have got, has got: We've got to go, we've got a lot of problems became We got to go, we got a lot of problems. The reanalysis of got as a present-tense form has led to the creation of a third singular gots in some varieties of English, especially African American Vernacular English.


Usage Note: Many words, such as honor, vapor, and labor, are usually spelled with an -or ending in American English but with an -our ending in British English. The preferred spelling of glamour, however, is -our, making it an exception to the usual American practice. The adjective is more often spelled glamorous in both American and British usage.


Usage Note: Good is properly used as an adjective with linking verbs such as be, seem, or appear: The future looks good. The soup tastes good. It should not be used as an adverb with other verbs: The car runs well (not good). Thus, The dress fits well and looks good. See Usage Note at well2.


Usage Note: A gourmet is a person with discriminating taste in food and wine, as is a gourmand. Because gourmand can also mean "one who enjoys food in great quantities" or even "a gluttonous eater," care should be taken to make clear its intended sense. An epicure is much the same as a gourmet, but the word may sometimes carry overtones of excessive refinement. This use of epicure is a misrepresentation of Epicurean philosophy, which, while it professed that pleasure was the highest good, was hardly given to excessive concern with food and drink.


Usage Note: In American usage government always takes a singular verb. In British usage government, in the sense of a governing group of officials, takes a plural verb: The government are determined to follow this course. See Usage Note at collective noun.


Usage Note: The verb graduate has denoted the action of conferring an academic degree or diploma since at least 1421. Accordingly, the action of receiving a degree should be expressed in the passive, as in She was graduated from Yale in 1998. This use is still current, if old-fashioned, and is acceptable to 78 percent of the Usage Panel. In general usage, however, it has largely yielded to the much more recent active pattern (first attested in 1807): She graduated from Yale in 1998. Eighty-nine percent of the Panel accepts this use. It has the advantage of ascribing the accomplishment to the student, rather than to the institution, which is usually appropriate in discussions of individual students. When the institution's responsibility is emphasized, however, the older pattern may still be recommended. A sentence such as The university graduated more computer science majors in 1997 than in the entire previous decade stresses the university's accomplishment, say, of its computer science program. On the other hand, the sentence More computer science majors graduated in 1997 than in the entire previous decade implies that the class of 1997 was in some way a remarkable group.The Usage Panel feels quite differently about the use of graduate to mean "to receive a degree from," as in She graduated Yale in 1998. Seventy-seven percent object to this usage.


Usage Note: The word graffiti is a plural noun in Italian. In English graffiti is far more common than the singular form graffito and is mainly used as a singular noun in much the same way data is. When the reference is to a particular inscription (as in There was a bold graffiti on the wall), the form graffito would be etymologically correct but might strike some readers as pedantic outside an archaeological context. There is no substitute for the singular use of graffiti when the word is used as a mass noun to refer to inscriptions in general or to the related social phenomenon. The sentence Graffiti is a major problem for the Transit Authority Police cannot be reworded Graffito is ... (since graffito can refer only to a particular inscription) or Graffiti are ... (which suggests that the police problem involves only the physical marks and not the larger issue of vandalism). In such contexts, the use of graffiti as a singular is justified by both utility and widespread precedent.


Usage Note: Traditionally, the transitive verb grieve, meaning "to cause to be sorrowful; distress," has taken as its direct object the person who is sorrowful or distressed, as in It grieves me to see so many homeless in the city. In addition to this use of the word, a newer syntactic pattern has developed, in which the direct object refers to that which causes one sorrow or distress. Sixty-two percent of the Usage Panel approves of this use, as in She took a week off to attend her father's funeral and grieve his loss. The Panel, however, largely frowns upon extending the semantic domain of the transitive verb grieve to mean "to file a formal or an official grievance." Only 14 percent approves of its use in a context in which a coach who was asked to resign had grieved his dismissal. This strong reaction may be due to the discomfort of extending a solemn, mournful term into less somber situations; however, this sense is useful in the context of union-management labor relations.


Usage Note: Group as a collective noun can be followed by a singular or plural verb. It takes a singular verb when the persons or things that make up the group are considered collectively: The dance group is ready for rehearsal. Group takes a plural verb when the persons or things that constitute it are considered individually: The group were divided in their sympathies. See Usage Note at collective noun.


Usage Note: Grow has been used since medieval times as an intransitive verb, as in Our business has been growing steadily for 10 years. It has been used with an object since the 18th century, meaning "to produce or cultivate," as in We grow corn in our garden. But the transitive use applied to business and nonliving things is quite new. It came into full bloom during the 1992 presidential election, when nearly all the candidates were concerned with "growing the economy." The Usage Panel is decidedly less fond of this development than business leaders and politicans are. Eighty percent of the Panel rejects the phrase grow our business. The Panel is more accepting of, though not enthusiastic about, the phrase grow our way, perhaps because of way's established use in expressions like make our way and find our way: 48 percent accept We've got to grow our way out of this recession. The Panel has no affection for the odd but occasionally heard phrase grow down: 98 percent reject If elected, I shall do my utmost to grow down the deficit.


Usage Note: Although handicapped is widely used in both law and everyday speech to refer to people having physical or mental disabilities, those described by the word tend to prefer the expressions disabled or people with disabilities. Handicapped, a somewhat euphemistic term, may imply a helplessness that is not suggested by the more forthright disabled. It is also felt that some stigma may attach to the word handicapped because of its origin in the phrase hand in cap, actually derived from a game of chance but sometimes mistakenly believed to involve the image of a beggar. The word handicapped is best reserved to describe a disabled person who is unable to function owing to some property of the environment. Thus people with a physical disability requiring a wheelchair may or may not be handicapped, depending on whether wheelchair ramps are made available to them. See Usage Note at disabled.


Usage Note: Hanged, as a past tense and a past participle of hang, is used in the sense of "to put to death by hanging," as in Frontier courts hanged many a prisoner after a summary trial. A majority of the Usage Panel objects to hung used in this sense. In all other senses of the word, hung is the preferred form as past tense and past participle, as in I hung my child's picture above my desk.


Usage Note: Educated usage appears to be evenly divided on the pronunciation of harass. In our 1987 survey 50 percent of the Usage Panel preferred stressing the first syllable, while 50 percent preferred stressing the second. Curiously, the Panelists' comments appear to indicate that each side regards itself as an embattled minority.


Usage Note: In Standard English, hardly, scarcely, and similar adverbs cannot be used with a negative. The sentence I couldn't hardly see him, for instance, is not acceptable. This violation of the double negative rule is curious because these adverbs are not truly negative in meaning. The sentence Mary hardly laughed means that Mary did laugh a little, not that she kept from laughing altogether, and therefore does not express a negative proposition. But adverbs like hardly and scarcely do share some important features of negative adverbs, even though they may not have purely negative meaning. For one thing, they combine with any and at all, which are characteristically associated with negative contexts. Thus we say I hardly saw him at all or I never saw him at all but not I occasionally saw him at all. Similiarly, we say I hardly had any time or I didn't have any time but not I had any time and so on. Like other negative adverbs, hardly triggers inversion of the subject and auxiliary verb when it begins a sentence. Thus we say Hardly had I arrived when she left on the pattern of Never have I read such a book or At no time has he condemned the movement. Other adverbs do not cause this kind of inversion. We would not say Occasionally has he addressed this question or To a slight degree have they changed their position. The fact is that adverbs such as hardly can be said to have a negative meaning in that they minimize the state or event they describe. Thus hardly means "almost not at all"; rarely means "practically never"; and so forth. This is why they cannot be used with another negative such as not or none. See Usage Notes at double negative, rarely, scarcely.


Usage Note: The first use of harebrained dates to 1548. The spelling hairbrained also has a long history, going back to the 1500s when hair was a variant spelling of hare. The hair variant was preserved in Scotland into the 18th century, and as a result it is impossible to tell exactly when people began writing hairbrained in the belief that the word means "having a hair-sized brain" rather than "with no more sense than a hare." While hairbrained continues to be used and confused, it should be avoided in favor of harebrained which has been established as the correct spelling.


Usage Note: The idioms had better and had best resemble an auxiliary verb in that their form never changes to show person or tense and that they cannot follow another verb in a phrase. In informal speech, people tend to omit had, especially with had better, as in You better do it. In formal contexts and in writing, however, had or its contraction must be preserved: You had better do it or You'd better do it. See Usage Note at rather.


Usage Note: Traditionally the pronouns he, him, and his have been used as generic or gender-neutral singular pronouns, as in A novelist should write about what he knows best and No one seems to take any pride in his work anymore. Since the early 20th century, however, this usage has come under increasing criticism for reflecting and perpetuating gender stereotyping.?・?Defenders of the traditional usage have argued that the masculine pronouns he, his, and him can be used generically to refer to men and women. This analysis of the generic use of he is linguistically doubtful. If he were truly a gender-neutral form, we would expect that it could be used to refer to the members of any group containing both men and women. But in fact the English masculine form is an odd choice when it refers to a female member of such a group. There is something plainly disconcerting about sentences such as Each of the stars ofwon an Academy Award for his performance. In this case, the use of his forces the reader to envision a single male who stands as the representative member of the group, a picture that is at odds with the image that comes to mind when we picture the stars of As Good As It Gets. Thus he is not really a gender-neutral pronoun; rather, it refers to a male who is to be taken as the representative member of the group referred to by its antecedent. The traditional usage, then, is not simply a grammatical convention; it also suggests a particular pattern of thought.?・?It is clear that many people now routinely construct their remarks to avoid generic he, usually using one of two strategies: changing to the plural, so they is used (which is often the easiest solution) or using compound and coordinate forms such as he/she or he or she (which can be cumbersome in sustained use). In some cases, the generic pronoun can simply be dropped or changed to an article with no change in meaning. The sentence A writer who draws on personal experience for material should not be surprised if reviewers seize on that fact is complete as it stands and requires no pronoun before the word material. The sentence Every student handed in his assignment is just as clear when written Every student handed in the assignment.?・?Not surprisingly, the opinion of the Usage Panel in such matters is mixed. While 37 percent actually prefer the generic his in the sentence A taxpayer who fails to disclose the source of ______ income can be prosecuted under the new law, 46 percent prefer a coordinate form like his or her; 7 percent felt that no pronoun was needed in the sentence; 2 percent preferred an article, usually the; and another 2 percent overturned tradition by advocating the use of generic her, a strategy that brings the politics of language to the reader's notice. Thus a clear majority of the Panel prefers something other than his. The writer who chooses to use generic he and its inflected forms in the face of the strong trend away from that usage may be viewed as deliberately calling attention to traditional gender roles or may simply appear to be insensitive. See Usage Notes at each, every, neither, one, she, they.


Usage Note: The verb headquarter occurs in both transitive and intransitive senses: The magazine has headquartered the reporter in a building that houses many foreign journalists. The European correspondent will headquarter in Paris. In an earlier survey a majority of the Usage Panel found both these examples to be unacceptable in formal writing. Although ample citational evidence exists for these usages, writers who wish to avoid criticism should consider the use of alternative expressions, for example: The magazine has just assigned the reporter tohas stationed the reporter ina building that houses many foreign journalists. The European correspondent will make her headquarters in Pariswill make Paris her headquarters


Usage Note: The noun headquarters is used with either a singular or a plural verb. The plural is more common: The corporation's headquarters are in Boston. But when reference is to authority rather than to physical location, many people prefer the singular: Division headquarters has approved the new benefits package.


Usage Note: The distinction in meaning between healthy ("possessing good health") and healthful ("conducive to good health") was ascribed to the two terms only as late as the 1880s. This distinction, though tenaciously supported by some critics, is belied by citational evidence—healthy has been used to mean "healthful" since the 16th century. Use of healthy in this sense is to be found in the works of many distinguished writers, with this example from John Locke being typical: "Gardening . . . and working in wood, are fit and healthy recreations for a man of study or business." Therefore, both healthy and healthful are correct in these contexts: a healthy climate, a healthful climate; a healthful diet, a healthy diet.


Usage Note: Hegemony may be stressed on either the first or second syllable, though the pronunciation with stress on the second syllable may be winning out. Seventy-two percent of the Usage Panel prefers it.


Usage Note: The pronunciation of height with a final (th), (hīth), which is rarely heard now, reflects the original spelling and pronunciation of the word in Old English. During the Middle English period, the (th) varied with (t), with the final (t) predominating after the 15th century. Another pronunciation, with a (th) sound coming after (t), (hītth), is often heard, but it is generally regarded as nonstandard. In a recent survey, 90 percent of the Usage Panel disapproved of this pronunciation, which probably came about by association with width, breadth, and length.


Usage Note: Many people commonly use help in the sense conveyed in the sentence Don't change it any more than you can help (that is, "any more than you have to"). Some grammarians condemn this usage on the grounds that help in this sense means "avoid" and therefore logically requires a negative. But the expression is a well-established idiom. See Usage Note at cannot.


Usage Note: The word herb, which can be pronounced with or without the (h), is one of a number of words borrowed into English from French. The (h) sound had been lost in Latin and was not pronounced in French or the other Romance languages, which are descended from Latin, although it was retained in the spelling of some words. In both Old and Middle English, however, h was generally pronounced, as in the native English words happy and hot. Through the influence of spelling, then, the h came to be pronounced in most words borrowed from French, such as haste and hostel. In a few other words borrowed from French the h has remained silent, as in honor, honest, hour, and heir. And in another small group of French loan words, including herb, humble, human, and humor, the h may or may not be pronounced depending on the dialect of English. In British English, herb and its derivatives, such as herbaceous, herbal, herbicide, and herbivore, are pronounced with h. In American English, herb and herbal are more often pronounced without the h, while the opposite is true of herbaceous, herbicide, and herbivore, which are more often pronounced with the h.


Usage Note: Many writers now consider hero, long restricted to men in the sense "a person noted for courageous action," to be a gender-neutral term. It is used to refer to admired women as well as men in respected publications, as in this quotation from The Washington Post: "Already a national hero in her economically troubled South Korea, . . . [Se Ri] Pak is packing galleries at [golf] tournaments stateside." The word heroine is still useful, however, in referring to the principal female character of a fictional work: Jane Eyre is a well-known literary heroine. Ninety-four percent of Usage Panelists accept this usage.


Usage Note: Though often used interchangeably in American English, Hispanic and Latino are not identical terms, and in certain contexts the choice between them can be significant. Hispanic, from the Latin word for "Spain," has the broader reference, potentially encompassing all Spanish-speaking peoples in both hemispheres and emphasizing the common denominator of language among communities that sometimes have little else in common. Latino—which in Spanish means "Latin" but which as an English word is probably a shortening of the Spanish word latinoamericano—refers more exclusively to persons or communities of Latin American origin. Of the two, only Hispanic can be used in referring to Spain and its history and culture; a native of Spain residing in the United States is a Hispanic, not a Latino, and one cannot substitute Latino in the phrase the Hispanic influence on native Mexican cultures without garbling the meaning. In practice, however, this distinction is of little significance when referring to residents of the United States, most of whom are of Latin American origin and can theoretically be called by either word.A more important distinction concerns the sociopolitical rift that has opened between Latino and Hispanic in American usage. For a certain segment of the Spanish-speaking population, Latino is a term of ethnic pride and Hispanic a label that borders on the offensive. According to this view, Hispanic lacks the authenticity and cultural resonance of Latino, with its Spanish sound and its ability to show the feminine form Latina when used of women. Furthermore, Hispanic—the term used by the U.S. Census Bureau and other government agencies—is said to bear the stamp of an Anglo establishment far removed from the concerns of the Spanish-speaking community. While these views are strongly held by some, they are by no means universal, and the division in usage seems as related to geography as it is to politics, with Latino widely preferred in California and Hispanic the more usual term in Florida and Texas. Even in these regions, however, usage is often mixed, and it is not uncommon to find both terms used by the same writer or speaker. See Usage Note at Chicano.


Usage Note: Historic and historical have different usages, though their senses overlap. Historic refers to what is important in history: the historic first voyage to the moon. It is also used of what is famous or interesting because of its association with persons or events in history: a historic house. Historical refers to whatever existed in the past, whether regarded as important or not: a minor historical character. Historical also refers to anything concerned with history or the study of the past: a historical novel; historical discoveries. While these distinctions are useful, these words are often used interchangeably, as in historic times or historical times.

hoi polloi

Usage Note: Hoi polloi is a borrowing of the Greek phrase hoi polloi, consisting of hoi, meaning "the" and used before a plural, and polloi, the plural of polus, "many." In Greek hoi polloi had a special sense, "the greater number, the people, the commonalty, the masses." This phrase has generally expressed this meaning in English since its first recorded instance, in an 1837 work by James Fenimore Cooper. Hoi polloi is sometimes incorrectly used to mean "the elite," possibly because it is reminiscent of high and mighty or because it sounds like hoity-toity.Since the Greek phrase includes an article, some critics have argued that the phrase the hoi polloi is redundant. But phrases borrowed from other languages are often reanalyzed in English as single words. For example, a number of Arabic noun phrases were borrowed into English as simple nouns. The Arabic element al- means "the," and appears in English nouns such as alcohol and alchemy. Thus, since no one would consider a phrase such as "the alcohol" to be redundant, criticizing the hoi polloi on similar grounds seems pedantic.


Usage Note: Holocaust has a secure place in the language when it refers to the massive destruction of humans by other humans. Ninety-nine percent of the Usage Panel accepts the use of holocaust in the phrase nuclear holocaust. Sixty percent of the Panel accepts the sentence As many as two million people may have died in the holocaust that followed the Khmer Rouge takeover in Cambodia. But because of its associations with genocide, people may object to extended applications of holocaust. When the word is used to refer to death brought about by natural causes, the percentage of the Panel accepting drops sharply. Only 31 percent of the Panel approves the sentence In East Africa five years of drought have brought about a holocaust in which millions have died. In a 1987 survey, just 11 percent approved the use of holocaust to summarize the effects of the AIDS epidemic. This suggests that other figurative usages such as the huge losses in the Savings and Loan holocaust may be viewed as overblown or in poor taste.When capitalized Holocaust refers specifically to the destruction of Jews and other Europeans by the Nazis and may also encompass the Nazi persecution of Jews that preceded the outbreak of the war.
Word History: Totality of destruction has been central to the meaning of holocaust since it first appeared in Middle English in the 14th century, used in reference to the biblical sacrifice in which a male animal was wholly burnt on the altar in worship of God. Holocaust comes from Greek holokauston ("that which is completely burnt"), which was a translation of Hebrew 'ōl (literally "that which goes up," that is, in smoke). In this sense of "burnt sacrifice," holocaust is still used in some versions of the Bible. In the 17th century the meaning of holocaust broadened to "something totally consumed by fire," and the word eventually was applied to fires of extreme destructiveness. In the 20th century holocaust has taken on a variety of figurative meanings, summarizing the effects of war, rioting, storms, epidemic diseases, and even economic failures. Most of these usages arose after World War II, but it is unclear whether they permitted or resulted from the use of holocaust in reference to the mass murder of European Jews and others by the Nazis. This application of the word occurred as early as 1942, but the phrase the Holocaust did not become established until the late 1950s. Here it parallels and may have been influenced by another Hebrew word, š' ("catastrophe," in English, Shoah). In the Bible š' has a range of meanings including "personal ruin or devastation" and "a wasteland or desert." Š' was first used to refer to the Nazi slaughter of Jews in 1939, but the phrase haš-š' ("the catastrophe") became established only after World War II. Holocaust has also been used to translate ḥurbān ("destruction"), another Hebrew word used to summarize the genocide of Jews by the Nazis.


Usage Note: Many people now avoid using homosexual because of the emphasis this term places on sexuality. Indeed, the words gay and lesbian, which stress cultural and social matters over sex, are frequently better choices. Homosexual is most objectionable when used as a noun; here gay man and gay woman or lesbian and their plural forms are called for. It is generally unobjectionable when used adjectivally, as in a homosexual relationship, although gay, lesbian, or same-sex are also available for adjectival use. See Usage Note at gay.


Usage Note: Writers who use hopefully as a sentence adverb, as in Hopefully the measures will be adopted, should be aware that the usage is unacceptable to many critics, including a large majority of the Usage Panel. It is not easy to explain why critics dislike this use of hopefully. The use is justified by analogy to similar uses of many other adverbs, as in Mercifully, the play was brief or Frankly, I have no use for your friend. And though this use of hopefully may have been a vogue word when it first gained currency back in the early 1960s, it has long since lost any hint of jargon or pretentiousness for the general reader. The wide acceptance of the usage reflects popular recognition of its usefulness; there is no precise substitute. Someone who says Hopefully, the treaty will be ratified makes a hopeful prediction about the fate of the treaty, whereas someone who says I hopeWe hopeIt is hoped the treaty will be ratified expresses a bald statement about what is desired. Only the latter could be continued with a clause such as but it isn't likely.It might have been expected, then, that the initial flurry of objections to hopefully would have subsided once the usage became well established. Instead, critics appear to have become more adamant in their opposition. In the 1969 Usage Panel survey, 44 percent of the Panel approved the usage, but this dropped to 27 percent in our 1986 survey. (By contrast, 60 percent in the latter survey accepted the comparable use of mercifully in the sentence Mercifully, the game ended before the opponents could add another touchdown to the lopsided score.) It is not the use of sentence adverbs per se that bothers the Panel; rather, the specific use of hopefully in this way has become a shibboleth.


Usage Note: Host was used as a verb in Shakespeare's time, but this usage was long obsolete when the verb was reintroduced (or perhaps reinvented) in recent years to mean "perform the role of a host." The usage occurs particularly in contexts relating to institutional gatherings or television and radio shows, where the person performing the role of host has not personally invited the guests. Perhaps because the verb involves a suspect extension of the traditional conception of hospitality, it initially met with critical resistance. In a 1968 survey only 18 percent of the Usage Panel accepted the usage in the sentence The Cleveland chapter will host this year's convention. Over time, however, the usage has become increasingly well established and has the useful purpose of describing the activities of one who performs the ceremonial or practical role of a host, as in arranging a conference or welcoming guests. In our 1986 survey, 53 percent of the Panelists accepted the usage in the phrase a reception hosted by the Secretary of State. The verb is less well accepted when it is used to describe the role of a performer who acts as a master of ceremonies for a broadcast or film, where the relation of the word to the notion of "hospitality" is stretched still further.


Usage Note: Although some grammarians have insisted that however should not be used to begin a sentence, this rule has been ignored by a number of reputable writers. Forty-two percent of Usage Panelists say they do not follow the rule in their own writing, 19 percent say they observe it only sometimes, and 36 percent say they usually observe it. See Usage Notes at but, whatever.


Usage Note: Naturalized immigrants to the United States and their descendants have sometimes been termed hyphenated Americans in reference to the tendency to hyphenate such ethnic compounds as Irish-American and Polish-American. This term has come under strong criticism as suggesting that those so designated are not as fully American as "unhyphenated" citizens, and it is best avoided in all but historical contexts.


Usage Note: The question of when to use nominative forms of the personal pronouns (for example, I, she, they) and when to use objective forms (for example, me, her, them) has always created controversy among grammarians and uncertainty among speakers and writers. There is no problem when the pronoun stands alone with a single verb or preposition: every native speaker says I (not me) read the book; They told him (not he); The company bought a computer for us (not we); and so forth. But the decision is more problematic in other environments.When pronouns are joined with other nouns or pronouns by and or or, there is a widespread tendency to use the objective form even when the phrase is the subject of the sentence: Tom and her are not speaking to each other. This usage is natural in colloquial speech, but the nominative forms should be used in formal speech and writing: John and she (not her) will be giving the talk.When pronouns joined by a conjunction occur as the object of a preposition such as between, according to, or like, many people use the nominative form where the traditional grammatical rule would require the objective; they say between you and I rather than between you and me, and so forth. Many critics have seen this construction as originating in a hypercorrection, whereby speakers who have been taught to say It is I instead of It is me come further to assume that correctness also requires between you and I in place of between you and me. This explanation of the tendency cannot be the whole story, inasmuch as the phrase between you and I occurs in Shakespeare, centuries before the prescriptive rules requiring It is I and the like were formulated. But the between you and I construction is nonetheless widely regarded as a marker of grammatical ignorance and is best avoided.In other contexts the traditional insistence that the nominative form be used is more difficult to defend. The objective form sounds most natural when the pronoun is not grammatically related to an accompanying verb or preposition. Thus, in response to the question "Who cut down the cherry tree?" we more colloquially say "Me," even though some grammarians have argued that I must be correct here by analogy to the form "I did"; and few speakers would accept that the sentence What, me worry? is improved if it is changed to What, I worry? The prescriptive insistence that the nominative be used in such a construction is grammatically questionable and is apt to lead to almost comical pedantries.There is also a widespread tendency to use the objective form when a pronoun is used as a subject together with a noun in apposition, as in Us engineers were left without technical support. In formal speech or writing the nominative we would be preferable here. But when the pronoun itself appears in apposition to a subject noun phrase, the use of the nominative form may sound pedantic in a sentence such as The remaining members of the admissions committee, namely we, will have to meet next week. A writer who is uncomfortable about using the objective us here would be best advised to rewrite the sentence to avoid the difficulty. See Usage Notes at be, but, we.


Usage Note: Some authorities on usage specify with as the preferred preposition after identical, but either with or to is acceptable.


Usage Note: In the sense "to associate or affiliate (oneself) closely with a person or group," identify suggests a psychological empathy with the feelings or experiences of another person, as in Most young readers of will readily identifyidentify themselveswith Holden Caulfield. This usage derives originally from psychoanalytic writing, where it has a specific technical meaning, but like other terms from that field, it was widely regarded as jargon when introduced into wider use. In particular, some critics seized on the fact that in this sense the verb was often used intransitively, with no reflexive pronoun. In recent years, however, this use of identify with without the reflexive has become standard and may have become even more conventional than the reflexive construction. Eighty-two percent of the Usage Panel accepts the sentence I find it hard to identify with any of his characters, whereas only 63 percent now accepts this same usage when the reflexive pronoun is used, as in I find it hard to identify myself with any of his characters.


Usage Note: In informal writing both if and whether are standard in their use to introduce a clause indicating uncertainty after a verb such as ask, doubt, know, learn, or see: We shall soon learn whetherifit is true. In such contexts, however, the use of if can sometimes create ambiguities. Depending on the intended meaning, the sentence Let her know if she is invited might be better paraphrased as Let her know whether she is invited or If she is invited, let her know.?・?In conditional sentences the clause introduced by if may contain either a past subjunctive verb (if I were going) or an indicative verb (if I am going; if I was going), depending on the intended meaning. According to the traditional rule, the subjunctive should be used to describe an occurrence that is presupposed to be contrary to fact, as in if I were ten years younger or if Napoleon had won at Waterloo. The main verb of such a sentence must then contain the modal verb would or (less frequently) should: If America were still a British colony, we would have an anthem that human voices could sing. If I were the President, I shouldwoulddeclare November 1 a national holiday. When the situation described by the if clause is not presupposed to be false, however, that clause must contain an indicative verb, and the choice of verb in the main clause will depend on the intended meaning: If was really written by Marlowe, as many have argued, then we have underestimated Marlowe's genius. If Kevin was out all day, then it makes sense that he couldn't answer the phone. Note also that the presence of the modal verb would in the main clause should not be taken as a sign that the verb in the if clause must be in the subjunctive, if the content of that clause is not presupposed to be false: If there is anything I can do to help, I should be happy to do so. He would always call her from the office if he wasweregoing to be late for dinner.?・?Again according to the traditional rule, the subjunctive is not correctly used following verbs such as ask or wonder in if clauses that express indirect questions, even if the content of the question is presumed to be contrary to fact: We wondered if dinner waswereincluded in the room price. Some of the people we met even asked us if California waswerean island.?・?With all deference to the traditional rules governing the use of the subjunctive, it should be noted that a survey of the prose of reputable writers over the past 200 years would reveal a persistent tendency to use the indicative was where the traditional rule would require the subjunctive were. A sentence beginning If I was the only boy in the world, while not strictly correct, is wholly unremarkable. But the corresponding practice of using the subjunctive in place of the indicative may be labeled a hypercorrection.?・?In spoken English there is a growing tendency to use would have in place of the subjunctive in contrary-to-fact clauses, as in if I would have been the President, but this usage is still widely considered incorrect. See Usage Notes at doubt, should, wish.


Usage Note: The use of impact as a verb meaning "to have an effect" often has a big impact on readers. In our 2001 survey, 85 percent of the Usage Panel disapproved of the construction to impact on, as in the sentence These policies are impacting on our ability to achieve success; fully 80 percent disapproved of the use of impact as a transitive verb in the sentence The court ruling will impact the education of minority students.It is unclear why this usage provokes such a strong response, but it cannot be because of novelty. Impact has been used as a verb since 1601, when it meant "to fix or pack in," and its modern, figurative use dates from 1935. It may be that its frequent appearance in the jargon-riddled remarks of politicians, military officials, and financial analysts continues to make people suspicious. Nevertheless, the verbal use of impact has become so common in the working language of corporations and institutions that many speakers have begun to regard it as standard. It seems likely, then, that the verb will eventually become as unobjectionable as contact is now, since it will no longer betray any particular pretentiousness on the part of those who use it. See Usage Note at contact.


Usage Note: When an irate citizen demands that a disfavored public official be impeached, the citizen clearly intends for the official to be removed from office. This popular use of impeach as a synonym of "throw out" (even if by due process) does not accord with the legal meaning of the word. As recent history has shown, when a public official is impeached, that is, formally accused of wrongdoing, this is only the start of what can be a lengthy process that may or may not lead to the official's removal from office. In strict usage, an official is impeached (accused), tried, and then convicted or acquitted. The vaguer use of impeach reflects disgruntled citizens' indifference to whether the official is forced from office by legal means or chooses to resign to avoid further disgrace.
Word History: Nothing hobbles a President so much as impeachment, and there is an etymological as well as a procedural reason for this. The word impeach can be traced back through Anglo-Norman empecher to Late Latin impedicāre, "to catch, entangle," from Latin pedica, "fetter for the ankle, snare." Thus we find that Middle English empechen, the ancestor of our word, means such things as "to cause to get stuck fast," "hinder or impede," "interfere with," and "criticize unfavorably." A legal sense of empechen is first recorded in 1384. This sense, which had previously developed in Old French, was "to accuse, bring charges against."


Usage Note: Some critics have objected to the use of the phrase more importantly in place of more important when one introduces an assertion, as in More importantly, no one is ready to step into the vacuum left by the retiring senator. But both forms are widely used by reputable writers, and there is no obvious reason for preferring one or the other.


Usage Note: The adjective impracticable applies to a course of action that is impossible to carry out or put into practice; impractical, though it can be used in this way, also can be weaker in sense, suggesting that the course of action would yield an insufficient return or would have little practical value. A plan for a new stadium may be rejected as impracticable if the site is too marshy to permit safe construction, but if the objection is that the site is too remote for patrons to attend games easily, the plan is better described as impractical. See Usage Note at practicable.


Usage Note: Some writers insist that include be used only when it is followed by a partial list of the contents of the referent of the subject. Therefore, one may write New England includes Connecticut and Rhode Island, but one must use comprise or consist of to provide full enumeration: New England comprisesincludesConnecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. This restriction is too strong. Include does not rule out the possibility of a complete listing. Thus the sentence The bibliography should include all the journal articles you have used does not entail that the bibliography must contain something other than journal articles, though it does leave that possibility open. The use of comprise or consist of, however, will avoid ambiguity when a listing is meant to be exhaustive. Thus the sentence The task force includes all of the Navy units on active duty in the region allows for the possibility that Marine and Army units are also taking part, where the same sentence with comprise would entail that the task force contained only Navy forces. See Usage Note at comprise.


Usage Note: Assuming that he had reached the Indies, Columbus called the people on the islands his ships visited "indios," or "Indians," and the misnomer has stuck ever since. It is natural that people have proposed alternative names, whether to avoid confusion between the inhabitants of America and India or to indicate respect for the original occupants of the American continents. Thus Native American has become widely established in American English, being acceptable in all contemporary contexts and preferred in many. However, the acceptance of Native American has not brought about the demise of Indian, despite persistent criticism. Unlike Negro, which was quickly stigmatized once black became preferred, Indian never fell out of favor with a large segment of the American population. It is firmly rooted in English in such common terms as Plains Indian, French and Indian War, and Indian Territory as well as in numerous plant and place names. In locutions of this kind there is no possibility of substitution.The charge that Indian is an offensive term—hopelessly tainted by the ignorant or romantic stereotypes of popular American culture—can be answered, at least in part, by pointing to the continuing use of this term among American Indians themselves. Indeed, Indian authors and those sympathetic to Indian causes often prefer it for its unpretentious familiarity as well as its emotional impact, as in this passage from the Kiowa writer N. Scott Momaday's memoir The Names (1976): "It was about this time that began to see herself as an Indian. That dim native heritage became a fascination and a cause for her." See Usage Notes at American Indian, First Nation, Native American.


Usage Note: The noun individual is normally used to refer to an individual person as opposed to a larger social group or as distinguished from others by some special quality: This is not only a crisis of individuals, but also of a society (Raymond Williams). She is a real individual. Since the 19th century, however, there have been numerous objections to the use of the word to refer simply to "person" where no larger contrast is implied, as in Two individuals were placed under arrest or The Mayor will make time for any individual who wants to talk to her. This use of individual is common in official statements, as the examples imply, and lends a formal or even pretentious tone that may be undesirable. The words person and people are acceptable, neutral options that are appropriate in almost any context.


Usage Note: Infer is sometimes confused with imply, but the distinction is a useful one. When we say that a speaker or sentence implies something, we mean that it is conveyed or suggested without being stated outright: When the mayor said that she would not rule out a business tax increase, she impliedinferredthat some taxes might be raised. Inference, on the other hand, is the activity performed by a reader or interpreter in drawing conclusions that are not explicit in what is said: When the mayor said that she would not rule out a tax increase, we inferred that she had been consulting with some new financial advisers, since her old advisers were in favor of tax reductions.


Usage Note: Infinite is sometimes grouped with absolute terms such as unique, absolute, and omnipotent, since in its strict mathematical sense infiniteness is an absolute property; some infinite sets are smaller than others, but they are no less infinite. In nontechnical usage, of course, infinite is often used to refer to an unimaginably large degree or amount, and in these cases it is acceptable to modify or compare the word: Nothing could give me more infinite pleasure than to see you win. Withdrawing the troops would create an even more infinite set of problems for the coalition.Note that unlike other incomparable adjectives, infinite when used in its strict literal sense cannot be modified by words like nearly, since quantities do not approach infinity by degrees. This constraint, too, can be ignored when the word is used simply to refer to a very large number: You need a nearly infinite amount of patience to do the job. See Usage Notes at absolute, unique.


Usage Note: The term infrastructure has been used since 1927 to refer collectively to the roads, bridges, rail lines, and similar public works that are required for an industrial economy, or a portion of it, to function. The term also has had specific application to the permanent military installations necessary for the defense of a country. Perhaps because of the word's technical sound, people now use infrastructure to refer to any substructure or underlying system. Big corporations are said to have their own financial infrastructure of smaller businesses, for example, and political organizations to have their infrastructure of groups, committees, and admirers. The latter sense may have originated during the Vietnam War in the use of the word by military intelligence officers, whose task it was to delineate the structure of the enemy's shadowy organizations. Today we may hear that conservatism has an infrastructure of think tanks and research foundations or that terrorist organizations have an infrastructure of people sympathetic to their cause. The Usage Panel finds this extended use referring to people to be problematic, however. Seventy percent of the Panelists find it unacceptable in the sentence FBI agents fanned out to monitor a small infrastructure of persons involved with established terrorist organizations.


Usage Note: The noun input has been used as a technical term for about a century in fields such as physics and electrical engineering, but its recent popularity grows out of its use in computer science, where it refers to data or signals entered into a system for processing or transmission. In general discourse input is now widely used to refer to the transmission of information and opinion, as in The report questioned whether a President thus shielded had access to a sufficiently varied input to have a realistic picture of the nation or The nominee herself had no input on housing policy. In this last sentence the meaning of the term is uncertain: it may mean either that the nominee provided no opinions to the policymakers or that she received no information about housing policy. This vagueness in the nontechnical use of input may be one reason that some critics have objected to it (including, in an earlier survey, a majority of the Usage Panel). Though the usage is well established, care should be taken not to use the word merely as a way to imply an unwarranted scientific precision.


Usage Note: Insignia in Latin is the plural form of insigne, but it has long been used in English as both a singular and a plural form: The insignia was visible on the wingtip. There are five insignia on various parts of the plane. From the singular use of insignia comes the plural insignias, which is also acceptable. The Latin singular insigne is rare and may strike some readers as pedantic.


Usage Note: The meanings of intense and intensive overlap considerably, but they are often subtly distinct. When used to describe human feeling or activity, intense often suggests a strength or concentration that arises from inner dispositions and is particularly appropriate for describing emotional states: intense pleasure, intense dislike, intense loyalty, and so forth. Intensive is more frequently applied when the strength or concentration of an activity is imposed from without: intensive bombing, intensive training, intensive marketing. Thus a reference to Mark's intense study of German suggests that Mark himself was responsible for the concentrated activity, whereas Mark's intensive study of German suggests that the program in which Mark was studying was designed to cover a great deal of material in a brief period.


Usage Note: The noun interface has been around since the 1880s, meaning "a surface forming a common boundary, as between bodies or regions." But the word did not really take off until the 1960s, when it began to be used in the computer industry to designate the point of interaction between a computer and another system, such as a printer. The word was applied to other interactions as well—between departments in an organization, for example, or between fields of study. Shortly thereafter interface developed a use as a verb, but it never really caught on outside its niche in the computer world, where it still thrives. The Usage Panel has been unable to muster much enthusiasm for the verb. Thirty-seven percent of Panelists accept it when it designates the interaction between people in the sentence The managing editor must interface with a variety of freelance editors and proofreaders. But the percentage drops to 22 when the interaction is between a corporation and the public or between various communities in a city. Many Panelists complain that interface is pretentious and jargony. Certainly, it has no shortage of acceptable synonyms; cooperate, deal, exchange information, interact, and work present themselves as ready substitutes.


Usage Note: The introduction of the verb intrigue to mean "to arouse the interest or curiosity of" was initially resisted by writers on usage as an unneeded French substitute for available English words such as interest, fascinate, or puzzle, but it now appears to be well established. Seventy-eight percent of the Usage Panel accepts it in the sentence The special-quota idea intrigues some legislators, who have asked a Washington think tank to evaluate it, whereas only 52 percent accepted it in a 1968 survey.


Usage Note: The use of intuit as a verb is well established in reputable writing, but some critics have objected to it. Only 34 percent of the Usage Panel accepts it in the sentence Claude often intuits my feelings about things long before I am really aware of them myself. This lack of acceptance is often attributed to the verb's status as a back-formation from intuition, but in fact the verb has existed as long as other back-formations, such as diagnose and donate, that are now wholly acceptable. The source of the objections most likely lies in the fact that the verb is often used in reference to more trivial sorts of insight than would be permitted by a full appreciation of the traditional meaning of intuition. In this connection, a greater percentage of the Panel, 46 percent, accepts intuit in the sentence Mathematicians sometimes intuit the truth of a theorem long before they are able to prove it. See Usage Note at enthuse.


Usage Note: The preferred term for the native peoples of the Canadian Arctic and Greenland is now Inuit, and the use of Eskimo in referring to these peoples is often considered offensive, especially in Canada. Inuit, the plural of the Inuit word inuk, "human being," is less exact in referring to the peoples of northern Alaska, who speak dialects of the closely related Inupiaq language, and it is inappropriate when used in reference to speakers of Yupik, the Eskimoan language branch of western Alaska and the Siberian Arctic. See Usage Note at Eskimo.


Usage Note: The words ironic, irony, and ironically are sometimes used of events and circumstances that might better be described as simply "coincidental" or "improbable," in that they suggest no particular lessons about human vanity or folly. Thus 78 percent of the Usage Panel rejects the use of ironically in the sentence In 1969 Susie moved from Ithaca to California where she met her husband-to-be, who, ironically, also came from upstate New York. Some Panelists noted that this particular usage might be acceptable if Susie had in fact moved to California in order to find a husband, in which case the story could be taken as exemplifying the folly of supposing that we can know what fate has in store for us. By contrast, 73 percent accepted the sentence Ironically, even as the government was fulminating against American policy, American jeans and videocassettes were the hottest items in the stalls of the market, where the incongruity can be seen as an example of human inconsistency.


Usage Note: Irregardless is a word that many mistakenly believe to be correct usage in formal style, when in fact it is used chiefly in nonstandard speech or casual writing. Coined in the United States in the early 20th century, it has met with a blizzard of condemnation for being an improper yoking of irrespective and regardless and for the logical absurdity of combining the negative ir- prefix and -less suffix in a single term. Although one might reasonably argue that it is no different from words with redundant affixes like debone and unravel, it has been considered a blunder for decades and will probably continue to be so.


Usage Note: Its is the possessive form of the pronoun it and is correctly written without an apostrophe. It should not be confused with the contraction it's (for it is or it has), which should always have an apostrophe.


Usage Note: It is widely recognized that the attributive use of the noun Jew, in phrases such as Jew lawyer or Jew ethics, is both vulgar and highly offensive. In such contexts Jewish is the only acceptable possibility. Some people, however, have become so wary of this construction that they have extended the stigma to any use of Jew as a noun, a practice that carries risks of its own. In a sentence such as There are now several Jews on the council, which is unobjectionable, the substitution of a circumlocution like Jewish people or persons of Jewish background may in itself cause offense for seeming to imply that Jew has a negative connotation when used as a noun.


Usage Note: Like many other English nouns in which the suffix -ess is added to a gender-neutral word to indicate femaleness, the terms Jewess and Negress are now widely regarded as offensive. It is interesting to note that the objection to words formed with the -ess suffix does not apply to words such as Latina and Chicana, whose contrasting forms Latino and Chicano are not gender-neutral but rather refer even in English primarily to males. See Usage Notes at -ess, Latina1.


Usage Note: There are no less than two dozen variant spellings of kabbalah, the most common of which include kabbalah, kabala, kabalah, qabalah, qabala, cabala, cabbala, kaballah, kabbala, kaballah, and qabbalah. This sort of confusion is frequently seen with Hebrew and Arabic words borrowed into English because there exist several different systems of transliterating the Hebrew and Arabic alphabets into Roman letters. Often a more exact or scholarly transliteration, such as Qur'an, will coexist alongside a spelling that has been heavily Anglicized (Koran). The fact that the Hebrew and Arabic alphabets do not as a rule indicate short vowels or the doubling of consonants compounds the difficulties. Spellings of kabbalah with one or two b's are equally "correct," insofar as the single b accurately reproduces the spelling of the Hebrew, while the double b represents the fact that it was once pronounced with a double b.


Usage Note: Kanaka, which simply means "human being" in Hawaiian, is found today mostly in historical contexts and is not usually appropriate in ordinary discourse. As with many terms that refer to ethnic identity, Kanaka can suggest ethnic pride in some contexts while in others it may be taken as derogatory.


Usage Note: Although the pronunciation of kilometer with stress on the second syllable, (kĭ-lŏm′ĭ-tər), is often censured because it does not conform to the stress pattern in millimeter and centimeter (it originally came about by false analogy with barometer and thermometer), it continues to thrive in American English. In a recent survey, 69 percent of the Usage Panel preferred this pronunciation, while 29 percent preferred the pronunciation (kĭl′ə-mē′tər).


Usage Note: In nautical usage knot is a unit of speed, not of distance, and has a built-in meaning of "per hour." Therefore, a ship would strictly be said to travel at ten knots (not ten knots per hour).


Usage Note: Kudos is one of those words like congeries that look like plurals but are etymologically singular. Acknowledging the Greek history of the term requires Kudos isaredue her for her brilliant work on the score. But kudos has often been treated as a plural, especially in the popular press, as in She received many kudos for her work. This plural use has given rise to the singular form kudo. These innovations follow the pattern whereby the English words pea and cherry were shortened from nouns ending in an (s) sound (English pease and French cerise), that were mistakenly thought to be plural. The singular kudo remains far less common than the plural use; both are often viewed as incorrect in more formal contexts.It is worth noting that even people who are careful to treat kudos only as a singular often pronounce it as if it were a plural. Etymology would require that the final consonant be pronounced as a voiceless (s), as we do in pathos, another word derived from Greek, rather than as a voiced (z).


Usage Note: When lack is used intransitively, the present participle is generally followed by in: You will not be lacking in support from me. Other forms of the intransitive verb are most often followed by for: In the terrible, beautiful age of my prime,/I lacked for sweet linen but never for time (E.B. White).


Usage Note: Lady is normally used as a parallel to gentleman to emphasize norms expected in polite society or in situations requiring courtesies: Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please. I believe the lady in front of the counter was here before me. The attributive use of lady, as in lady doctor, is offensive and outdated. When the sex of the person is relevant, the preferred modifier is woman or female. Twice as many members of the Usage Panel in our 1994 survey preferred female and male to woman and man as modifiers in the sentence President Clinton interviewed both ______ and ______ candidates for the position of Attorney General.


Usage Note: It is technically correct to use a phrase such as our late treasurer to refer to a person who is still alive but who no longer holds the relevant post, but the use of former in this context will ensure that no embarrassing misunderstanding is created.


Usage Note: The use of the feminine nouns Latina and Chicana is perfectly proper in American English, and failure to do so (as in She is a Latino) may sometimes be resented. The use of these forms as modifiers, however, poses unfamiliar problems in English. Is it wrong to use a masculine form such as Chicano to modify woman? Can one say She is a Latino novelist, or is Latina novelist required? There is no one answer to these questions, though a few guidelines can be proposed. First, since English nouns do not have gender, the Spanish rules governing adjective-noun agreement cannot reasonably determine English usage; thus the choice between She is the city's first Latino or Latina mayor does not depend on the gender of the Spanish word for mayor. Second, the use of the more general masculine form as a modifier in referring to women—as in "Bush Appoints Latino Woman to U.S. Court" (headline in the Sacramento Bee) and "Juror 1427, a Latino woman who works for the Los Angeles County assessor" (the Los Angeles Times)—is standard in American English. Again, English does not normally inflect for gender, and the use of Latina in cases such as these would consequently strike many people as unusual. And third, when the feminine form is used to modify words like woman and girl, it is often, though not always, suggestive of a liberal or feminist viewpoint, as in "I came to know Chicana women living in a barrio who were organizing women's health-care programs" (Ms. magazine).


Usage Note: Lay ("to put, place, or prepare") and lie ("to recline or be situated") have been confused for centuries; evidence exists that lay has been used to mean "lie" since the 1300s. Why? First, there are two lays. One is the base form of the verb lay, and the other is the past tense of lie. Second, lay was once used with a reflexive pronoun to mean "lie" and survives in the familiar line from the child's prayer Now I lay me down to sleep; lay me down is easily shortened to lay down. Third, lay down, as in She lay down on the sofa sounds the same as laid down, as in I laid down the law to the kids.Lay and lie are most easily distinguished by usage. Lay is a transitive verb and takes a direct object. Lay and its principal parts (laid, laying) are correctly used in the following examples: He laid (not lay) the newspaper on the table. The table was laid for four. Lie is an intransitive verb and cannot take an object. Lie and its principal parts (lay, lain, lying) are correctly used in the following examples: She often lies (not lays) down after lunch. When I lay (not laid) down, I fell asleep. The rubbish had lain (not laid) there a week. I was lying (not laying) in bed when he called.There are a few exceptions to these rules. The phrasal verb lay for and the nautical use of lay, as in lay at anchor, though intransitive, are standard.


Usage Note: Leave alone is an acceptable substitute for let alone in the sense "to refrain from disturbing or interfering." A majority of the Usage Panel in an earlier survey approved the following examples: Leave him alone and he will produce. Left alone, he was quite productive. Those who did not accept these examples generally felt that leave alone should mean simply "to depart from someone who remains in solitude": They were left alone in the wilderness.In formal writing leave is not an acceptable substitute for let in the sense "to allow or permit." Thus in the following examples, only let can be used: Let me be. Let him go. Let us not quarrel. Let it lie.


Usage Note: Legend comes from the Latin adjective legenda, "for reading, to be read," which referred only to written stories, not to traditional stories transmitted orally from generation to generation. This restriction also applied to the English word legend when it was first used in the late 14th century in reference to written accounts of saints' lives, but ever since the 15th century legend has been used to refer to traditional stories as well. Today a legend can also be a person or achievement worthy of inspiring such a story—anyone or anything whose fame promises to be enduring, even if the renown is created more by the media than by oral tradition. Thus we speak of the legendary accomplishments of a major-league baseball star or the legendary voice of a famous opera singer. This usage is common journalistic hyperbole, and 55 percent of the Usage Panel accepts it.


Usage Note: Liable, apt, and likely are often used interchangeably in constructions with infinitives, as in Zach is liable to lose, Zach is apt to lose, and Zach is likely to lose, but the three words have subtle distinctions in meaning. A traditional rule holds that liable should be used only if the subject would be adversely affected by the outcome expressed by the infinitive. The rule therefore permits Tim is liable to fall out of his chair if he doesn't sit up straight but not The chair is liable to be slippery, though constructions of the latter type have long been common in reputable writing.Apt usually suggests that the subject has a natural tendency enhancing the probability of an outcome and that the speaker is somewhat apprehensive about the outcome. Thus apt is more naturally used in a sentence like The fuel pump is apt to give out at any minute than in Even the clearest instructions are apt to be misinterpreted by those idiots (since the instructions are not at fault) or in The fuel pump is apt to give you no problems for the life of the car (since there is no reason that the speaker should regard such an outcome as unfortunate).Likely is more general than either liable or apt. It ascribes no particular property to the subject that would enhance the probability of the outcome. Thus, while John is apt to lose the election may suggest that the loss will result from something John does or fails to do, John is likely to lose the election does not. Nor does it suggest anything about the desirability of the outcome from the point of view of either the speaker or the subject. See Usage Note at likely.


Usage Note: When lifestyle became popular a generation ago, a number of critics objected to it as voguish and superficial, perhaps because it appeared to elevate habits of consumption, dress, and recreation to categories in a system of social classification. Nonetheless, the word has proved durable and useful, if only because such categories do in fact figure importantly in the schemes that Americans commonly invoke when explaining social values and behavior, as in Rachel Brownstein's remark that "an anticonventional lifestyle is no sure sign of feminist politics, or indeed, of any politics at all." Fifty-three percent of the Usage Panel accepts the word in Bohemian attitudes toward conventional society have been outstripped and outdated by the lifestyles of millions of young people. An even greater number—fully 70 percent—accepts the word in Salaries in the Bay Area may be higher, but it may cost employees as much as 30 percent more to maintain their lifestyles, where the context requires a term that implies categorization based on habits of consumption.


Usage Note: Lighted and lit are equally acceptable as past tense and past participle of light. Both forms are also well established as adjectives: a lightedlitcandle.


Usage Note: Writers since Chaucer's time have used like as a conjunction, but 19th-century and 20th-century critics have been so vehement in their condemnations of this usage that a writer who uses the construction in formal style risks being accused of illiteracy or worse. Prudence requires The dogs howled aslikewe expected them to. Like is more acceptably used as a conjunction in informal style with verbs such as feel, look, seem, sound, and taste, as in It looks like we are in for a rough winter. But here too as if is to be preferred in formal writing. There can be no objection to the use of like as a conjunction when the following verb is not expressed, as in He took to politics like a duck to water. See Usage Notes at as1, together.


Usage Note: Used as an adverb likely is most commonly preceded by a modifier such as very or quite: He will quite likely require some help with his classes. But the unmodified use of likely is common enough in educated writing, and though it might be better avoided in highly formal style, it should not be regarded as incorrect: They'll likely buy a new car this year. See Usage Note at liable.


Usage Note: For more than a hundred years, critics have remarked on the incoherency of using literally in a way that suggests the exact opposite of its primary sense of "in a manner that accords with the literal sense of the words." In 1926, for example, H.W. Fowler cited the example "The 300,000 Unionists ... will be literally thrown to the wolves." The practice does not stem from a change in the meaning of literally itself—if it did, the word would long since have come to mean "virtually" or "figuratively"—but from a natural tendency to use the word as a general intensive, as in They had literally no help from the government on the project, where no contrast with the figurative sense of the words is intended.


Usage Note: For most of its long history in English, literate has meant only "familiar with literature," or more generally, "well-educated, learned." Only since the late 19th century has it also come to refer to the basic ability to read and write. Its antonym illiterate has an equally broad range of meanings: an illiterate person may be incapable of reading a shopping list or unable to grasp an allusion to Shakespeare or Keats. The term functional illiterate is often used to describe a person who can read or write to some degree, but below a minimum level required to function in even a limited social situation or job setting. An aliterate person, by contrast, is one who is capable of reading and writing but who has little interest in doing so, whether out of indifference to learning in general or from a preference for seeking information and entertainment by other means.More recently, the meanings of the words literacy and illiteracy have been extended from their original connection with reading and literature to any body of knowledge. For example, "geographic illiterates" cannot identify the countries on a map, and "computer illiterates" are unable to use a word-processing system. All of these uses of literacy and illiteracy are acceptable.


Usage Note: The verb loan is well established in American usage and cannot be considered incorrect. The frequent objections to the form by American grammarians may have originated from a provincial deference to British critics, who long ago labeled the usage a typical Americanism. Loan is, however, used to describe only physical transactions, as of money or goods; for figurative transactions, lend is correct: Distance lends enchantment. The allusions lend the work a classical tone.


Usage Note: The phrasal verb look to has recently developed the meanings "expect to" and "hope to," as in The executives look to increase sales once the economy improves or I'm looking to sell my car in July. In a recent survey, the Usage Panel was divided almost evenly on this usage, with 52 percent of the Panelists finding it acceptable and 48 percent rejecting it. Of those rejecting this usage, a small number volunteered that they would find it acceptable in informal speech, and in fact the divided response of the Panel may be due in part to the informal flavor of this phrase.


Usage Note: When majority refers to a particular number of votes, it takes a singular verb: Her majority was five votes. His majority has been growing by 5 percent every year. When it refers to a group of persons or things that are in the majority, it may take either a singular or plural verb, depending on whether the group is considered as a whole or as a set of people considered individually. So we say The majority elects (not elect) the candidate it wants (not they want), since the election is accomplished by the group as a whole; but The majority of the voters live (not lives) in the city, since living in the city is something that each voter does individually.Majority is often preceded by great (but not by greater) in expressing emphatically the sense of "most of": The great majority approved. The phrase greater majority is appropriate only when considering two majorities: He won by a greater majority in this election than in the last.


Usage Note: Traditionally, many writers have used man and words derived from it to designate any or all of the human race regardless of sex. In fact, this is the oldest use of the word. In Old English the principal sense of man was "a human," and the words wer and wyf (or wapman and wifman) were used to refer to "a male human" and "a female human" respectively. But in Middle English man displaced wer as the term for "a male human," while wyfman (which evolved into present-day woman) was retained for "a female human." Despite this change, man continued to carry its original sense of "a human" as well, resulting in an asymmetrical arrangement that many criticize as sexist.?・?Nonetheless, a majority of the Usage Panel still accepts the generic use of man, although the women members have significantly less enthusiasm for this usage than the men do. For example, the sentence If early man suffered from a lack of information, modern man is tyrannized by an excess of it is acceptable to 81 percent of the Panel—but a breakdown by sex shows that only 58 percent of the women Panelists accept it, while 92 percent of the men do. A majority of the Panel also accepts compound words derived from generic man. The sentence The Great Wall is the only man-made structure visible from space is acceptable to 86 percent (76 percent of the women and 91 percent of the men). The sentence "The history of language is the history of mankind" (James Bradstreet Greenough and George Lyman Kittredge) is acceptable to 76 percent (63 percent of the women and 82 percent of the men). The Panel finds such compounds less acceptable when applied to women, however; only 66 percent of the Panel members (57 percent of the women and 71 percent of the men) accept the use of the word manpower in the sentence Countries that do not permit women to participate in the work force are at a disadvantage in competing with those that do avail themselves of that extra source of manpower.?・?Similar controversy surrounds the generic use of -man compounds to indicate occupational and social roles. Thus the use of chairman in the sentence The chairman will be appointed by the Faculty Senate is acceptable to 67 percent of the Panel (52 percent of the women and 76 percent of the men). Approval rates fall much further, however, for -man compounds applied to women. Only 48 percent (43 percent of the women and 50 percent of the men) accept the use of the word in Emily Owen, chairman of the Mayor's Task Force, issued a statement assuring residents that their views would be solicited. A majority of the Panelists also rejects the verb man when used to refer to an activity performed by women. Fifty-six percent of the Panel (61 percent of the women and 54 percent of the men) disapprove of the sentence Members of the League of Women Voters will be manning the registration desk. See Usage Notes at -ess, men, people, person.


Usage Note: Master has been a productive source of compounds in English, evidenced by words such as masterpiece, concertmaster, mastermind, and masterstroke, to name just a few. It is also used frequently on its own as a noun, verb, and adjective, with meanings ranging from "an original document that is to be copied" to "a man who serves as the head of a household." The latter sense lends the word masculine connotations, which, along with the word's associations with the institutions of slavery, causes some people to be offended by the use of master in any form. Nonetheless, many senses of master, such as the noun sense "an expert" and the verb sense "to make oneself an expert at," have long been thought of as gender-neutral and are in wide use. Some compounds, like masterpiece and master plan, have lost most, if not all, of their associations with maleness. They exist as distinct words, and people do not usually think of them as a combination of parts each containing a different meaning.


Usage Note: According to a widely repeated dictum, masterful should be reserved for the sense "imperious, domineering" (as in a masterful tone of voice), whereas masterly should be the choice when the intended sense is "having the skill of a master" (as in a masterly performance of the sonata). The distinction can serve a useful purpose, but masterful in the latter sense has long been common in reputable writing and cannot be regarded as incorrect.


Usage Note: In its original senses materialize is used without an object to mean "to assume material form," as in Marley's ghost materialized before Scrooge's eyes, or with an object to mean "to cause to assume material form," as in Disney materialized his dream in a plot of orchard land in Orange County. But these uses are probably less common nowadays than two extended senses of the verb. In the first, the meaning is roughly "to appear suddenly," as in No sooner had we set the menu down than a waiter materialized at our table. Some critics have labeled this use as pretentious or incorrect, but it has been around for more than a century, appears in the writing of highly respected writers, and seems a natural extension of the original sense. The second meaning is "to take effective shape, come into existence." In this use, materialize tends to be applied to things or events that have been foreseen or anticipated, and usually occurs in negative constructions: The promised subsidies never materialized. It was thought the community would oppose the measure, but no new objections materialized. While objections continue to materialize against this usage, it too is well established in reputable writing and follows a familiar pattern of metaphoric extension.


Usage Note: In the sense of "financial resources" means takes a plural verb: His means are more than adequate. In the sense of "a way to an end," means may be treated as either a singular or plural. It is singular when referring to a particular strategy or method: The best means of securing the cooperation of the builders is to appeal to their self-interest. It is plural when it refers to a group of strategies or methods: The most effective means for dealing with the drug problem have generally been those suggested by the affected communities.?・?Means is most often followed by of: a means of noise reduction. But for, to, and toward are also used: a means for transmitting sound; a means to an end; a means toward achieving equality.


Usage Note: The etymologically plural form media is often used as a singular to refer to a particular means of communication, as in The Internet is the most exciting new media since television. Many people regard this usage as incorrect, preferring medium in such contexts.People also use media with the definite article as a collective term to refer not to the forms of communication themselves so much as the communities and institutions behind them. In this sense, the media means something like "the press." Like other collective nouns, it may take a singular or plural verb depending on the intended meaning. If the point is to emphasize the multifaceted nature of the press, a plural verb may be more appropriate: The media have covered the trial in a variety of formats. Frequently, however, media stands as a singular noun for the aggregate of journalists and broadcasters: The media has not shown much interest in covering the trial. This development of a singular media parallels that of more established words such as data and agenda, which are also Latin plurals that have acquired a singular meaning.The singular medium cannot be used as a collective noun for the press. The sentence No medium has shown much interest in covering the issue, would suggest that the lack of interest is in the means of communication itself rather than in its practitioners.


Usage Note: When man and men are used in compounds, such as fireman, firemen, salesman, and salesmen, both -man and -men are usually pronounced (mən).


Usage Note: Methodology can properly refer to the theoretical analysis of the methods appropriate to a field of study or to the body of methods and principles particular to a branch of knowledge. In this sense, one may speak of objections to the methodology of a geographic survey (that is, objections dealing with the appropriateness of the methods used) or of the methodology of modern cognitive psychology (that is, the principles and practices that underlie research in the field). In recent years, however, methodology has been increasingly used as a pretentious substitute for method in scientific and technical contexts, as in The oil company has not yet decided on a methodology for restoring the beaches. People may have taken to this practice by influence of the adjective methodological to mean "pertaining to methods." Methodological may have acquired this meaning because people had already been using the more ordinary adjective methodical to mean "orderly, systematic." But the misuse of methodology obscures an important conceptual distinction between the tools of scientific investigation (properly methods) and the principles that determine how such tools are deployed and interpreted.


Usage Note: Many compounds other than those entered here may be formed with mid-. In forming compounds, mid- is normally joined to the following word or element without a space or hyphen: midpoint. However, if the second element begins with a capital letter, it is always separated with a hyphen: mid-May. It is always acceptable to separate the elements with a hyphen to prevent possible confusion with another form, as, for example, to distinguish mid-den (the middle of a den) from the word midden. Note that the adjective mid1 is a separate word, though, as is the case with any adjective, it may be joined to another word with a hyphen when used as a unit modifier: in the mid Pacific but a mid-Pacific island.


Usage Note: Migrate, which is used of people and animals, sometimes implies a lack of permanent settlement, especially as a result of seasonal or periodic movement. Emigrate and immigrate are used only of people and imply a permanent move, generally across a political boundary. Emigrate describes the move relative to the point of departure: After the Nazis came to power in Germany, many scientists emigrated (that is, left Germany). By contrast, immigrate describes the move relative to the destination: The promise of prosperity in the United States encouraged many people to immigrate (that is, move to the United States).


Usage Note: Minimal and minimize come from the Latin adjective minimus, "least, smallest," and people therefore use minimal to refer to the smallest possible amount, as in The amplifier reduces distortion to the minimal level that can be obtained with present technologies. In recent years, however, people have begun to use minimal more loosely to refer to a small amount, as in If you would just put in a minimal amount of time on your homework, I am sure your grades would improve. Language critics have objected to this usage, but it is fairly common. In an earlier survey, the Usage Panel was asked what minimal meant in the sentence Alcohol has a particularly unpleasant effect on me when I have a minimal amount of food in my stomach. Under the strict interpretation of minimal, this sentence should mean only "Alcohol has an unpleasant effect when I have eaten nothing." If the looser interpretation is allowed, however, the sentence can also mean " ... when I have eaten a bit." Twenty-nine percent of the Panel held to the strict interpretation (that is, "eaten nothing"); 34 percent said that it could have only the looser meaning (that is, "eaten a bit"); and 37 percent said that it could have either meaning. Thus, 71 percent allowed the looser sense of minimal, so it should be considered acceptable, at least in nontechnical use.The verb minimize has undergone a similar extension of meaning. In its strict sense it means "to reduce to the smallest possible level," but quite often the context requires us to interpret what the smallest possible level might be. Thus when a manager announces that The company wants to minimize the risk of accidents to line workers, we naturally think that the company plans to reduce the risk to the smallest level after considerations of efficiency and cost are taken into account, not that risks are to be reduced to the lowest level regardless of disruptions and cost. People also use minimize more loosely to mean "to make appear to be of little importance; play down," as in The President tried to minimize the problems posed by the nation's trade imbalance. This sense is well established.


Usage Note: English has no shortage of terms for women whose behavior is viewed as licentious, but it is difficult to come up with a list of comparable terms used of men. One researcher, Julia Penelope, stopped counting after she reached 220 such labels for women, both current and historical, but managed to locate only 20 names for promiscuous men. Murial R. Schultz found more than 500 slang terms for prostitute but could find just 65 for the male terms whoremonger and pimp. A further imbalance appears in the connotations of many of these terms. While the terms generally applying only to women, like tramp and slut, are almost always strongly negative, corresponding terms used for men, such as stud and Casanova, often carry positive associations.Curiously, many of the negative terms used for women derive from words that once had neutral or even positive associations. For instance, the word mistress, now mainly used to refer to a woman who is involved in an extramarital sexual relationship, originally served simply as a neutral counterpart to mister or master. The term madam, while still a respectful form of address, has had sexual connotations since the early 1700s and has been used to refer to the owner of a brothel since the early 1900s.


Usage Note: Momentarily is widely used in speech to mean "in a moment," as in The manager is on another line, but she'll be with you momentarily. This usage rarely leads to ambiguity since the intended sense can usually be determined on the basis of the tense of the verb and the context. Nonetheless, many critics hold that the adverb should be reserved for the senses "for a moment," and the extended usage is unacceptable to 59 percent of the Usage Panel.


Usage Note: The singular month, preceded by a number and a hyphen, is used as a compound attributive: a three-month vacation. The plural possessive form without a hyphen is also possible: a three months' vacation.


Usage Note: The adjective moot is originally a legal term going back to the mid-16th century. It derives from the noun moot, in its sense of a hypothetical case argued as an exercise by law students. Consequently, a moot question is one that is arguable or open to debate. But in the mid-19th century people also began to look at the hypothetical side of moot as its essential meaning, and they started to use the word to mean "of no significance or relevance." Thus, a moot point, however debatable, is one that has no practical value. A number of critics have objected to this use, but 59 percent of the Usage Panel accepts it in the sentence The nominee himself chastised the White House for failing to do more to support him, but his concerns became moot when a number of Republicans announced that they, too, would oppose the nomination. When using moot one should be sure that the context makes clear which sense is meant.


Usage Note: Many of us think of Ms. or Ms as a fairly recent invention of the women's movement, but in fact the term was first suggested as a convenience to writers of business letters by such publications as the Bulletin of the American Business Writing Association (1951) and The Simplified Letter, issued by the National Office Management Association (1952). Ms. is now widely used in both professional and social contexts. As a courtesy title Ms. serves exactly the same function that Mr. does for men, and like Mr. it may be used with a last name alone or with a full name. Furthermore, Ms. is correct regardless of a woman's marital status, thus relegating that information to the realm of private life, where many feel it belongs anyway. Some women prefer Miss or Mrs., however, and courtesy requires that their wishes be respected.


Usage Note: In reference to people who are unable to speak, mute and deaf-mute are now often considered objectionable. The offense is due not only to the bluntness of these terms but also to the implication that a person who is incapable of oral speech is necessarily deprived of the use of language. In fact, many deaf people today communicate naturally and fully through the use of a sign language such as ASL, and no one who has witnessed such a conversation would ever think to call the participants mute. See Usage Note at deaf.


Usage Note: Mutual is used to describe a reciprocal relationship between two or more people or things. Thus their mutual animosity means "their animosity for each other" or "the animosity between them," and a mutual defense treaty is one in which each party agrees to come to the defense of the other. But many people also use mutual to mean "shared in common," as in The bill serves the mutual interests of management and labor. This usage is perhaps most familiar in the expression our mutual friend, which was widespread even before Charles Dickens used it as the title of a novel. While some language critics have objected to this usage because it does not include the notion of reciprocity, it appears in the writing of some of our greatest authors, including Shakespeare, Edmund Burke, George Eliot, and James Joyce, and it continues to be used by well-respected writers today.


Usage Note: Throughout most of its history in English myriad was used as a noun, as in a myriad of men. In the 19th century it began to be used in poetry as an adjective, as in myriad men. Both usages in English are acceptable, as in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Myriad myriads of lives." This poetic, adjectival use became so well entrenched generally that many people came to consider it as the only correct use. In fact, both uses in English are parallel with those of the original ancient Greek. The Greek word mūrias, from which myriad derives, could be used as either a noun or an adjective, but the noun mūrias was used in general prose and in mathematics while the adjective mūrias was used only in poetry.


Usage Note: The -self pronouns, such as myself, yourselves, and herself, are sometimes used as emphatic substitutes for personal pronouns, as in Like yourself, I have no apologies to make. The practice is particularly common in compound phrases: Ms. Evans or yourself will have to pick them up at the airport. Although these usages have been common in the writing of reputable authors for several centuries, they may sound overwrought. A large majority of the Usage Panel disapproves of the use of -self pronouns when they do not refer to the subject of the sentence. Seventy-three percent reject the sentence He was an enthusiastic fisherman like myself. Sixty-seven percent object to The letters were written entirely by myself. The Panel is even less tolerant of compound usages. Eighty-eight percent find this sentence unacceptable: The boss asked John and myself to give a brief presentation.


Usage Note: When used in reference to a member of an indigenous people, the noun native, like its synonym aborigine, can evoke unwelcome stereotypes of primitiveness or cultural backwardness that many people now seek to avoid. As is often the case with words that categorize people, the use of the noun is more problematic than the use of the corresponding adjective. Thus a phrase such as the peoples native to northern Europe or the aboriginal inhabitants of the South Pacific is generally much preferable to the natives of northern Europe or the aborigines of the South Pacific.Despite its potentially negative connotations, native is enjoying increasing popularity in ethnonyms such as native Australian and Alaska Native, perhaps due to the wide acceptance of Native American as a term of ethnic pride and respect. These compounds have the further benefit of being equally acceptable when used alone as nouns (a native Australian) or in an adjectival construction (a member of a native Australian people). Of terms formed on this model, those referring to peoples indigenous to the United States generally capitalize native, as in Alaska Native (or the less common Native Alaskan) and Native Hawaiian, while others usually style it lowercase.

Native American

Usage Note: Many Americans have come to prefer Native American over Indian both as a term of respect and as a corrective to the famous misnomer bestowed on the peoples of the Americas by a geographically befuddled Columbus. There are solid arguments for this preference. Native American eliminates any confusion between indigenous American peoples and the inhabitants of India, making it the clear choice in many official contexts. It is also historically accurate, despite the insistence by some that Indians are no more native to America than anyone else since their ancestors are assumed to have migrated here from Asia. But one sense of native is "being a member of the original inhabitants of a particular place," and Native Americans' claim to being the original inhabitants of the Americas is unchallenged.Accuracy and precision aside, however, the choice between these two terms is often made as a matter of principle. For many, Native American is the only choice for expressing respect toward America's indigenous peoples; Indian is seen as wrong and offensive. For others, the former smacks of bureaucracy and the manipulation of language for political purposes while the latter is the natural English term, its inaptness made irrelevant by long use. Fortunately, this controversy appears to have subsided somewhat in recent years, and it is now common to find the two terms used interchangeably in the same piece of writing. Furthermore, the issue has never been particularly divisive between Indians and non-Indians. While generally welcoming the respectful tone of Native American, most Indian writers have continued to use the older name at least as often as the newer one.Native American and Indian are not exact equivalents when referring to the aboriginal peoples of Canada and Alaska. Native American, the broader term, is properly used of all such peoples, whereas Indian is customarily used of the northern Athabaskan and Algonquian peoples in contrast to the Eskimos, Inuits, and Aleuts. Alaska Native (or less commonly Native Alaskan) is also properly used of all indigenous peoples residing in Alaska. See Usage Notes at American Indian, First Nation, Indian.


Usage Note: Traditional critics have insisted that nauseous is properly used only to mean "causing nausea" and that it is incorrect to use it to mean "affected with nausea," as in Roller coasters make me nauseous. In this example, nauseated is preferred by 72 percent of the Usage Panel. Curiously, though, 88 percent of the Panelists prefer using nauseating in the sentence The children looked a little green from too many candy apples and nauseating nauseous rides. Since there is a lot of evidence to show that nauseous is widely used to mean "feeling sick," it appears that people use nauseous mainly in the sense in which it is considered incorrect. In its "correct" sense it is being supplanted by nauseating.


Usage Note: Depending on the sense, the verb need behaves sometimes like an auxiliary verb (such as can or may) and sometimes like a main verb (such as want or try). When used as a main verb, need agrees with its subject, takes to before the verb following it, and combines with do in questions, negations, and certain other constructions: He needs to go. Does he need to go so soon? He doesn't need to go. When used as an auxiliary verb, need does not agree with its subject, does not take to before the verb following it, and does not combine with do: He needn't go. Need he go so soon? The auxiliary forms of need are used primarily in present-tense questions, negations, and conditional clauses. Unlike can and may, auxiliary need has no form for the past tense like could and might.


Usage Note: According to the traditional rule, neither is used only to mean "not one or the other of two." To refer to "none of several," none is preferred: None (not neither) of the three opposition candidates would make a better president than the incumbent.The traditional rule also holds that neither is grammatically singular: Neither candidate is having an easy time with the press. However, it is often used with a plural verb, especially when followed by of and a plural: Neither of the candidates are really expressing their own views.As a conjunction neither is properly followed by nor, not or, in formal style: Neither prayers nor cursesor cursesdid any good. See Usage Notes at either, every, he1, none, nor1, or1.


Usage Note: The word Net is usually capitalized when used as a noun in referring to the Internet, as opposed simply to computer networks of any type. Thus we might speak of one of the most frequently visited sites on the Net but tools for net navigation, since the latter might include tools that are designed for use on networks other than the Internet.


Usage Note: It is widely asserted that none is equivalent to no one, and hence requires a singular verb and singular pronoun: None of the prisonersgiven his soup. It is true that none is etymologically derived from the Old English word ān, "one," but the word has been used as both a singular and a plural noun from Old English onward. The plural usage appears in the King James Bible as well as the works of John Dryden and Edmund Burke and is widespread in the works of respectable writers today. Of course, the singular usage is perfectly acceptable. The choice between a singular or plural verb depends on the desired effect. Both options are acceptable in this sentence: None of the conspirators hashavebeen brought to trial. When none is modified by almost, however, it is difficult to avoid treating the word as a plural: Almost none of the officials werewasinterviewed by the committee. None can only be plural in its use in sentences such as None but his most loyal supporters believebelieveshis story. See Usage Notes at every, neither, nothing.


Usage Note: The term nonstandard was introduced by linguists and lexicographers to describe usages and language varieties that had previously been labeled with terms such as vulgar and illiterate. Nonstandard is not simply a euphemism but reflects the empirical discovery that the varieties used by low-prestige groups have rich and systematic grammatical structures and that their stigmatization more often reflects a judgment about their speakers rather than any inherent deficiencies in logic or expressive power. Note, however, that the use of nonstandard forms is not necessarily restricted to the communities with which they are associated in the public mind. Many educated speakers freely use forms such as can't hardly or ain't I to set a popular or informal tone.Some dictionaries use the term substandard to describe forms, such as ain't, associated with uneducated speech, while reserving nonstandard for forms such as irregardless, which are common in writing but are still regarded by many as uneducated. But substandard is itself susceptible of disparaging interpretation, and most linguists and lexicographers now use only nonstandard, the practice followed in this Dictionary.


Usage Note: Many people object to the term nonwhite for referring to people by what they are not rather than what they are. Of course there are occasions, as when discussing an exclusionary policy such as the former system of apartheid in South Africa, when this emphasis is entirely appropriate. In many other cases, if it is relevant to mention race or skin color at all, a term such as person of color is often preferable to nonwhite. See Usage Note at color.


Usage Note: When using neither in a balanced construction that negates two parts of a sentence, nor (not or) must be used in the second clause: She is neither able nororwilling to go. Similarly, when negating the second of two negative independent clauses, nor (not or) must be used: He cannot find anyone now, nor does he expect to find anyone in the future; Jane will never compromise with Bill, nor will Bill compromise with Jane. Note that in these constructions, nor causes an inversion of the auxiliary verb and the subject (does he ... will Bill ...). However, when a verb is negated by not or never, and is followed by a verb phrase that is also to be negated (but not an entire clause), either or or nor can be used: He will not permit the change, ornoreven consider it. In noun phrases of the type no this or that, or is actually more common than nor: He has no experience or interestnor interestin chemistry. Or is also more common than nor when such a noun phrase, adjective phrase, or adverb phrase is introduced by not: He is not a philosopher or a statesman. They were not rich or happy. See Usage Notes at neither, or1.


Usage Note: Care should be taken with the placement of not and other negatives in a sentence in order to avoid ambiguity. All elephants are not friendly could be taken to mean either "All elephants are unfriendly" or "Not all elephants are friendly." Similarly, the sentence Kim didn't sleep until noon could mean either "Kim went to sleep at noon" or "Kim got up before noon."?・?In formal writing, each part of the not only . . . but also construction should be followed with an element of the same grammatical type. Instead of She not only bought a new car but also a new lawnmower, one should write She bought not only a new car but also a new lawnmower; in the second version, both not only and but also are followed by noun phrases. Omitting the also tends to intensify the second part of the construction so that it no longer functions merely as a supplement to the first part: She is not only smart but brilliant. He not only wanted the diamond but wanted it desperately. See Usage Note at only.


Usage Note: According to the traditional rule, nothing is invariably treated as a singular, even when followed by an exception phrase containing a plural noun: Nothing except your fears standsstandin your way. Nothing but roses meetsmeetthe eye. See Usage Note at none.


Usage Note: The pronunciation (no̅o̅′kyə-lər), which is generally considered incorrect, is an example of how a familiar phonological pattern can influence an unfamiliar one. The usual pronunciation of the final two syllables of this word is (-klē-ər), but this sequence of sounds is rare in English. Much more common is the similar sequence (-kyə-lər), which occurs in words like particular, circular, spectacular, and in many scientific words like molecular, ocular, and vascular.


Usage Note: As a collective noun number may take either a singular or a plural verb. It takes a singular verb when it is preceded by the definite article the: The number of skilled workers is small. It takes a plural verb when preceded by the indefinite article a: A number of the workers are unskilled.


Usage Note: Either of or to can be used with oblivious: The party appeared oblivious to (or of) the mounting pressures for political reform.


Usage Note: The terms mulatto, quadroon, and octoroon originated with the racial policies of European colonizers in the Americas, especially the Spanish. Because civil rights and responsibilities were based directly on the degree of European blood that a person had, such classifications were highly elaborated, and minor distinctions in ancestry were carefully recorded. While these terms have highly precise definitions, in actual practice they were often used based on impressions of skin color rather than definite knowledge of ancestry.


Usage Note: Grammarians have sometimes objected to the so-called double genitive construction, as in a friend of my father's; a book of mine. But the construction has been used in English since the 14th century and serves a useful purpose. It can help sort out ambiguous phrases like Bob's photograph, which could refer either to a photograph of Bob (that is, revealing Bob's image) or to one in Bob's possession. A photograph of Bob's can only be a photo that Bob has in his possession, which may or may not show Bob's image. Moreover, in some sentences the double genitive offers the only way to express what is meant. There is no substitute for it in a sentence such as That's the only friend of yours that I've ever met, since sentences such as That's your only friend that I've ever met and That's your only friend, whom I've ever met are awkward or inaccurate.


Usage Note: The compound preposition off of is generally regarded as informal and is best avoided in formal speech and writing: He stepped offoff ofthe platform. Off is informal as well when used to indicate a source: formal style requires I borrowed it fromoffmy brother.


Usage Note: Officiate has long seen use as an intransitive verb, but it has recently developed a transitive use. A vast majority of the Usage Panel (91 percent) approves of the intransitive use of officiate, as in the sentence The wedding was held in the garden, a minister and priest officiating. The Panel views transitive uses much less favorably. The use of officiate in sporting contexts, as in the sentence He officiated National Hockey League games for 15 years is approved by only 38 percent of the Panel. This usage may be unremarkable when appearing on the sports page, but it should be avoided in general writing. Support for this usage in more traditional contexts, such as weddings, plummets further. Only 22 percent of the Panel approves of the sentence A minister officiated the wedding, which was held in a garden.


Usage Note: During the 15th century English experienced a widespread loss of certain consonant sounds within consonant clusters, as the (d) in handsome and handkerchief, the (p) in consumption and raspberry, and the (t) in chestnut and often. In this way the consonant clusters were simplified and made easier to articulate. With the rise of public education and literacy and, consequently, people's awareness of spelling in the 19th century, sounds that had become silent sometimes were restored, as is the case with the t in often, which is now frequently pronounced. In other similar words, such as soften and listen, the t generally remains silent.


Usage Note: Old is the bluntest of the adjectives most commonly used in referring to advanced or advancing age. It generally suggests at least a degree of age-related infirmity, and for that reason it is often avoided in formal or polite speech. Many prefer elderly as a more neutral and respectful term, but it too can suggest frailty, especially in reference to individuals as opposed to a group or population. And while senior enjoys wide usage as both a noun and adjective in many civic or social contexts, it is often considered unpleasantly euphemistic in a phrase such as the senior couple living next door.As a comparative form, older would logically seem to indicate greater age than old. Except when a direct comparison is being made, however, the opposite is generally true. The older man in the tweed jacket suggests a somewhat younger or more vigorous man than if one substitutes old or elderly. Where old expresses an absolute, an arrival at old age, older takes a more relative view of aging as a continuum—older, but not yet old. As such, older is more than just a euphemism for the blunter old, offering as it does a more precise term for someone between middle and advanced age. And unlike elderly, older does not particularly suggest frailness or infirmity, making it the natural choice in many situations. See Usage Note at elder1.


Usage Note: To indicate motion toward a position, both on and onto can be used: The cat jumped on the table. The cat jumped onto the table. Onto is more specific, however, in indicating that the motion was initiated from an outside point. He wandered onto the battlefield means that he began his wandering at some point off the battlefield. He wandered on the battlefield may mean that his wandering began on the battlefield.?・?In constructions where on is an adverb attached to a verb, it should not be joined with to to form the single word onto: move on toontonew subjects; hold on toontoour gains.?・?In their uses to indicate spatial relations, on and upon are often interchangeable: It was resting onupontwo supports. We saw a finch light onupona bough. To indicate a relation between two things, however, instead of between an action and an end point, upon cannot always be used: Hand me the book onuponthe table. It was the only town onuponthe main line. Similarly, upon cannot always be used in place of on when the relation is not spatial: He wrote a book onuponalchemy. She will be here onuponTuesday.


Usage Note: When constructions headed by one appear as the subject of a sentence or relative clause, there may be a question as to whether the verb should be singular or plural. Such a construction is exemplified in the sentence One of every ten rotors was found defective. Although the plural were is sometimes used in such sentences, an earlier survey found that the singular was preferred by 92 percent of the Usage Panel.Constructions such as one of those people who pose a different problem. Most grammarians would argue that who should be followed by a plural verb in these sentences, as in He is one of those people who just don't take "no" for an answer. Their thinking is that the relative pronoun who refers to the plural noun people, not to one. They would extend the rule to constructions with inanimate nouns, as in The sports car turned out to be one of the most successful products that were ever manufactured in this country. However, constructions of this sort are often used with a singular verb even by the best writers. In an earlier survey, 42 percent of the Usage Panel accepted the use of the singular verb in such constructions. Note also that when the phrase containing one is introduced by the definite article, the verb in the relative clause must be singular: He is the only one of the students who hashavealready taken Latin.Constructions using one or more or one or two always take a plural verb: One or more cars were parked in front of the house each day this week. One or two students from our department have won prizes. Note that when followed by a fraction, one ordinarily takes a plural verb: One and a half years have passed since I last saw her. The fraction rule has an exception in that amounts are sometimes treated as singular entities: One and a half cups is enough sugar. Note also that the plural rule does not apply to these one-plus-a-fraction constructions that are introduced by the indefinite article. These are always singular: A year and a half has passed since I last saw her. See Usage Note at he1.


Usage Note: When used as an adverb, only should be placed with care to avoid ambiguity. Generally this means having only adjoin the word or words that it limits. Variation in the placement of only can change the meaning of the sentence, as the following examples show: Dictators respect only force; they are not moved by words. Dictators only respect force; they do not worship it. She picked up the receiver only when he entered, not before. She only picked up the receiver when he entered; she didn't dial the number. Though strict grammarians insist that the rule for placement of only should always be followed, there are occasions when placement of only earlier in the sentence seems much more natural, and if the context is sufficiently clear, there is no chance of being misunderstood. In the following example only is placed according to the rule: The committee can make its decision by Friday of next week only if it receives a copy of the latest report. Placement of only earlier in the sentence, immediately after can, would warn the reader that a condition on the statement follows. See Usage Note at not.


Usage Note: When all the elements in a series connected by or are singular, the verb they govern is singular: Tom or Jack is coming. Beer, ale, or wine is included in the charge. When all the elements are plural, the verb is plural. When the elements do not agree in number, some grammarians have suggested that the verb should agree in number with the nearest element: Tom or his sisters are coming. The girls or their brother is coming. Cold symptoms or headache is the usual first sign. Other grammarians, however, have argued that such constructions are inherently illogical and that the only solution is to revise the sentence to avoid the problem of agreement: Either Tom is coming or his sisters are. The usual first sign may be either cold symptoms or a headache. See Usage Notes at and/or, either, neither, nor1.


Usage Note: Asian is now strongly preferred in place of Oriental for persons native to Asia or descended from an Asian people. The usual objection to Oriental—meaning "eastern"—is that it identifies Asian countries and peoples in terms of their location relative to Europe. However, this objection is not generally made of other Eurocentric terms such as Near and Middle Eastern. The real problem with Oriental is more likely its connotations stemming from an earlier era when Europeans viewed the regions east of the Mediterranean as exotic lands full of romance and intrigue, the home of despotic empires and inscrutable customs. At the least these associations can give Oriental a dated feel, and as a noun in contemporary contexts (as in the first Oriental to be elected from the district) it is now widely taken to be offensive. However, Oriental should not be thought of as an ethnic slur to be avoided in all situations. As with Asiatic, its use other than as an ethnonym, in phrases such as Oriental cuisine or Oriental medicine, is not usually considered objectionable.


Usage Note: Unlike other auxiliary verbs, ought usually takes to with its accompanying verb: We ought to go. Sometimes the accompanying verb is dropped if the meaning is clear: Should we begin soon? Yes, we ought to. In questions and negative sentences, especially those with contractions, to is also sometimes omitted: Oughtn't we be going soon? This omission of to, however, is not common in written English. Like must and auxiliary need, ought to does not change to show past tense: He said we ought to get moving along.Usages such as He hadn't ought to come and She shouldn't ought to say that are common in many varieties of American English. They should be avoided in written English, however, in favor of the more standard variant ought not to.


Usage Note: Many compounds other than those entered here may be formed with over-. In forming compounds, over- is joined with the following element without space or a hyphen: overachieve, overrepresented. Note, however, that over may combine with other words as a unit modifier. In such cases the words are joined by hyphens: over-the-counter medication.


Usage Note: The noun pair can be followed by a singular or plural verb. The singular is always used when pair denotes the set taken as a single entity: This pair of shoes is on sale. A plural verb is used when the members are considered as individuals: The pair are working more harmoniously now. After a number other than one, pair itself can be either singular or plural, but the plural is now more common: She bought six pairspairof stockings.


Usage Note: Paradigm first appeared in English in the 15th century, meaning "an example or pattern," and it still bears this meaning today: Their company is a paradigm of the small high-tech firms that have recently sprung up in this area. For nearly 400 years paradigm has also been applied to the patterns of inflections that are used to sort the verbs, nouns, and other parts of speech of a language into groups that are more easily studied. Since the 1960s, paradigm has been used in science to refer to a theoretical framework, as when Nobel Laureate David Baltimore cited the work of two colleagues that "really established a new paradigm for our understanding of the causation of cancer." Thereafter, researchers in many different fields, including sociology and literary criticism, often saw themselves as working in or trying to break out of paradigms. Applications of the term in other contexts show that it can sometimes be used more loosely to mean "the prevailing view of things." The Usage Panel splits down the middle on these nonscientific uses of paradigm. Fifty-two percent disapprove of the sentence The paradigm governing international competition and competitiveness has shifted dramatically in the last three decades.


Usage Note: The term parameter, which originates in mathematics, has a number of specific meanings in fields such as astronomy, electricity, crystallography, and statistics. Perhaps because of its ring of technical authority, it has been used more generally in recent years to refer to any factor that determines a range of variations and especially to a factor that restricts what can result from a process or policy. In this use it often comes close to meaning "a limit or boundary." Some of these new uses have a clear connection to the technical senses of the word. For example, the provisions of a zoning ordinance that limit the height or density of new construction can be reasonably likened to mathematical parameters that establish the limits of other variables. Therefore one can say The zoning commission announced new planning parameters for the historic Lamping district of the city. But other uses go one step further and treat parameter as a high-toned synonym for characteristic. Eighty percent of Panelists reject this use of parameter in the example The Judeo-Christian ethic is one of the important parameters of Western culture.Some of the difficulties with the nontechnical use of parameter appear to arise from its resemblance to the word perimeter, with which it shares the sense "limit," though the precise meanings of the two words differ. This confusion probably explains the use of parameter in a sentence such as U.S. forces report that the parameters of the mine area in the Gulf are fairly well established, where the word perimeter would have expressed the intended sense more exactly. This example of a use of parameter was unacceptable to 61 percent of the Usage Panel.


Usage Note: Participial phrases such as walking down the street or having finished her homework are commonly used in English to modify nouns or pronouns, but care must be taken in incorporating such phrases into sentences. Readers will ordinarily associate a participle with the noun, noun phrase, or pronoun adjacent to it, and misplacement may produce comic effects as in He watched his horse take a turn around the track carrying a racing sheet under his arm. A correctly placed participial phrase leaves no doubt about what is being modified: Sitting at her desk, Jane read the letter carefully.Another pitfall in using participial phrases is illustrated in the following sentence: Turning the corner, the view was quite different. Grammarians would say that such a sentence contains a "dangling participle" because there is no noun or pronoun in the sentence that the participial phrase could logically modify. Moving the phrase will not solve the problem (as it would in the sentence about the horse with a racing sheet). To avoid distracting the reader, it would be better to recast the sentence as When we turned the corner, the view was quite different or Turning the corner, we had a different view.A number of expressions originally derived from participles have become prepositions, and these may be used to introduce phrases that are not associated with the immediately adjacent noun phrase. Such expressions include concerning, considering, failing, granting, judging by, and speaking of. Thus one may write without fear of criticism Speaking of politics, the elections have been postponed or Considering the hour, it is surprising that he arrived at all.


Usage Note: Party is unexceptionable when used to refer to a participant in a social arrangement, as in She was not named as a party in the conspiracy. It is this sense that underlies the legal use of the term, as when one speaks of the parties to a contract. The legal use has in turn led to the presence of the word in many fixed expressions, such as injured party and third party. But party is also widely used as a general substitute for person, as in Would all parties who left packages at the desk please reclaim them. This usage has been established for many centuries, but in the Victorian era it came to be associated with the language of the semieducated and it has been the subject of many later criticisms. This use of party may have been reinforced in the 20th century by its adoption by telephone operators. In other contexts, when used in earnest, it may be perceived as a superfluous variant for person. But the jocular use of the term is well established, particularly in references such as a wise old party.


Usage Note: The past tense and past participle of pass is passed: They passedhave passedour home. Time had passed slowly. Past is the corresponding adjective (in centuries past), adverb (drove past), preposition (past midnight), and noun (lived in the past).


Usage Note: As a term meaning "a body of persons sharing a culture," people is a singular noun, as in As a people the Pueblo were noteworthy for their peacefulness. Its plural is peoples: the many and varied peoples of West Africa. But when used to mean "humans," people is plural and has no corresponding singular form. English is not unique in this respect; Spanish, Italian, Russian, and many other languages have a plural word meaning "people" that has no singular. Some grammarians have insisted that people is a collective noun that should not be used as a substitute for persons when referring to a specific number of individuals. By this thinking, it is correct to say Six persons were arrested, not Six people were arrested. But people has always been used in such contexts, and almost no one makes the distinction anymore. Persons is still preferred in legal contexts, however, as in Vehicles containing fewer than three persons may not use the left lane during rush hours. Only the singular person is used in compounds involving a specific numeral: a six-person car; a two-person show. But people is used in other compounds: people mover; people power. These examples are exceptions to the general rule that plural nouns cannot be used in such compounds; note that we do not say teethpaste or books-burning. See Usage Note at man.


Usage Note: Statistically speaking, a quantity can be increased by any percentage but cannot be decreased by more than 100 percent. Once pollution has been reduced by 100 percent, for example, it ceases to exist. In defiance of this logic, however, advertisers sometimes refer to a 150 percent decrease in lost luggage or a new dental rinse that reduces plaque on teeth by over 300 percent. Presumably what is implied by the latter is that the new rinse is three times as effective as some other rinse, but such constructions are still subject to criticism as illogical.Percent can take a singular or plural verb, depending on how the quantity being described is viewed. Very often what determines the form of the verb is the noun nearest to it. Thus one might say Eighty percent of the legislators are going to vote against the bill or Eighty percent of the legislature is set to vote the bill down. In the second sentence the group of legislators is considered as a body, not as individuals. When percent is used without a following prepositional phrase, either a singular or plural verb is acceptable.


Usage Note: When preceded by the, percentage takes a singular verb: The percentage of unskilled workers is small. When preceded by a, it takes either a singular or plural verb, depending on the number of the noun in the prepositional phrase that follows: A small percentage of the workers are unskilled. A large percentage of the crop has spoiled.


Usage Note: Some people maintain that perfect is an absolute term like chief and prime, and therefore cannot be modified by more, quite, relatively, and other qualifiers of degree. But the qualification of perfect has many reputable precedents (most notably in the preamble to the U.S. Constitution in the phrase "in order to form a more perfect Union"). By the same token, perfect often means "ideal for the purposes," as in There could be no more perfect spot for the picnic, where modification by degree makes perfect sense. See Usage Notes at absolute, equal, unique.


Usage Note: In technical use, periodic means "at regular or predictable intervals," as in the Periodic Table of the Elements. Often, however, periodic is used to mean "occasional, intermittent." This usage can be confusing for readers who are accustomed to the narrower sense of the word. Thus the writer who says Parker's losses at the track were not covered by his periodic wins invites the (most likely unintended) inference that Parker has a system that enables him to win at regular intervals. The ambiguity can be avoided here by using occasional instead.


Usage Note: In the sense "to allow for, be consistent with," permit is often followed by the preposition of: The wording of the note permits of several interpretations. But of should not be used when the meaning of permit is "to give permission": The law permitspermits ofcamping on the beach.


Usage Note: The word person has found widespread use in recent decades as a gender-neutral alternative to man in the names of occupational and social roles, such as businessperson, chairperson, spokesperson, and layperson. In addition, a variety of entirely new, more inclusive phrases have arisen to compete with or supplant -man compounds. Now we often hear first-year student instead of freshman and letter carrier instead of mailman. In other cases, a clipped form, such as chair for chairman, or a phrase, such as member of the clergy for clergyman, has found widespread use as a neutral alternative. Reflecting this trend, new standards of official usage for occupational titles have been established by the U.S. Department of Labor and other government agencies; for instance, in official contexts, terms such as firefighter and police officer are now generally used in place of fireman and policeman. See Usage Note at man.


Usage Note: Peruse has long meant "to read thoroughly" and is often used loosely when one could use the word read instead, as in The librarians checked to see which titles had been perused in the last month and which been left untouched. Seventy percent of the Usage Panel rejected this example in our 1999 survey. Sometimes people use it to mean "to glance over, skim," as in I only had a moment to peruse the manual quickly, but this usage is widely considered an error. In a 1988 survey, 66 percent of the Panel found it unacceptable, and in 1999, 58 percent still rejected it.


Usage Note: Phenomenon is the only singular form of this noun; phenomena is the usual plural. Phenomenons may also be used as the plural in nonscientific writing when the meaning is "extraordinary things, occurrences, or persons": They were phenomenons in the history of music.

pill bug

Usage Note: Many people, especially science teachers, like to make a distinction between pill bugs and sow bugs. According to this usage, a pill bug, or roly-poly, is a terrestrial isopod crustacean whose segmented body gives it the ability to curl up into a ball when disturbed. A sow bug is any of several similar looking creatures that lack this ability. In popular usage, however, the names pill bug and sow bug, along with a number of other popular names, are used to refer to any of these tiny segmented crustaceans that are often mistaken for insects.


Usage Note: In strict legal usage, one is said to plead guilty or plead not guilty but not to plead innocent. In nonlegal contexts, however, plead innocent is well established.


Usage Note: When mathematical equations are pronounced as English sentences, the verb is usually in the singular: Two plus twoequalsfour. By the same token, subjects containing two noun phrases joined by plus are usually construed as singular: The construction slowdown plus the bad weather has made for a weak market. This observation has led some to argue that in these sentences, plus functions as a preposition meaning "in addition to." But if this were true, the plus phrase could be moved to the beginning of the sentence. Clearly, this is not the case—we do not say Plus the bad weather, the construction slowdown has made for a weak market. It makes more sense to view plus in these uses as a conjunction that joins two subjects into a single entity requiring a single verb by notional agreement, just as and does in the sentence Chips and beans is her favorite appetizer.The usage plus which in The construction industry has been hurt by the rise in rates. Plus which, bad weather has affected housing starts is not well established in formal writing; nor is plus accepted as correct in introducing an independent clause, as in She has a great deal of talent, plus she is willing to work hard.


Usage Note: Politics, although plural in form, takes a singular verb when used to refer to the art or science of governing or to political science: Politics has been a concern of philosophers since Plato. But in its other senses politics can take either a singular or plural verb. Many other nouns that end in -ics behave similarly, and the user is advised to consult specific entries for precise information.


Usage Note: In informal speech poor is sometimes used as an adverb, as in They never played poorer. In formal usage more poorly would be required in this example.


Usage Note: When the adjective possessed means "owning a thing, exhibiting an attribute," it is followed by the preposition of: possessed of property; possessed of a sharp tongue. When possessed means "obsessed," by or with follows: possessed by (or with) an urge to kill.


Usage Note: It is easy to confuse practicable and practical because they look so much alike and overlap in meaning. Practicable means "feasible" as well as "usable," and it cannot be applied to persons. Practical has at least eight meanings, including the sense "capable of being put into effect, useful," wherein the confusion with practicable arises. But there is a subtle distinction between these words that is worth keeping. For the purpose of ordering coffee in a Parisian caf, if would be practical (that is, useful) to learn some French, but it still might not be practicable for someone with a busy schedule and little time to learn.


Usage Note: Practically has as its primary sense "in a way that is practical": We planned the room practically so we can use it as a study as well as a den. The word has an extended meaning of "for all practical purposes," as in After the accident, the car was practically undrivable. That is, the car can still be driven; it is just no longer practical to do so. Language critics sometimes object when the notion of practicality is stripped from this word in its further extension to mean "all but, nearly," as in He had practically finished his meal when I arrived. But this usage is widely used by reputable writers and must be considered acceptable.


Usage Note: The adjective precipitate and the adverb precipitately were once applied to physical steepness but are now used primarily of rash, headlong actions: Their precipitate entry into the foreign markets led to disaster. He withdrew precipitately from the race. Precipitous currently means "steep" in both literal and figurative senses: the precipitous rapids of the upper river; a precipitous drop in commodity prices. But precipitous and precipitously are also frequently used to mean "abrupt, hasty," which takes them into territory that would ordinarily belong to precipitate and precipitately: their precipitous decision to leave. This usage is a natural extension of the use of precipitous to describe a rise or fall in a quantity over time: a precipitous increase in reports of measles is also an abrupt or sudden event. Though this extended use of precipitous is well attested in the work of reputable writers, it is still widely regarded as an error.


Usage Note: In entertainment contexts, the verb premiere has become the standard way of saying "to introduce to the public," or "to be introduced to the public." Since it seems always to imply newness, premiere is frequently used in advertising. Thus a movie can premiere in selected theaters, and a year later it can "premiere" to a different audience on television. The verb first came out in the 1930s and acceptance of it in general usage has been slow. In 1969, only 14 percent of the Usage Panel accepted it. Nineteen years later, however, when asked to judge the example The Philharmonic will premiere works by two young Americans, 51 percent of the Panelists accepted this usage. But only 10 percent of the Panelists in the 1988 survey accepted the extension of the verb to contexts outside of the entertainment industry, as in Last fall the school premiered new degree programs.


Usage Note: It was John Dryden who first promulgated the doctrine that a preposition may not be used at the end of a sentence, probably on the basis of a specious analogy to Latin. Grammarians in the 18th century refined the doctrine, and the rule has since become one of the most venerated maxims of schoolroom grammar. But sentences ending with prepositions can be found in the works of most of the great writers since the Renaissance. English syntax does allow for final placement of the preposition, as in We have much to be thankful for or I asked her which course she had signed up for. Efforts to rewrite such sentences to place the preposition elsewhere can have stilted and even comical results, as Winston Churchill demonstrated when he objected to the doctrine by saying "This is the sort of English up with which I cannot put."Sometimes sentences that end with adverbs, such as I don't know where she will end up or It's the most curious book I've ever run across, are mistakenly thought to end in prepositions. One can tell that up and across are adverbs here, not prepositions, by the ungrammaticality of I don't know up where she will end and It's the most curious book across which I have ever run. It has never been suggested that it is incorrect to end a sentence with an adverb.


Usage Note: An original meaning of presently was "at the present time; currently." That sense is said to have disappeared from the literary language in the 17th century, but it has survived in popular usage and is widely found nowadays in literate speech and writing. Still, there is a lingering prejudice against this use. The sentence General Walters is ... presently the United States Ambassador to the United Nations was acceptable to only 48 percent of the Usage Panel in the 1999 survey.


Usage Note: Principal and principle are often confused but have no meanings in common. Principle is only a noun and usually refers to a rule or standard. Principal is both a noun and an adjective. As a noun, it has specialized meanings in law and finance, but in general usage it refers to a person who holds a high position or plays an important role: a meeting among all the principals in the transaction. As an adjective it has the sense of "chief" or "leading": The coach's principal concern is the quarterback's health.


Usage Note: It can be argued that prioritize serves a useful function in providing a single word to mean "arrange according to priority," but it is often regarded as corporate or bureaucratic jargon. Resistance to prioritize, however, has fallen dramatically in recent decades. In 1976, 97 percent of the Usage Panel rejected its use in the phrase a first attempt to prioritize the tasks facing the new administration. By 1997, however, 53 percent of the Panel approved the use of prioritize in the sentence Overwhelmed with work, the lawyer was forced to prioritize his caseload. This suggests that, like finalize, prioritize is rapidly securing a place in our everyday vocabulary. See Usage Note at finalize.


Usage Note: In recent years there has been a tendency to pronounce the plural ending -es of processes as (-ēz), perhaps by analogy with words of Greek origin such as analysis and neurosis. But process is not of Greek origin, and there is no etymological justification for this pronunciation of its plural. However, because this pronunciation is not uncommon even in educated speech, it is generally considered an acceptable variant, although it still strikes some listeners as a bungled affectation. In a recent survey 79 percent of the Usage Panel preferred the standard pronunciation (-ĭz) for the plural ending -es and 15 percent preferred the pronunciation (-ēz).Although the pronunciation for process with a long (o), (prō′sĕs′), is more usual in British English, it is an acceptable variant in American English.


Usage Note: The protagonist of a Greek drama was its leading actor; therefore, there could be only one in a play. The question for speakers of modern English is whether a drama can have more than one protagonist. When members of the Usage Panel were asked "How many protagonists are there in Othello?" the great majority answered "One" and offered substitutes such as antagonist, villain, principal, and deuteragonist to describe Desdemona and Iago. Nevertheless, the word has been used in the plural to mean "important actors" or "principal characters" since at least 1671 when John Dryden wrote "Tis charg'd upon me that I make debauch'd persons ... my protagonists, or the chief persons of the drama." Some writers may prefer to confine their use of protagonist to refer to a single actor or chief participant, but it is pointless to insist that the broader use is wrong.The use of protagonist to refer to a proponent has become common only in the 20th century and may have been influenced by a misconception that the first syllable of the word represents the prefix pro-, "favoring." In sentences such as He was an early protagonist of nuclear power, this use is likely to strike many readers as an error and can usually be replaced by advocate or proponent.


Usage Note: Prove has two past participles: proved and proven. Proved is the older form. Proven is a variant. The Middle English spellings of prove included preven, a form that died out in England but survived in Scotland, and the past participle proven, a form that probably rose by analogy with verbs like weave, woven and cleave, cloven. Proven was originally used in Scottish legal contexts, such as The jury ruled that the charges were not proven. In the 20th century, proven has made inroads into the territory once dominated by proved, so that now the two forms compete on equal footing as participles. However, when used as an adjective before a noun, proven is now the more common word: a proven talent.


Usage Note: When referring to the time of day, the article a is optional in phrases such as (a) quarter to (or of, before, or till) nine; (a) quarter after (or past) ten.


Usage Note: A reclaimed word is a word that was formerly used solely as a slur but that has been semantically overturned by members of the maligned group, who use it as a term of defiant pride. Queer is an example of a word undergoing this process. For decades queer was used solely as a derogatory adjective for gays and lesbians, but in the 1980s the term began to be used by gay and lesbian activists as a term of self-identification. Eventually, it came to be used as an umbrella term that included gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people. Nevertheless, a sizable percentage of people to whom this term might apply still hold queer to be a hateful insult, and its use by heterosexuals is often considered offensive. Similarly, other reclaimed words are usually offensive to the in-group when used by outsiders, so extreme caution must be taken concerning their use when one is not a member of the group.


Usage Note: In speech quick is commonly used as an adverb in phrases such as Come quick. In formal writing, however, quickly is required.


Usage Note: People have been using the noun quote as a truncation of quotation for over 100 years, and its use in less formal contexts is widespread today. Language critics have objected to this usage, however, as unduly journalistic or breezy. As such, it is best avoided in more formal situations. The Usage Panel, at least, shows more tolerance for the word as the informality of the situation increases. Thus, only 38 percent of Panelists accept the example He began the chapter with a quote from the Bible, but the percentage rises to 53 when the source of the quotation is less serious: He lightened up his talk by throwing in quotes from Marx Brothers movies.


Usage Note: The notion of race is nearly as problematic from a scientific point of view as it is from a social one. European physical anthropologists of the 17th and 18th centuries proposed various systems of racial classifications based on such observable characteristics as skin color, hair type, body proportions, and skull measurements, essentially codifying the perceived differences among broad geographic populations of humans. The traditional terms for these populations—Caucasoid (or Caucasian), Mongoloid, Negroid, and in some systems Australoid—are now controversial in both technical and nontechnical usage, and in some cases they may well be considered offensive. (Caucasian does retain a certain currency in American English, but it is used almost exclusively to mean "white" or "European" rather than "belonging to the Caucasian race," a group that includes a variety of peoples generally categorized as nonwhite.) The biological aspect of race is described today not in observable physical features but rather in such genetic characteristics as blood groups and metabolic processes, and the groupings indicated by these factors seldom coincide very neatly with those put forward by earlier physical anthropologists. Citing this and other points—such as the fact that a person who is considered black in one society might be nonblack in another—many cultural anthropologists now consider race to be more a social or mental construct than an objective biological fact.


Usage Note: Strictly speaking, the use of ever after rarely and seldom is redundant; She rarely ever watches television adds nothing to She rarely watches television. In an earlier survey a large majority of the Usage Panel found this construction unacceptable in formal writing. But ever has been used as an intensive with rarely for several hundred years, and the construction is common in informal contexts. By contrast, the constructions rarely (or seldom) if ever and rarely (or seldom) or never are perfectly acceptable: She rarely if ever watches television. She rarely or never watches television. See Usage Notes at hardly, redundancy.


Usage Note: In expressions of preference rather is commonly preceded by would: We would rather rent the house than buy it outright. In formal style, should is sometimes used: I should rather my daughter attended a public school. Sometimes had appears in these constructions, although this use of had seems to be growing less frequent: I had rather work with William than work for him. This usage was once widely criticized as a mistake, the result of a misanalysis of the contraction in sentences such as I'd rather stay. But it is in fact a survival of the subjunctive form had that appears in constructions like had better and had best, as in We had better leave now. This use of had goes back to Middle English and is perfectly acceptable.Before an unmodified noun only rather a is used: It was rather a disaster. When the noun is preceded by an adjective, however, both rather a and a rather are found: It was rather a boring party. It was a rather boring party. When a rather is used in this construction, rather qualifies only the adjective, whereas with rather a it qualifies either the adjective or the entire noun phrase. Thus a rather long ordeal can mean only "an ordeal that is rather long," whereas rather a long ordeal can also mean roughly "a long process that is something of an ordeal." Rather a is the only possible choice when the adjective itself does not permit modification: The horse was rather a long shot (not The horse was a rather long shot). See Usage Notes at have, should.


Usage Note: The usages that critics have condemned as redundancies fall into several classes. Some expressions, such as old adage, mental telepathy, and VAT tax have become fixed expressions and seem harmless enough. In some cases, such as consensus of opinion, hollow tube, and refer back, the use of what is regarded as an unnecessary modifier or qualifier can sometimes be justified on the grounds that it in fact makes a semantic contribution. Thus a hollow tube can be distinguished from one that has been blocked up with deposits, and a consensus of opinion can be distinguished from a consensus of judgments or practice. Some locutions, such as close proximity, have been so well established that criticizing them may seem petty. See Usage Notes at rarely, refer.


Usage Note: Regard is traditionally used in the singular in the phrase in regard (not in regards) to. Regarding and as regards are also standard in the sense "with reference to." In the same sense with respect to is acceptable, but respecting is not.Respects is sometimes considered preferable to regards in the sense of "particulars": In some respectsregardsthe books are alike.


Usage Note: Replete means "abundantly supplied" and is not generally accepted as a synonym for complete.


Usage Note: A number of critics have maintained that repulse should only be used to mean "to drive away, spurn," as in He rudely repulsed their overtures, and not to mean "to cause repulsion in," as in Their hypocrisy repulsed me. In recent years, however, there has been an increasing tendency to use repulse in the latter sense. Reputable literary precedent exists for this usage, and given that the stigmatized use of repulse is parallel to the unexceptionable uses of repulsion and repulsive, the frequency of its appearance is not surprising. Still, writers who want to avoid repulse may choose repel, a synonym that is perfectly acceptable.


Usage Note: Some critics have maintained that responsible should not be used to describe things, since only persons can be held accountable. The application to things is justifiable, however, when responsible is used to mean "being the source or cause of." In an earlier survey, a majority of the Usage Panel accepted the sentence Faulty construction was responsible for the crash.


Usage Note: Restive is properly applied to a feeling of impatience or uneasiness induced by external coercion or restriction, and is not a general synonym for restless: The government has done nothing to ease export restrictions, and domestic manufacturers are growing restive (not restless). The atmosphere in the office was congenial, but after five years I began to grow restless (not restive).


Usage Note: Sacrilegious, the adjective form of sacrilege, is often misspelled through confusion with religious.

safe sex

Usage Note: To emphasize that the probability of acquiring or spreading a sexually transmitted disease is merely reduced and not eliminated when following recommended safeguards, some advocate the use of the term safer sex instead of safe sex.


Usage Note: The adjective said is used primarily in legal and business writing, where it is equivalent to aforesaid: the said tenant (named in a lease); said property. Outside of these specialized contexts said is usually unnecessary, and the tenant or the property will suffice.


Usage Note: The informality of electronic mail poses a problem for the traditional norms of epistolary style. In a formal e-mail message, there is nothing out of place in beginning with a formula such as Dear Professor Fillmore and closing with Very truly yours. Since e-mail is a relatively new medium for communication, however, set phrases for informal greetings and closings are still being established. At times, the salutation and valediction are left out entirely, even when the correspondents do not know each other well. Informal salutations include common greetings like Hi or simply the addressee's name. People have been much more creative with the closing, employing terms such as best wishes and cheers, the latter term previously associated with British use and perhaps adopted because it sounds a neutral note between the kind of closings used in letters and phone calls. Still more informal is TTFN, an abbreviation for ta-ta for now, another Briticism.


Usage Note: The expressions same and the same are sometimes used in place of pronouns such as it or one, as in When you have filled out the form, please remit same to this office. As this example suggests, the usage is associated chiefly with business and legal language, and some critics have suggested that it should be reserved for such contexts. But though the usage often does sound stilted, it occurs with some frequency in informal writing, particularly in the phrase lack of same, as in It is a question of money, or lack of same.


Usage Note: Traditionalists state that one should use the form a saving when referring to an amount of money that is saved. Indeed, that is the form English speakers outside of the United States normally use. In the United States the plural form a savings is widely used with a singular verb (as in A savings of $50 is most welcome); nonetheless, 57 percent of the Usage Panel find it unacceptable.


Usage Note: Because scarcely has the force of a negative, its use with another negative, as in I couldn't scarcely believe it, is regarded as incorrect.A clause following scarcely is correctly introduced by when or before; the use of than, though common, is still unacceptable to some grammarians: The meeting had scarcely begun whenbeforethanit was interrupted. See Usage Notes at double negative, hardly.


Usage Note: The word schism, which was originally spelled scisme in English, is traditionally pronounced (sĭz′əm). However, in the 16th century the word was respelled with an initial sch in order to conform to its Latin and Greek forms. From this spelling arose the pronunciation (skĭz′əm). Long regarded as incorrect, it became so common in both British and American English that it gained acceptability as a standard variant. Evidence indicates, however, that it is now the preferred pronunciation, at least in American English. In a recent survey 61 percent of the Usage Panel indicated that they use (skĭz′əm), while 31 percent said they use (sĭz′əm). A smaller number, 8 percent, preferred a third pronunciation, (shĭz′əm).


Usage Note: Scottish is the full, original form of the adjective. Scots is an old Scottish variant. Scotch is an English contraction of Scottish that came into use in Scotland as well for a time (as in Burns's "O thou, my Muse! guid auld Scotch drink!") but subsequently fell into disfavor there. In the interest of civility, forms involving Scotch are best avoided in reference to people; designations formed with Scots are most common (Scot, Scotsman, or Scotswoman), but those involving the full form Scottish are sometimes found in more formal contexts. Scotch-Irish is the most commonly used term for the descendants of Scots who migrated to North America, but lately Scots-Irish has begun to gain currency among those who know that Scotch is considered offensive in Scotland. There is, however, no sure rule for referring to things, since the history of variation in the use of these words has left many expressions in which the choice is fixed, such as Scotch broth, Scotch whisky, Scottish rite, and Scots Guards.


Usage Note: Seasonal and seasonable, though closely related, have different uses. Seasonal applies to what depends on or is controlled by the season of the year: a seasonal rise in employment. Seasonable applies to what is appropriate to the season (seasonable clothing) or timely (seasonable intervention in the dispute). Rains are seasonal if they occur at a certain time of the year; they are seasonable at any time if they save the crops.


Usage Note: Series is both a singular and a plural form. When it has the singular sense of "one set," it takes a singular verb, even when series is followed by of and a plural noun: A series of lectures is scheduled. When it has the plural sense of "two or more sets," it takes a plural verb: Two series of lectures are scheduled: one for experts and one for laypeople.


Usage Note: Aside from specialized senses in finance (service a debt) and animal breeding (service a mare), the verb service is used principally in the sense "to repair or maintain": service the washing machine. In the sense "to supply goods or services to," serve is the correct choice: One radio network serves three states.


Usage Note: Originally set meant "to cause (something) to sit," so that it is now in most cases a transitive verb: She sets the book on the table. He sets the table. Sit is generally an intransitive verb: He sits at the table. There are some exceptions: The sun sets sitsA hen setssitson her eggs.


Usage Note: The traditional rules for using shall and will prescribe a highly complicated pattern of use in which the meanings of the forms change according to the person of the subject. In the first person, shall is used to indicate simple futurity: I shallwillhave to buy another ticket. In the second and third persons, the same sense of futurity is expressed by will: The comet willshallreturn in 87 years. You willshallprobably encounter some heavy seas when you round the point. The use of will in the first person and of shall in the second and third may express determination, promise, obligation, or permission, depending on the context. Thus I will leave tomorrow indicates that the speaker is determined to leave; You and she shall leave tomorrow is likely to be interpreted as a command. The sentence You shall have your money expresses a promise ("I will see that you get your money"), whereas You will have your money makes a simple prediction.Such, at least, are the traditional rules. The English and some traditionalists about usage are probably the only people who follow these rules, and then not with perfect consistency. In America, people who try to adhere to them run the risk of sounding pretentious or haughty. Americans normally use will to express most of the senses reserved for shall in English usage. Americans use shall chiefly in first person invitations and questions that request an opinion or agreement, such as Shall we go? and in certain fixed expressions, such as We shall overcome. In formal style, Americans use shall to express an explicit obligation, as in Applicants shall provide a proof of residence, though this sense is also expressed by must or should. In speech the distinction that the English signal by the choice of shall or will may be rendered by stressing the auxiliary, as in I leave tomorrow ("I intend to leave"); by choosing another auxiliary, such as must or have to; or by using an adverb such as certainly.In addition to its sense of obligation, shall also can convey high moral seriousness that derives in part from its extensive use in the King James Bible, as in "Righteousness shall go before him and shall set us in the way of his steps" (Ps 85:13) and "He that shall humble himself shall be exalted" (Mt 23:12). The prophetic overtones that shall bears with it have no doubt led to its use in some of the loftiest rhetoric in English. This may be why Lincoln chose to use it instead of will in the Gettysburg Address:"government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth." See Usage Note at should.


Usage Note: Using she as a generic or gender-neutral singular pronoun is more common than might be expected, given the continuing debate regarding the parallel use of he. In a 1989 article from the Los Angeles Times, for instance, writer Dan Sullivan notes, "What's wrong with reinventing the wheel? Every artist has to do so in her search for the medium that will best express her angle of vision." Alice Walker writes in 1991, "A person's work is her only signature." It may be argued that this usage needlessly calls attention to the issue of gender, but the same argument can be leveled against generic he. This use of she still carries an air of unconventionality, which may be why only three percent of the Usage Panel recommends it in sentences like A taxpayer who fails to disclose the source of ______ income can be prosecuted under the new law.Some writers switch between she and he in alternating sentences, paragraphs, or chapters. This practice has been gaining acceptance, especially in books related to fields like education and child development, where the need for a generic pronoun is pervasive. It can also be seen in academic journals, where the sentence The researcher should note that at this point in the experiment she may need to recheck all data for errors might be followed later in the same section by The researcher should record his notes carefully at this stage. This style may seem cumbersome, but if generic pronouns are required, alternating between she and he can offer a balanced solution in an appropriate context. See Usage Notes at he1, they.


Usage Note: The pronunciation (-līvd) is etymologically correct since the compound is derived from the noun life, rather than from the verb live. But the pronunciation (-lĭvd) is by now so common that it cannot be considered an error. In the most recent survey 43 percent of the Usage Panel preferred (-lĭvd), 39 percent preferred (-līvd), and 18 percent found both pronunciations equally acceptable.


Usage Note: Like the rules governing the use of shall and will on which they are based, the traditional rules governing the use of should and would are largely ignored in modern American practice. Either should or would can now be used in the first person to express conditional futurity: If I had known that, I wouldshouldhave answered differently. But in the second and third persons only would is used: If he had known that, he wouldshouldhave answered differently. Would cannot always be substituted for should, however. Should is used in all three persons in a conditional clause: if Iyou heshould decide to go. Should is also used in all three persons to express duty or obligation (the equivalent of ought to): Iyouheshould go. On the other hand, would is used to express volition or promise: I agreed that I would do it. Either would or should is possible as an auxiliary with like, be inclined, be glad, prefer, and related verbs: I wouldshouldlike to call your attention to an oversight. Here would was acceptable on all levels to a large majority of the Usage Panel in an earlier survey and is more common in American usage than should.Should have is sometimes incorrectly written should of by writers who have mistaken the source of the spoken contraction should've. See Usage Notes at if, rather, shall.


Usage Note: Slow may sometimes be used instead of slowly when it comes after the verb: We drove the car slow. In formal writing slowly is generally preferred. Slow is often used in speech and informal writing, especially when brevity and forcefulness are sought: Drive slow! Slow is also the established idiomatic form with certain senses of common verbs: The watch runs slow. Take it slow.


Usage Note: Snuck is an Americanism first introduced in the 19th century as a nonstandard regional variant of sneaked. Widespread use of snuck has become more common with every generation. It is now used by educated speakers in all regions. Formal written English is more conservative than other varieties, of course, and here snuck still meets with much resistance. Many writers and editors have a lingering unease about the form, particularly if they recall its nonstandard origins. And 67 percent of the Usage Panel disapproved of snuck in our 1988 survey. Nevertheless, an examination of recent sources shows that snuck is sneaking up on sneaked. Snuck was almost 20 percent more common in newspaper articles published in 1995 than it was in 1985. Snuck also appears in the work of many respected columnists and authors: "He ran up huge hotel bills and then snuck out without paying" (George Stade). "He had snuck away from camp with a cabinmate" (Anne Tyler). "I ducked down behind the paperbacks and snuck out" (Garrison Keillor).


Usage Note: Many critics and grammarians have insisted that so must be followed by that in formal writing when used to introduce a clause giving the reason for or purpose of an action: He stayed so that he could see the second feature. But since many respected writers use so for so that in formal writing, it seems best to consider the issue one of stylistic preference: The store stays open late so (or so that) people who work all day can buy groceries.?・?Both so and so that are acceptably used to introduce clauses that state a result or consequence: The Bay Bridge was still closed, so (or so that) the drive from San Francisco to the Berkeley campus took an hour and a half.?・?So is frequently used in informal speech to string together the elements of a narrative. In most cases, this practice should not be carried over into formal writing, where readers need connections to be made more explicit.?・?Critics have sometimes objected to the use of so as an intensive meaning "to a great degree or extent," as in We were so relieved to learn that the deadline had been extended. This usage is most common in informal contexts, perhaps because, unlike the neutral very, it presumes that the listener or reader will be sympathetic to the speaker's evaluation of the situation. Thus one would be more apt to say It was so unfair of them not to invite you than to say It was so fortunate that I didn't have to put up with your company. For just this reason, the construction may occasionally be used to good effect in more formal contexts to invite the reader to take the point of view of the speaker or subject: The request seemed to her to be quite reasonable; it was so unfair of the manager to refuse. See Usage Note at as1.


Usage Note: Quotation marks are not used to set off descriptions that follow expressions such as so-called and self-styled, which themselves relieve the writer of responsibility for the attribution: his so-called foolproof method"foolproof method"


Usage Note: The adverbs someday and sometime express future time indefinitely: We'll succeed someday. Come sometime. Let's meet sometime when your schedule permits. This sense can also be conveyed by some day and some time. The two-word forms are always used when some is an adjective modifying and specifying a more particular day or time: Come some daysomedaysoon. Choose some daysomedaythat is not so busy. See Usage Note at sometime.


Usage Note: Sometime as an adjective has been employed to mean "former" since the 15th century. Since the 1930s, people have used it to mean "occasional": the team's sometime star and sometime problem child. This latter use, however, is unacceptable to a majority of the Usage Panel. See Usage Note at someday.


Usage Note: The older pronunciation of sonorous has stress on the second syllable. As a recent survey indicates, however, the variant pronunciation with stress on the first syllable is now much more common in American English. In this survey, 84 percent of the Usage Panel gave (sŏn′ər-əs) as their pronunciation, and only 16 percent gave (sə-nr′əs) or (sə-nōr′əs). Two linguists on the Panel noted that whereas they stress the first syllable, they pronounce it with a long (o), as (sō′nər-əs).


Usage Note: No sooner, as a comparative adverb, should be followed by than, not when, as in these typical examples: No sooner had she come than the maid knocked. I had no sooner left than she called.

split infinitive

Usage Note: The split infinitive has been present in English ever since the 14th century, but it was not until the 19th century that grammarians labeled and condemned the usage. The only rationale for condemning the construction is based on a false analogy with Latin. The thinking is that because the Latin infinitive is a single word, the equivalent English construction should be treated as if it were a single unit. But English is not Latin, and distinguished writers have split infinitives without giving it a thought. Noteworthy splitters include John Donne, Daniel Defoe, George Eliot, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, William Wordsworth, and Willa Cather. Still, those who dislike the construction can usually avoid it without difficulty. The sense of the sentence To better understand the miners' plight, he went to live in their district is just as easily expressed by To understand the miners' plight better, he went to live in their district. However, one must take care not to ruin the rhythm of the sentence or create an unintended meaning by displacing an adverb.When choosing to retain split infinitives, one should be wary of constructions that have more than one word between to and the verb. The Usage Panel is evenly divided on the one-adverb split infinitive. Fifty percent accept it in the sentence The move allowed the company to legally pay the employees severance payments that in some cases exceeded $30,000. But only 23 percent of the panel accepts the split infinitive in the sentence We are seeking a plan to gradually, systematically, and economically relieve the burden. In some contexts, the split infinitive is unavoidable, as in the sentence We expect our output to more than double in a year.Excessive zeal in avoiding the split infinitive may result in an awkward placement of adverbs in constructions involving the auxiliary verbs be and have. Infinitive phrases in which the adverb precedes a participle, such as to be rapidly rising, to be clearly understood, and to have been ruefully mistaken, are not split and should be acceptable to everybody. By the same token, there are no grounds for objecting to the position of the adverb in the sentence He is committed to laboriously assembling all of the facts of the case. What is "split" here is not an infinitive but a prepositional phrase.

Standard English

Usage Note: People who invoke the term Standard English rarely make clear what they have in mind by it, and tend to slur over the inconvenient ambiguities that are inherent in the term. Sometimes it is used to denote the variety of English prescribed by traditional prescriptive norms, and in this sense it includes rules and usages that many educated speakers don't systematically conform to in their speech or writing, such as the rules for use of who and whom. In recent years, however, the term has more often been used to distinguish the speech and writing of middle-class educated speakers from the speech of other groups and classes, which are termed nonstandard. This is the sense in which the word is used in the usage labels in this dictionary. But it should be borne in mind that when it is used in this way, the term is highly elastic and variable, since what counts as Standard English will depend on both the locality and the particular varieties that Standard English is being contrasted with. A form that is considered standard in one region may be nonstandard in another, and a form that is standard by contrast with one variety (for example the language of inner-city African Americans) may be considered nonstandard by contrast with the usage of middle-class professionals. No matter how it is interpreted, however, Standard English in this sense shouldn't be regarded as being necessarily correct or unexceptionable, since it will include many kinds of language that could be faulted on various grounds, like the language of corporate memos and television advertisements or the conversations of middle-class high-school students. Thus while the term can serve a useful descriptive purpose providing the context makes its meaning clear, it shouldn't be construed as conferring any absolute positive evaluation.


Usage Note: In a recent survey of the Usage Panel, 53 percent of the Panelists preferred the pronunciation (stăt′əs), 36 percent preferred (stā′təs), and 11 percent said they use both pronunciations. The pronunciation (stā′təs) is the older, more traditional pronunciation, and it remains the most common one in British English.


Usage Note: Staunch is more common than stanch as the spelling of the adjective. Stanch is more common than staunch as the spelling of the verb.


Usage Note: Stomp and stamp are interchangeable in the sense "to trample" or "to tread on violently": stompedstampedto death; stompingstampinghorses. Only stamp is used with out to mean "to eliminate": stamp out a fire; stamp out poverty. Stamp is also standard in the sense "to strike the ground with the foot, as in anger or frustration," [to bring the foot down quickly] as in He stamped his foot and began to cry. In an earlier survey the use of stomp in this example was rejected by a large majority of the Usage Panel.


Usage Note: The standard singular form is stratum; the standard plural is strata (or sometimes stratums), not stratas.


Usage Note: Although the word strength is not spelled with a k, it is most often pronounced (strĕngkth), with a (k) sound inserted between the (ng) and the (th). This intrusive (k) occurs for a simple reason: In making the transition from the voiced velar nasal (ng) to the voiceless dental fricative (th), speakers naturally produce the voiceless velar stop (k), which is made at the same place in the mouth as (ng) but is voiceless like (th). Other words with intrusive consonants include warmth, which may sound like it is spelled warmpth, and prince, which may sound like prints. The pronunciation (strĕnth), which is made with (n) before (th), arises by the phonological process of assimilation. The velar (ng) moves forward in the mouth, becoming (n) before (th), which is made at the front of the mouth. Criticized in the past as sloppy, this pronunciation is now generally regarded as a standard, although less common, variant. The similar pronunciation of length is now also considered acceptable.


Usage Note: The adjective such is often followed by that when such is used to mean "of a degree or quality indicated," as in the sentence The demand of Feinberg's specialized services is such that he commands around $200,000 a month when he gets involved in a case. This example is acceptable to 87 percent of the Usage Panel.The Panel does not, however, find the phrase such that to be an acceptable replacement for so that or in such a way that. A mere 12 percent approve of this usage in the sentence The products are packaged such that users can pick the components they need and add capabilities over time.


Usage Note: In general usage the preferred preposition after suffer is from, rather than with, in constructions such as He suffered from hypertension. Ninety-four percent of the Usage Panel found suffered with unacceptable in the preceding example. In medical usage suffer with is sometimes employed with reference to the pain or discomfort caused by a condition, while suffer from is used more broadly in reference to a condition, such as anemia, that is detrimental but not necessarily painful.


Usage Note: Since the 18th century grammarians have insisted that than should be regarded as a conjunction in all its uses, so that a sentence such as Bill is taller than Tom should be construed as an elliptical version of the sentence Bill is taller than Tom is. According to this view, the case of a pronoun following than is determined by whether the pronoun serves as the subject or object of the verb that is "understood." Thus, the standard rule requires Pat is taller than I (not me) on the assumption that this sentence is elliptical for Pat is taller than I am but allows The news surprised Pat more than me, since this sentence is taken as elliptical for The news surprised Pat more than it surprised me. However, than is quite commonly treated as a preposition when followed by an isolated noun phrase, and as such occurs with a pronoun in the objective case: John is taller than me. Though this usage is still widely regarded as incorrect, it is predominant in speech and has reputable literary precedent, appearing in the writing of such respected authors as Shakespeare, Johnson, Swift, Scott, and Faulkner. It is also consistent with the fact that than is clearly treated as a preposition in the than whom construction, as in a poet than whomthan whono one has a dearer place in the hearts of his countrymen. Still, the writer who risks a sentence like Mary is taller than him in formal writing must be prepared to defend the usage against objections of critics who are unlikely to be dissuaded from the conviction that the usage is incorrect.Comparatives using as . . . as can be analyzed as parallel to those using than. Traditional grammarians insist that I am not as tall as he is the only correct form; in formal writing, one should adhere to this rule. However, one can cite both literary precedent and syntactic arguments in favor of analyzing the second as as a preposition (which would allow constructions such as I am not as tall as him See Usage Note at as1.


Usage Note: The standard rule requires that that should be used only to introduce a restrictive (or defining) relative clause, which identifies the entity being talked about; in this use it should never be preceded by a comma. Thus, in the sentence The house that Jack built has been torn down, the clause that Jack built is a restrictive clause identifying the specific house that was torn down. Similarly, in I am looking for a book that is easy to read, the restrictive clause that is easy to read tells what kind of book is desired. A related rule stipulates that which should be used with nonrestrictive (or nondefining) clauses, which give additional information about an entity that has already been identified in the context; in this use, which is always preceded by a comma. Thus, we say The students in Chemistry 101 have been complaining about the textbook, whichthatis hard to follow. The clause which is hard to follow is nonrestrictive in that it does not indicate which text is being complained about; even if the clause were omitted, we would know that the phrase the textbook refers to the text in Chemistry 101.Some grammarians extend the rule and insist that, just as that should be used only in restrictive clauses, which should be used only in nonrestrictive clauses. Thus, they suggest that we should avoid sentences such as I need a book which will tell me all about city gardening, where the restrictive clause which will tell me all about city gardening indicates which sort of book is needed. But this extension of the rule is far from universally accepted, and the use of which with restrictive clauses is common. Furthermore, since that cannot be used with clauses introduced by a preposition (whether or not restrictive), which is used with both clauses when such a clause is joined by and or or to another that does not begin with a preposition, as in It is a philosophy in which the common man may find solace and which many have found reason to praise. Such constructions are often considered cumbersome, however, and it may be best to recast the sentence completely to avoid the problem.That is often omitted in a relative clause when the subject of the clause is different from the word that the clause refers to. Thus, we may say either the book that I was reading or the book I was reading. In addition, that is commonly omitted before other kinds of subordinate clauses, as in I think we should try again where that would precede we. These constructions omitting that are entirely idiomatic, even in more formal contexts. See Usage Notes at doubt, this, whatever, which, who.


Usage Note: Perhaps because of the spectacular success of theme parks, the noun theme has recently developed the adjectival form, themed, which is used in combination with an adjective or noun to mean "designed around a particular theme." However, themed has not yet found widespread favor outside the entertainment business. In fact, only 36 percent of the Usage Panel approves of it in sentences like Some have criticized the network for rejecting two gay-themed commercials. Their disapproval may stem from the inference that this adjectival participle must come from a verb "to theme," rather than from the noun theme (as left-handed comes from the noun hand). Although many common verbs, such as telephone, began their lives as nouns, there is often very strong resistance when a noun first begins to be used as a verb. There are indeed instances of theme being used as a verb, but they are relatively rare—a fact that seems to suit the Usage Panel. Ninety-two percent reject the sentence Disney will theme the new attraction to fit in with the promotions for its latest animated film.


Usage Note: The standard rule states that when the pronoun there precedes a verb such as be, seem, or appear, the verb agrees in number with the following grammatical subject: There is a great Italian deli across the street. There are fabulous wildflowers in the hills. There seems to be a blueberry pie cooking in the kitchen. There seem to be a few trees between the green and me. Nonetheless, it is common in speech for the contraction there's to be used when technically a plural verb is called for, as in There's a couple of good reasons for going. The Usage Panel dislikes this construction, however. Seventy-nine percent reject the sentence There's only three things you need to know about this book. But when there's is followed by a compound subject whose first element is singular, the Panel feels differently: 56 percent accept the sentence In each of us there's a dreamer and a realist, and an additional 32 percent accept it in informal usage. The Panel is even more accepting of the sentence When you get to the stop light, there's a gas station on the left and a grocery store on the right 58 percent accept it in formal use, while an additional 37 percent accept it in informal use. Although this usage would seem to violate the rules of subject and verb agreement, the attraction of the verb to the singular noun phrase following it is so strong that it is difficult to avoid the construction entirely.There may be used as an intensive adjective when placed after a noun preceded by that, but it is considered nonstandard to place there between that and the noun. Thus that there dress is not an acceptable substitute for that dress there. This here is similarly considered nonstandard.


Usage Note: The use of the third-person plural pronoun they to refer to a singular noun or pronoun is attested as early as 1300, and many admired writers have used they, them, themselves, and their to refer to singular nouns such as one, a person, an individual, and each. W.M. Thackeray, for example, wrote in Vanity Fair in 1848, "A person can't help their birth," and more recent writers such as George Bernard Shaw and Anne Morrow Lindbergh have also used this construction, in sentences such as "To do a person in means to kill them," and "When you love someone you do not love them all the time." The practice is widespread and can be found in such mainstream publications as the Christian Science Monitor, Discover, and the Washington Post. The usage is so common in speech that it generally passes unnoticed.However, despite the convenience of third-person plural forms as substitutes for generic he and for structurally awkward coordinate forms like his/her, many people avoid using they to refer to a singular antecedent out of respect for the traditional grammatical rule concerning pronoun agreement. Most of the Usage Panelists reject the use of they with singular antecedents. Eighty-two percent find the sentence The typical student in the program takes about six years to complete their course work unacceptable. Thus, the writer who chooses to use they in similar contexts in writing should do so only if assured that the usage will be read as a conscious choice rather than an error.Interestingly, Panel members do seem to distinguish between singular nouns, such as the typical student, and pronouns that are grammatically singular but semantically plural, such as anyone and everyone. Sixty-four percent of panel members accept the sentence No one is willing to work for those wages anymore, are they? in informal speech. See Usage Notes at any, anyone, he1, she.


Usage Note: This and that are both used as demonstrative pronouns to refer to a thought expressed earlier: The letter was unopened; thatthisin itself casts doubt on the inspector's theory. That is sometimes viewed as the better choice in referring to what has gone before (as in the preceding example). When the referent is yet to be mentioned, only this is used: Thisthatis what bothers me: we have no time to consider late applications.This is often used in speech and informal writing as an emphatic substitute for the indefinite article to refer to a specific thing or person: You should talk to this friend of mine at the Department of Motor Vehicles. I have this terrible feeling that I forgot to turn off the gas. It is best to avoid this substitution in formal writing except when a conversational tone is desired. See Usage Note at that.

Three Age system

Usage Note: In organizing the extensive collection of artifacts at the National Museum of Denmark, the 19th-century Danish archaeologist Christian Thomsen proposed an innovative system based on the assumption of a progression in human technology from stone to bronze to iron. His insight that early technology had developed in chronological stages rather than concurrently at different levels of society proved essentially correct, though ultimately of limited use in describing the various progressions in other parts of the world. Once empirical study of archaeological collections began, Thomsen's Three Age system was rapidly modifed into four ages by the subdivision of the Stone Age into the Old Stone (now Paleolithic) and New Stone (Neolithic) ages. Subsequent refinement has added Mesolithic (Middle Stone) and Chalcolithic (Copper and Stone) to the original terms, which are now known as periods rather than ages. Use of the full terminology—Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze, and Iron—is appropriate only for Europe, the Middle East, and Egypt, and even there it is not uniformly accepted among archaeologists today.


Usage Note: Thusly was introduced in the 19th century as an alternative to thus in sentences such as Hold it thus or He put it thus. It appears to have first been used by humorists, who may have been echoing the speech of poorly educated people straining to sound stylish. The word has subsequently gained some currency in educated usage, but it is still often regarded as incorrect. A large majority of the Usage Panel found it unacceptable in an earlier survey. In formal writing thus can still be used as in the examples above; in other styles this way, like this, and other such expressions are more natural.


Usage Note: Tight is used as an adverb following verbs that denote a process of closure or constriction, as squeeze, shut, close, tie, and hold. In this use it is subtly distinct from the adverb tightly. Tight denotes the state resulting from the process, whereas tightly denotes the manner of its application. As such, tight is more appropriate when the focus is on a state that endures for some time after the activity has ended. The sentence She closed up the house tight suggests preparation for an impending blizzard. By the same token, it is more natural to say The windows were frozen tight than The windows were frozen tightly, since in this case the tightness of the seal is not likely to be the result of the manner in which the windows were frozen. With a few verbs tight is used idiomatically as an intensive and is the only possible form: sleep tight; sit tight. Tight can be used only following the verb: The house was shut tight tight shut


Usage Note: Till and until are generally interchangeable in both writing and speech, though as the first word in a sentence until is usually preferred: Until you get that paper written, don't even think about going to the movies.?・?Till is actually the older word, with until having been formed by the addition to it of the prefix un-, meaning "up to." In the 18th century the spelling 'till became fashionable, as if till were a shortened form of until. Although 'till is now nonstandard, 'til is sometimes used in this way and is considered acceptable, though it is etymologically incorrect.


Usage Note: Together with is often used following the subject of a sentence or clause to introduce an addition. The addition, however, does not alter the number of the verb, which is governed by the subject: The kingtogether with two aides, is expected soon. The same is true of along with, besides, and in addition to. See Usage Notes at besides, like2.


Usage Note: Some language critics have objected to the use of not too as an equivalent of not very, as in She was not too pleased with the results. In many contexts this construction is entirely idiomatic and should pass without notice: It wasn't too long ago that deregulation was being hailed as the savior of the savings and loan industry. It was not too bright of them to build in an area where rock slides occur. In these cases not too adds a note of ironic understatement.Negation of too by can't may sometimes lead to ambiguities, as in You can't check your child's temperature too often, which may mean either that the temperature should be checked only occasionally or that it should be checked as frequently as possible.Too meaning "in addition" or "also" is sometimes used to introduce a sentence: There has been a cutback in federal subsidies. Too, rates have been increasing. There is nothing grammatically wrong with this usage, but some critics consider it awkward.


Usage Note: Although tortuous and torturous both come from the Latin word torquēre, "to twist," their primary meanings are distinct. Tortuous means "twisting" (a tortuous road) or by extension "complex" or "devious." Torturous refers primarily to torture and the pain associated with it. However, torturous also can be used in the sense of "twisted" or "strained," and tortured is an even stronger synonym: tortured reasoning.


Usage Note: Some critics have tried to discern a semantic distinction between toward and towards, but the difference is entirely dialectal. Toward is more common in American English; towards is the predominant form in British English.


Usage Note: Transpire has been used since the mid-18th century in the sense "leak out, become publicly known," as in Despite efforts to hush the matter up, it soon transpired that the colonels had met with the rebel leaders. This usage has long been standard. The more common use of transpire to mean "occur" or "happen" has had a more troubled history. Though it dates at least to the beginning of the 19th century, language critics have condemned it for more than 100 years as both pretentious and unetymological. There is some sign that resistance to this sense of transpire is abating, however. In a 1969 survey the usage was acceptable to only 38 percent of the Usage Panel; nearly 20 years later, 58 percent accepted it in the sentence All of these events transpired after last week's announcement. Still, many Panelists who accepted the usage also remarked that it was pretentious or pompous.


Usage Note: The phrase try and is commonly used as a substitute for try to, as in Could you try and make less noise? A number of grammarians have labeled the construction incorrect. To be sure, the usage is associated with informal style and strikes an inappropriately conversational note in formal writing. Sixty-five percent of the Usage Panel rejects the use in writing of the sentence Why don't you try and see if you can work the problem out between yourselves?


Usage Note: The negative prefix un- attaches chiefly to adjectives (unable, unclean, unequal, unripe, unsafe) and participles used as adjectives (unfeeling, unflinching, unfinished, unsaid), and less frequently to nouns (unbelief, unconcern, unrest). Sometimes the noun form of an adjective with the un- prefix has the prefix in-, as in inability, inequality, injustice, and instability. A few stems appear with both prefixes with distinctions of meaning. Inhuman means "brutal, monstrous," while unhuman means "not of human form, superhuman."When used with adjectives, un- often has a sense distinct from that of non-. Non- picks out the set of things that are not in the category denoted by the stem to which it is attached, whereas un- picks out properties unlike those of the typical examples of the category. Thus nonmilitary personnel are those who are not members of the military, whereas someone who is unmilitary is unlike a typical soldier in dress, habits, or attitudes.


Usage Note: Unaware, followed by a prepositional phrase with of (expressed or implied), is the usual adjectival form modifying a noun or pronoun or following a linking verb: Unaware of the difficulty, I went ahead. She plunged into a dangerous situation wholly unaware. He was unaware of my presence. Unawares is the usual adverbial form: The rain caught them unawares (without warning). They came upon it unawares (without design or plan).


Usage Note: The confusion between unexceptionable and unexceptional is understandable, since both derive from the noun exception. Unexceptionable takes its meaning from exception in the sense "objection," as in the idiom take exception to ("find fault with, object to"). Thus unexceptionable is commendatory, meaning "not open to any objection or criticism," as in A judge's ethical standards should be unexceptionable. Unexceptional, by contrast, is related to the adjective exceptional ("outstanding, above average), which takes its meaning from exception in the sense "an unusual case"; thus unexceptional generally has a somewhat negative meaning, "not superior, run-of-the-mill" as in Some judges' ethical standards have unfortunately been unexceptional.


Usage Note: For many grammarians, unique is the paradigmatic absolute term, a shibboleth that distinguishes between those who understand that such a term cannot be modified by an adverb of degree or a comparative adverb and those who do not. These grammarians would say that a thing is either unique or not unique and that it is therefore incorrect to say that something is very unique or more unique than something else. Most of the Usage Panel supports this traditional view. Eighty percent disapprove of the sentence Her designs are quite unique in today's fashions. But as the language of advertising in particular attests, unique is widely used as a synonym for "worthy of being considered in a class by itself, extraordinary," and if so construed it may arguably be modified. In fact, unique appears as a modified adjective in the work of many reputable writers. A travel writer states that "Chicago is no less unique an American city than New York or San Francisco," for example, and the critic Fredric Jameson writes "The great modern writers have all been defined by the invention or production of rather unique styles." Although these examples of the qualification of unique are defensible, writers should be aware that such constructions are liable to incur the censure of some readers. See Usage Notes at absolute, equal, infinite.


Usage Note: A number of critics have remarked that utilize is an unnecessary substitute for use. It is true that many occurrences of utilize could be replaced by use with no loss to anything but pretentiousness, for example, in sentences such as They utilized questionable methods in their analysis or We hope that many commuters will continue to utilize mass transit after the bridge has reopened. But utilize can mean "to find a profitable or practical use for." Thus the sentence The teachers were unable to use the new computers might mean only that the teachers were unable to operate the computers, whereas The teachers were unable to utilize the new computers suggests that the teachers could not find ways to employ the computers in instruction.


Usage Note: The use of various as a pronoun, as in various of the committee members spoke out against the measure, is widely regarded as an error. Eighty-six percent of the Usage Panel finds this sentence unacceptable, a figure not much different from the 91 percent who rejected the various of construction in 1967. The Panel is somewhat more tolerant of the construction when it is used with inanimate objects rather than people. Seventy percent objected to its use in the phrase ownership of the lake and various of its tributaries and effluents. It is not clear why this usage should be regarded as an error, since it is analogous to the use of quantifiers such as few, many, and several.


Usage Note: Verbal has been used since the 16th century to refer to spoken, as opposed to written, communication, and the usage cannot be considered incorrect. But because verbal may also mean "by linguistic means," it may be ambiguous in some contexts. Thus the phrase modern technologies for verbal communication may refer only to devices such as radio, the telephone, and the loudspeaker, or it may refer to devices such as the telegraph, the teletype, and the fax machine. In such contexts it may be clearer to use the word oral to convey the narrower sense of communication by spoken means.


Usage Note: In general, very is not used alone to modify a past participle. Thus we may say of a book, for example, that it has been very much praised, very much criticized, very much applauded, and so on, but not that it has been very praised, very criticized, or very applauded. However, when past participle forms are used as adjectives, modification by a bare very, or by analogous adverbs such as quite, is acceptable: there can be no objection to phrases such as a very creased handkerchief, a very celebrated singer, or a very polished performance. In some cases there is disagreement as to whether a particular participle can be properly used as an adjective: over the years objections have been raised to very immediately preceding delighted, interested, annoyed, pleased, disappointed, and irritated. All these words are now well established as adjectives, as indicated by the fact that they can be used attributively (a delighted audience, a pleased look, a disappointed young man) as well as by other syntactic criteria. But the status of other participles is still in flux. Some speakers accept phrases such as very appreciated, very astonished, or very heartened, while others prefer alternatives using very much. What is more, some participles allow treatment as adjectives in one sense but not another: one may speak of a very inflated reputation, for example, but not, ordinarily, of a very inflated balloon. As a result, there is no sure way to tell which participles may be modified by a bare very—syntactic tests such as the use of the participle as an attributive adjective will themselves yield different judgments for different speakers—and writers must trust their ears. When in doubt, the use of very much is generally the safer alternative.


Usage Note: The modern pronunciation of victual, (vĭt′l), represents an Anglicized pronunciation of the Old French form vitaille, which was borrowed into English in the early 14th century. The modern English spelling reflects the fact that in both French and English the word was sometimes spelled with a c, and later also with a u, under the influence of its Late Latin ancestor victuālia, meaning "provisions." The word is now occasionally spelled vittle rather than victual, but in either case the pronunciation is (vĭt′l).


Usage Note: When virtual was first introduced in the computational sense, it applied to things simulated by the computer, like virtual memory—that is, memory that is not actually built into the processor. Over time, though, the adjective has been applied to things that really exist and are created or carried on by means of computers. Virtual conversations are conversations that take place over computer networks, and virtual communities are genuine social groups that assemble around the use of e-mail, webpages, and other networked resources.The adjectives virtual and digital and the prefixes e- and cyber- are all used in various ways to denote things, activities, and organizations that are realized or carried out chiefly in an electronic medium. There is considerable overlap in the use of these items: people may speak either of virtual communities or of cybercommunities and of e-cash or cybercash. To a certain extent the choice of one or another of these is a matter of use or convention (or in some cases, of finding an unregistered brand name). But there are certain tendencies. Digital is the most comprehensive of the words, and can be used for almost any device or activity that makes use of or is based on computer technology, such as a digital camera or a digital network. Virtual tends to be used in reference to things that mimic their "real" equivalents. Thus a digital library would be simply a library that involves information technology, whether a brick-and-mortar library equipped with networked computers or a library that exists exclusively in electronic form, whereas a virtual library could only be the latter of these. The prefix e- is generally preferred when speaking of the commercial applications of the Web, as in e-commerce, e-cash, and e-business, whereas cyber- tends to be used when speaking of the computer or of networks from a broader cultural point of view, as in cybersex, cyberchurch, and cyberspace. But like everything else in this field, such usages are evolving rapidly, and it would be rash to try to predict how these expressions will be used in the future.


Usage Note: The pairs wake, waken and awake, awaken have formed a bewildering array since the Middle English period. All four words have similar meanings, though there are some differences in use. Only wake is used in the sense "to be awake," as in expressions like wakingwakeningand sleeping, every waking hour. Wake is also more common than waken when used together with up, and awake and awaken never occur in this context: She woke up (rarely wakened up; never awakened up or awoke up). Some writers have suggested that waken should be used only transitively (as in The alarm wakened him) and awaken only intransitively (as in He awakened at dawn), but there is ample literary precedent for usages such as He wakened early and They did not awaken her. In figurative senses awake and awaken are more prevalent: With the governor's defeat the party awoke to the strength of the opposition to its position on abortion. The scent of the gardenias awakened my memory of his unexpected appearance that afternoon years ago.
Regional Note: Regional American dialects vary in the way that certain verbs form their principal parts. Northern dialects seem to favor forms that change the internal vowel in the verb—hence dove for the past tense of dive, and woke for wake: They woke up with a start. Southern dialects, on the other hand, tend to prefer forms that add an -ed to form the past tense and the past participle of these same verbs: The children dived into the swimming hole. The baby waked up early.


Usage Note: When want meaning "desire" is followed immediately by an infinitive construction, it does not take for: I want you to gowant for you to go When want and the infinitive are separated by a word or phrase, however, for is used: What I want is for you to go. I want very much for you to go. Want in its meaning of "have need, lack" normally takes for: They'll not want for anything now that they've inherited his estate. See Usage Note at wish.


Usage Note: Way has long been an intensifying adverb meaning "to a great degree," as in way over budget. This usage is both acceptable and common but has an informal ring.Way is also used as a general intensifier, as in way cool and way depressing. This locution has expanded beyond its original range of younger speakers, but it is still regarded as slang.In American English ways is often used as an equivalent of way in phrases such as a long ways to go. The usage is acceptable but is usually considered informal.


Usage Note: Appositive nouns or noun phrases sometimes lead writers and speakers to choose incorrect pronoun forms. Thus us is frequently found in constructions such as Us owners will have something to say about the contract, where we is required as the subject of the sentence. Less frequently, we is substituted in positions where us should be used, as in For we students, it's a no-win situation. In all cases, the function of the pronoun within the sentence should determine its form, whether or not it is followed by a noun or noun phrase. See Usage Notes at be, I1.


Usage Note: In recent years weaned on has come to be widely used in the sense "raised on," as in Moviegoers weaned on theTV series will doubtless find the film to their liking. A few critics have objected to this usage on the grounds that wean refers literally to a detachment from a source of nourishment. But the process of weaning involves a substitution of some other form of nourishment for mother's milk; thus it is sometimes said that a child is weaned ontoon sugar water. Hence a sentence like Paul was weaned on folk music may suggest metaphorically that Paul's exposure to folk music began from the time he stopped nursing, that is, from a very early age.


Usage Note: The word Web is usually capitalized when referring to the World Wide Web: Many sites on the Web have information about used cars. In this use, however, the word is increasingly found lowercase, and this usage may become dominant. See Usage Note at website.


Usage Note: The transition from World Wide Web site to Web site to website as a single uncapitalized word mirrors the development of other technological expressions which have tended to take unhyphenated forms as they become more familiar. Thus email is gaining ground over the forms E-mail and e-mail, especially in texts that are more technologically oriented. Similarly, there is an increasing preference for closed forms like homepage, online, and printout.


Usage Note: English speakers have used well both as an adjective and as an adverb since Old English times. When applied to people, the adjective well usually refers to a state of health. Like similar adjectives, such as ill and faint, well in this use is normally restricted to the predicate, as in He hasn't been well lately. Well does see occasional use before a noun, as in Benjamin Franklin's "Poor Dick eats like a well man, and drinks like a sick." It also appears in compound adjectives like well-baby, which is well known to pediatricians and recent parents. Good, on the other hand, has a much wider range of senses, including "attractive," as in He looks good, and "competent," as in She's pretty good for a beginner, as well as "healthy." See Usage Note at good.


Usage Note: When what is the subject of a clause, it takes a singular verb if the word or phrase that completes the sentence (the complement) is singular, as in I see what seems to be a dead tree. It is plural if a plural noun or noun phrase completes the sentence, as in He sometimes makes what seem to be gestures of reconciliation.Clauses with what as either subject or object may themselves be the subject of a sentence, and sometimes it is difficult to decide whether the verb of the main clause should be singular or plural. When the what in the what-clause is the object of the verb and the complement of the main clause is singular, the main verb is always singular: What they wanted was a home of their own; when the complement of the main sentence is plural, the verb is most often plural: What American education needs are smaller classes, though one also encounters sentences such as What the candidate gave the audience was the same old empty promises. When what is the subject of a what-clause that is the subject of a main clause, there is greater variation in usage. When the verb of the what-clause and the complement of the main clause are both plural or both singular, the number of the verb of the main clause generally agrees with them. When the verb in the what-clause is singular and the complement in the main clause is plural, one finds both singular and plural verbs being used. Sentences similar to both of the following are found in respected writers: What drives me crazy is her frequent tantrums; What bothers him are the discrepancies in their accounts. When the complement of the main clause consists of two or more nouns, the verb of the main clause is generally singular if the nouns are singular and plural if they are plural: What pleases the voters is his honesty and his willingness to take on difficult issues; On entering the harbor what first meet the eye are luxurious yachts and colorful villas. Occasionally the choice of a singular or plural verb may be used to convey a difference in meaning. In the sentence What excite him most are money and power, the implication is that money and power are separable goals; in What excites him most is money and power, the implication is that money and power are inextricably bound together. See Usage Note at which.


Usage Note: Both whatever and what ever may be used in sentences such as WhateverWhat evermade her say that? Critics have occasionally objected to the one-word form, but many respected writers have used it. The same is true of the forms whoever, whenever, wherever, and however. In adjectival uses, however, only the one-word form is used: Take whateverwhat everbooks you need.When a clause beginning with whatever is the subject of a sentence, no comma should be used: Whatever you do is right. In most other cases, a comma is needed: Whatever you do, don't burn the toast.When a noun followed by a restrictive clause is preceded by whichever or whatever, it is regarded as incorrect to introduce the clause with that in formal writing: whatever book that you want to look at; one should write instead Whatever book you want to look at will be sent to your office or Whichever book costs lessthat costs lessis fine with us. See Usage Notes at however, that.


Usage Note: In informal style when is often used after forms of be in definitions: A dilemma is when you don't know which way to turn. Although useful, this construction is widely regarded as incorrect or unsuitable for formal discourse. In formal style such definitions should be recast to eliminate is when, either by supplying generic term that may be modified by a restrictive adjective clause (A dilemma is a situation in which you don't know which way to turn) or by making the when-clause adverbial (You are in a dilemma when you don't know which way to turn).


Usage Note: The construction from whence has been criticized as redundant since the 18th century. It is true that whence incorporates the sense of from: a remote village, whence little news reached the wider world. But from whence has been used steadily by reputable writers since the 14th century, most notably in the King James Bible: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help" (Psalms). Such a respectable precedent makes it difficult to label the construction as incorrect. Still, it may be observed that whence (like thence) is most often used nowadays to impart an archaic or highly formal tone to a passage, and that this effect is probably better realized if the archaic syntax of the word—without from—is preserved as well.


Usage Note: When where is used to refer to a point of origin, the preposition from is required: Where did she come from? From where I sit, the situation looks bleak. When it is used to refer to a destination, the preposition to is generally superfluous: Where is she going (rather than Where is she going to)? The place where they are going is beautiful.. When it is used to refer to the location of a person, event, or structure, the use of at is widely regarded as regional or colloquial: Where is the station (not Where is the station at)? Where he is, he has no access to a good library. See Usage Note at why.


Usage Note: The relative pronoun which is sometimes used to refer to an entire sentence or clause, rather than a noun or noun phrase, as in She ignored him, which proved to be unwise. They swept the council elections, which could never have happened under the old rules. While these examples are unexceptionable, using which in this way sometimes produces an ambiguous sentence. Thus It emerged that Edna made the complaint, which surprised everybody leaves unclear whether it was surprising that a complaint was made or that Edna made it. The ambiguity can be avoided with paraphrases such as It emerged that the complaint was made by Edna, a revelation that surprised everybody.Which may be used to refer to an entire sentence or clause only when it is preceded by that sentence or clause. When the referent follows, what should be used, particularly in formal style: Still, he has not said he will withdraw, which is more surprising but Still, whatwhichis more surprising, he has not said he will withdraw. See Usage Notes at that, what, whose.


Usage Note: The traditional rules for choosing between who and whom are relatively simple but not always easy to apply. Who is used where a nominative pronoun such as I or he would be appropriate, that is, for the subject of a verb or for a predicate nominative; whom is used for a direct or indirect object or for the object of a preposition. Thus, we write the actor who played Hamlet was there, since who is the subject of played; and Whom do you like best? because whom is the object of the verb like; and To whom did you give the letter? because whom is the object of the preposition to.?・?It is more difficult, however, to apply these rules in complicated sentences, particularly when who or whom is separated from the verb or preposition that determines its form. Intervening words may make it difficult to see that Who do you think is the best candidate? requires who as the subject of the verb is (not whom as the object of think) and The man whom the papers criticized did not show up requires whom as the object of the verb criticized (not who as the subject of showed up). Highly complex sentences such as I met the man whom the government had tried to get France to extradite require careful analysis—in this case, to determine that whom should be chosen as the object of the verb extradite, several clauses away. It is thus not surprising that writers from Shakespeare onward have often interchanged who and whom. Nevertheless, the distinction remains a hallmark of formal style.?・?In speech and informal writing, however, considerations other than strict grammatical correctness often come into play. Who may sound more natural than whom in a sentence such as Who did John say he was going to support? —though it is incorrect according to the traditional rules. In general, who tends to predominate over whom in informal contexts. Whom may sound stuffy even when correctly used, and when used where who would be correct, as in Whom shall I say is calling? whom may betray grammatical ignorance.?・?Similarly, though traditionalists will insist on whom when the relative pronoun is the object of a preposition that ends a sentence, grammarians since Noah Webster have argued that the excessive formality of whom is at odds with the relative informality associated with this construction; thus they contend that a sentence such as Who did you give it to? should be regarded as entirely acceptable.?・?Some grammarians have argued that only who and not that should be used to introduce a restrictive relative clause that identifies a person. This restriction has no basis either in logic or in the usage of the best writers; it is entirely acceptable to write either the woman that wanted to talk to you or the woman who wanted to talk to you.?・?The grammatical rules governing the use of who and whom in formal writing apply equally to whoever and whomever and are similarly often ignored in speech and informal writing. See Usage Notes at else, that, whose.


Usage Note: It has sometimes been claimed that whose is properly used only as the possessive form of who and thus should be restricted to animate antecedents, as in a man whose power has greatly eroded. But there is extensive literary precedent for the use of whose with inanimate antecedents, as in The play, whose style is rigidly formal, is typical of the period. In an earlier survey this example was acceptable to a large majority of the Usage Panel. Those who avoid this usage employ of which: The play, the style of which is rigidly formal, is typical of the period. But as this example demonstrates, substituting of which may produce a stilted sentence. See Usage Notes at else, which, who.


Usage Note: Many critics have held that why is redundant in the expression the reason why, as in The reason why he accepted the nomination is not clear. While it is true that why could be eliminated from such examples with no loss to the sense, the construction has been used by reputable English writers since the Renaissance. See Usage Note at where.


Usage Note: Wish is widely used as a polite substitute for want with infinitives: Do you wish to sit at a table on the terrace? Anyone who wishes to may leave now. This usage is appropriate for formal style, where it is natural to treat the desires of others with exaggerated deference. The corresponding use of wish with a noun-phrase object is less frequent: Anyone who wishes an aisle seat should see an attendant. Both usages are likely to sound stilted in informal style, however, and want may be substituted for wish.A traditional rule requires the use of were rather than was in a contrary-to-fact statement that follows wish: I wish I werewaslighter on my feet. While many people continue to insist on upholding this rule, the indicative was in such clauses can be found in the works of many well-known writers. See Usage Notes at if, want.


Usage Note: When the subject of a sentence is followed by a noun or noun phrase introduced by with rather than and, the verb remains singular: The governor, with his aides, is expected to attend the fair. See Usage Note at and.


Usage Note: Wreak is sometimes confused with wreck, perhaps because the wreaking of damage may leave a wreck: The storm wreakedwrecked havoc along the coast. The past tense and past participle of wreak is wreaked, not wrought, which is an alternative past tense and past participle of work.


Usage Note: Xmas has been used for hundreds of years in religious writing, where the X represents a Greek chi, the first letter of Χριστος, "Christ." In this use it is parallel to other forms like Xtian, "Christian." But people unaware of the Greek origin of this X often mistakenly interpret Xmas as an informal shortening pronounced (ĕks′məs). Many therefore frown upon the term Xmas because it seems to them a commercial convenience that omits Christ from Christmas.


Usage Note: In an attempt to seem quaint or old-fashioned, many store signs such as "Ye Olde Coffee Shoppe" use spellings that are no longer current. The word ye in such signs looks identical to the archaic second plural pronoun ye, but it is in fact not the same word. Ye in "Ye Olde Coffee Shoppe" is just an older spelling of the definite article the. The y in this ye was never pronounced (y) but was rather the result of improvisation by early printers. In Old English and early Middle English, the sound (th) was represented by the letter thorn (). When printing presses were first set up in England in the 1470s, the type and the typesetters all came from Continental Europe, where this letter was not in use. The letter y was used instead because in the handwriting of the day the thorn was very similar to y. Thus we see such spellings as ye for the,yt or yat for that, and so on well into the 19th century. However, the modern revival of the archaic spelling of the has not been accompanied by a revival of the knowledge of how it was pronounced, with the result that (yē) is the usual pronunciation today.


Usage Note: In formal writing, yet in the sense "up to now" is normally used with an accompanying verb in the present perfect rather than in the simple past. Thus, one would say He hasn't started yet, not He didn't start yet. The use of yet with the simple past is common in speech and may be appropriate for informal writing.


Usage Note: Traditionally, the first syllable of zoology has been pronounced as (ō), rhyming with toe. However, most likely due to the familiarity of the word zoo (which is merely a shortened form of zoological garden), the pronunciation of the first syllable as (o̅o̅) is also commonly heard. In 1999, 88 percent of the Panelists found the (zō-) pronunciation acceptable, and 60 percent found the (zo̅o̅-) pronunciation acceptable, with 68 percent using the (zō-) pronunciation and 32 percent using the (zo̅o̅-) pronunciation in their own speech. Thus, while both pronunciations can be considered acceptable, the (zō-) pronunciation may be perceived as more correct.

Synonym Notes


Synonyms: ability, capacity, faculty, talent, skill, competence, aptitude
These nouns denote qualities that enable a person to achieve or accomplish something. Ability is the mental or physical power to do something: "To make a fortune some assistance from fate is essential. Ability alone is insufficient" (Ihara Saikaku).
Capacity refers to the potential for acquiring that power: "The capability have shown in the realm of higher education, their achievements in the business world, their capacity for organization . . . have been a revelation" (Susan B. Anthony).
Faculty denotes an inherent ability: My lawyer has a faculty for detecting hypocrisy.
Talent emphasizes inborn ability, especially in the arts: "There is no substitute for talent. Industry and all the virtues are of no avail" (Aldous Huxley).
Skill stresses ability acquired or developed through experience: "The intellect, character and skill possessed by any man are the product of certain original tendencies and the training which they have received" (Edward L. Thorndike).
Competence suggests the ability to do something satisfactorily but not necessarily outstandingly: The violinist played the concerto with unquestioned competence but limited imagination.
Aptitude implies inherent capacity for learning, understanding, or performing: "She handled her brushes with a certain ease and freedom which came, not from long and close acquaintance with them, but from a natural aptitude" (Kate Chopin).


Synonyms: abolish, exterminate, extinguish, extirpate, eradicate, obliterate
These verbs mean to get rid of: voted to abolish the tax; exterminated the cockroaches in the house; criticism that extinguished my enthusiasm; policies that attempt to extirpate drug abuse; scientists working to eradicate deadly diseases; a magnet that obliterated the data on the floppy disk.


Synonyms: abstinence, self-denial, temperance, sobriety, continence
These nouns refer to restraint of one's appetites or desires. Abstinence implies the willful avoidance of pleasures, especially of food and drink, thought to be harmful or self-indulgent: "I vainly reminded him of his protracted abstinence from food" (Emily Bront).
Self-denial suggests resisting one's own desires for the achievement of a higher goal: I practiced self-denial to provide for my family's needs.
Temperance refers to moderation and self-restraint and sobriety to gravity in bearing, manner, or treatment; both nouns denote moderation in or abstinence from the consumption of alcoholic liquor: Teetotalers preach temperance for everyone. "those moments which would come between the subsidence of actual sobriety and the commencement of intoxication" (Anthony Trollope).
Continence specifically refers to abstention from sexual activity: The nun took a vow of continence.


Synonyms: abuse, misuse, mistreat, ill-treat, maltreat
These verbs mean to treat wrongfully or harmfully. Abuse applies to injurious or improper treatment: "We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us" (Aldo Leopold).
Misuse stresses incorrect or unknowledgeable handling: "How often misused words generate misleading thoughts" (Herbert Spencer).
Mistreat, ill-treat, and maltreat all share the sense of inflicting injury, often intentionally: "I had seen many more patients die from being mistreated for consumption than from consumption itself" (Earl of Lytton). The army had orders not to ill-treat the prisoners. "When we misuse we are in fact trying to reduce its element of foreignness. We let ourselves maltreat it as though it naturally belonged to us" (Manchester Guardian Weekly).


Synonyms: accidental, fortuitous, contingent, incidental, adventitious
These adjectives apply to what happens unintentionally. Accidental primarily refers to what occurs by chance: an accidental meeting.
It can also mean subordinate or nonessential: "Poetry is something to which words are the accidental, not by any means the essential form" (Frederick W. Robertson).
Fortuitous stresses chance even more strongly: "the happy combination of fortuitous circumstances" (Sir Walter Scott).
Contingent describes what is possible but uncertain because of unforeseen or uncontrollable factors: "The results of confession were not contingent, they were certain" (George Eliot).
Incidental refers to a minor or unanticipated result or accompaniment: "There is scarcely any practice which is so corrupt as not to produce some incidental good" (Enoch Mellor).
Adventitious applies to something acquired or added externally, sometimes by accident or chance: "The court tries to understand 'whether the young man's misconduct was adventitious or the result of some serious flaw in his character'" (Harry F. Rosenthal).


Synonyms: accompany, conduct, escort, chaperon
These verbs mean to be with or to go with another or others. Accompany suggests going with another on an equal basis: She went to Europe accompanied by her colleague.
Conduct implies guidance of others: The usher conducted us to our seats.
Escort stresses protective guidance: The party chairperson escorted the candidate through the crowd.
Chaperon specifies adult supervision of young persons: My mom helped chaperon the prom.


Synonyms: acknowledge, admit, own, avow, confess, concede
These verbs mean to admit the reality or truth of something, often reluctantly. To acknowledge is to accept responsibility for something one makes known: He acknowledged his mistake.
Admit implies reluctance in acknowledging one's acts or another point of view: "She was attracted by the frankness of a suitor who . . . admitted that he did not believe in marriage" (Edith Wharton).
Own stresses personal acceptance and responsibility: She owned that she feared for the child's safety.
Avow means to assert openly and boldly: "Old Mrs. Webb avowed that he, in the space of two hours, had worn out her pew more . . . than she had by sitting in it forty years" (Kate Douglas Wiggin).
Confess usually emphasizes disclosure of something damaging or inconvenient to oneself: I have to confess that I lied to you.
To concede is to intellectually accept something, often against one's will: The lawyer refused to concede that the two cases had similarities.


Synonyms: active, energetic, dynamic, vigorous, lively
These adjectives mean engaged in activity. Active means moving, doing, or functioning: an active toddler; an active imagination; saw active service in the army.
Energetic suggests sustained enthusiastic activity: an energetic competitor.
Dynamic connotes energy and forcefulness that often inspires others: a dynamic leader.
Vigorous implies healthy strength and robustness: a vigorous crusader against drunk driving.
Lively suggests animated alertness: a lively interest in politics.


Synonyms: adapt, accommodate, adjust, conform, fit1, reconcile
These verbs mean to make suitable to or consistent with a particular situation or use: adapted themselves to city life; can't accommodate myself to the new requirements; adjusting their behavior to the rules; conforming her life to accord with her moral principles; fitting the punishment to the crime; couldn't reconcile his reassuring words with his hostile actions.
Antonym: unfit


Synonyms: admonish, reprove, rebuke, reprimand, reproach
These verbs mean to correct or caution critically. Admonish implies the giving of advice or a warning in order to rectify or avoid something: "A gallows erected on an eminence admonished the offenders of the fate that awaited them" (William Hickling Prescott).
Reprove usually suggests gentle criticism and constructive intent: With a quick look, the teacher reproved the child for whispering in class.
Rebuke and reprimand both refer to sharp, often angry criticism: "Some of the most heated criticism . . . has come from the Justice Department, which rarely rebukes other agencies in public" (Howard Kurtz). "A committee atasked its president to reprimand a scientist who tested gene-altered bacteria on trees" (New York Times).
Reproach usually refers to regretful or unhappy criticism arising from a sense of disappointment: "Every other author may aspire to praise; the lexicographer can only hope to escape reproach" (Samuel Johnson).


Synonyms: adulterate, debase, doctor, load
These verbs mean to make impure or inferior by adding foreign substances to something: adulterate coffee with ground acorns; silver debased with copper; doctored the wine with water; rag paper loaded with wood fiber.


Synonyms: advance, forward, foster, further, promote
These verbs mean to cause to move ahead, as toward a goal: advance a worthy cause; forwarding their own interests; fostered friendly relations; furthering your career; efforts to promote sales.
Antonym: retard1


Synonyms: adventurous, adventuresome, audacious, daredevil, daring, venturesome
These adjectives mean inclined to undertake risks: adventurous pioneers; an adventuresome prospector; an audacious explorer; a daredevil test pilot; daring acrobats; a venturesome investor.


Synonyms: advice, counsel, recommendation
These nouns denote an opinion as to a decision or course of action: sound advice for the unemployed; accepted my attorney's counsel; will follow your recommendation. See Also Synonyms at news.


Synonyms: advise, counsel, recommend
These verbs mean to suggest a particular decision or course of action: advised him to go abroad; will counsel her to be prudent; recommended that we wait.


Synonyms: affair, business, concern, lookout
These nouns denote something that involves one personally: I won't comment on that; it's not my affair. That's none of your business. Mind your own concerns. It's your lookout to file your application on time.


Synonyms: affect1, influence, impress1, touch, move, strike
These verbs mean to produce a mental or emotional effect. To affect is to act upon a person's emotions: Adverse criticism of the book didn't affect the author.
Influence implies some control over the thinking, actions, and emotions of another: "Humanity is profoundly influenced by what you do" (Pope John Paul II).
To impress is to produce a marked, often enduring effect: "The Tibetan landscape particularly impressed him" (Doris Kerns Quinn).
Touch usually means to arouse a tender response: "The tributes were fitting and touching" (Daniel Cariaga).
Move suggests a profound emotional effect: The account of her experiences moved us to tears.
Strike implies keenness or force of mental response: I was struck by the sudden change in his appearance.


Synonyms: affectation, pose1, air, mannerism
These nouns refer to personal behavior assumed for effect. An affectation is artificial behavior, often adopted in imitation of someone, that is perceived as being unnatural: "His playing stripped away . . . the affectations and exaggerations that characterized Chopin interpretation before his arrival" (Michael Kimmelman).
Pose denotes an attitude adopted to call favorable attention to oneself: His humility is only a pose.
Air, meaning a distinctive but intangible quality, does not always imply sham: The director had an air of authority.
In the plural, however, it suggests affectation and self-importance: The movie star was putting on airs.
Mannerism denotes an idiosyncratic trait or quirk, often one that others find obtrusive and distracting: His mannerism of closing his eyes as he talked made it seem as if he were deep in thought.


Synonyms: afflict, agonize, rack1, torment, torture
These verbs mean to bring great harm or suffering to someone: afflicted with arthritis; was agonized to see her suffering; racked with cancer; tormented by migraine headaches; tortured by painful memories.


Synonyms: afraid, apprehensive, fearful
These adjectives mean full of or given to fear: afraid of snakes; feeling apprehensive before surgery; fearful of criticism.


Synonyms: ageless, eternal, timeless
These adjectives mean existing unchanged forever: the ageless themes of love and revenge; eternal truths; timeless beauty.


Synonyms: agitate, churn, convulse, rock2, shake
These verbs mean to cause to move to and fro violently: land agitated by tremors; a storm churning the waves; buildings and streets convulsed by an explosion; a hurricane rocking trees and houses; an earthquake that shook the ground.


Synonyms: agree, conform, harmonize, accord, correspond, coincide
These verbs all indicate a compatibility between people or things. Agree may indicate mere lack of incongruity or discord, although it often suggests acceptance of ideas or actions and thus accommodation: We finally agreed on a price for the house.
Conform stresses correspondence in essence or basic characteristics, sometimes as a result of established standards: Students are required to conform to the rules.
Harmonize implies the combination or arrangement of elements in a pleasing whole: The print on the curtains harmonized with the striped sofa.
Accord implies harmony, unity, or consistency, as in essential nature: "The creed was widely seen as both progressive and universalistic: It accorded with the future, and it was open to all" (Everett Carll Ladd).
Correspond refers to similarity in form, nature, function, character, or structure: The Diet in Japan corresponds to the American Congress.
Coincide stresses exact agreement: "His interest happily coincided with his duty" (Edward A. Freeman). See Also Synonyms at assent.


Synonyms: aim, direct, level, point, train
These verbs mean to turn something toward an intended goal or target: aimed the camera at the guests; directing my eyes on the book; leveled criticism at the administration; pointing a finger at the suspect; trained the gun on the intruder. See Also Synonyms at intention.


Synonyms: airy, diaphanous, ethereal, filmy, gauzy, gossamer, sheer2, transparent, vaporous
These adjectives mean so light and insubstantial as to resemble air or a thin film: airy curtains blowing at the window; a diaphanous veil; ethereal mist; the filmy wings of a moth; gauzy clouds in the sky; a gown of gossamer fabric; sheer silk stockings; transparent chiffon; vaporous shadows at dusk.


Synonyms: allocate, appropriate, designate, earmark
These verbs mean to set aside for a specified purpose: allocated time for recreation; appropriated funds for public education; designated a location for the new hospital; money earmarked for a vacation.


Synonyms: alone, lonely, lonesome, solitary
These adjectives describe lack of companionship. Alone emphasizes being apart from others but does not necessarily imply unhappiness: "I am never less alone, than when I am alone" (James Howell).
Lonely often connotes painful awareness of being alone: "'No doubt they are dead,' she thought, and felt . . . sadder and . . . lonelier for the thought" (Ouida).
Lonesome emphasizes a plaintive desire for companionship: "You must keep up your spirits, mother, and not be lonesome because I'm not at home" (Charles Dickens).
Solitary often stresses physical isolation that is self-imposed: I thoroughly enjoyed my solitary dinner.


Synonyms: amateur, dabbler, dilettante
These nouns mean one engaging in a pursuit but lacking professional skill: a musician who is a gifted amateur, not a professional; a dabbler in the stock market; a sculptor but a mere dilettante.
Antonym: professional
Word History: When Mrs. T.W. Atkinson remarked in her 1863 Recollections of the Tartar Steppes and their Inhabitants, "I am no amateur of these melons," she used amateur in a sense unfamiliar to us. That sense, "a lover, an admirer," is, however, clearly descended from the senses of the word's ultimate Latin source, amātor, "lover, devoted friend, devotee, enthusiastic pursuer of an objective," and from its Latin-derived French source, amateur, with a similar range of meanings. First recorded in English in 1784 with the sense in which Mrs. Atkinson used it, amateur is found in 1786 with a meaning more familiar to us, "a person who engages in an art, for example, as a pastime rather than as a profession," a sense that had already developed in French. Given the limitations of doing something as an amateur, it is not surprising that the word is soon after recorded in the disparaging sense we still use to refer to someone who lacks professional skill or ease in performance.


Synonyms: ambiguous, equivocal, obscure, recondite, abstruse, vague, cryptic, enigmatic
These adjectives mean lacking clarity of meaning. Ambiguous indicates the presence of two or more possible meanings: Frustrated by ambiguous instructions, I was unable to assemble the toy.
Something equivocal is unclear or misleading: "The polling had a complex and equivocal message for potential female candidates" (David S. Broder).
Obscure implies lack of clarity of expression: Some say that Blake's style is obscure and complex.
Recondite and abstruse connote the erudite obscurity of the scholar: "some recondite problem in historiography" (Walter Laqueur). The students avoided the professor's abstruse lectures.
What is vague is expressed in indefinite form or reflects imprecision of thought: "Vague . . . forms of speech . . . have so long passed for mysteries of science" (John Locke).
Cryptic suggests a sometimes deliberately puzzling terseness: The new insurance policy is full of cryptic terms.
Something enigmatic is mysterious and puzzling: The biography struggles to make sense of the artist's enigmatic life.


Synonyms: ambush, ambuscade, bushwhack, waylay
These verbs mean to attack suddenly and without warning from a concealed place: guerrillas ambushing a platoon; highway robbers ambuscading a stagecoach; a patrol bushwhacked by poachers; a truck waylaid by robbers.


Synonyms: amenity, comfort, convenience, facility
These nouns denote something that increases physical ease or facilitates work: an apartment with amenities like air conditioning; a suite with all the comforts of home; a kitchen with every convenience; a school with excellent facilities.


Synonyms: amiss, afield, astray, awry, wrong
These adverbs mean not in the right or expected way: spoke amiss; straying far afield; afraid the letter would go astray; thinking awry; plans that went wrong.
Antonym: aright


Synonyms: amuse, entertain, divert, regale
These verbs refer to actions that provide pleasure, especially as a means of passing time. Amuse, the least specific, implies directing attention away from serious matters: I amused myself with a game of solitaire.
Entertain suggests acts undertaken to furnish amusement: "They are much more entertaining than half the novels that are written" (W. Somerset Maugham).
Divert implies distraction from worrisome thought or care: "I had neither Friends or Books to divert me" (Richard Steele).
To regale is to entertain with something enormously enjoyable: "He loved to regale his friends with tales about the many memorable characters he had known as a newspaperman" (David Rosenzweig).


Synonyms: analyze, anatomize, dissect
These verbs mean to separate into constituent parts for study: analyze a chemical substance; a book that anatomizes 19th-century European history; medical students dissecting cadavers.


Synonyms: ancestor, forebear, forefather, progenitor
These nouns denote a person from whom one is descended: ancestors who were farmers; land once owned by his forebears; laws handed down from our forefathers; our progenitors' wisdom.
Antonym: descendant


Synonyms: anger, rage, fury, ire, wrath, resentment, indignation
These nouns denote varying degrees of marked displeasure. Anger, the most general, is strong displeasure: vented my anger by denouncing the supporters of the idea.
Rage and fury imply intense, explosive, often destructive emotion: smashed the glass in a fit of rage; directed his fury at the murderer.
Ire is a term for anger most frequently encountered in literature: "The best way to escape His ire/Is, not to seem too happy" (Robert Browning).
Wrath applies especially to anger that seeks vengeance or punishment: saw the flood as a sign of the wrath of God.
Resentment refers to indignant smoldering anger generated by a sense of grievance: deep resentment that led to a strike.
Indignation is righteous anger at something wrongful, unjust, or evil: "public indignation about takeovers causing people to lose their jobs" (Allan Sloan).


Synonyms: angry, furious, indignant, irate, ireful, mad, wrathful
These adjectives mean feeling or showing marked displeasure: an angry retort; a furious scowl; an indignant denial; irate protesters; ireful words; mad at a friend; a wrathful act.


Synonyms: announce, advertise, broadcast, declare, proclaim, promulgate, publish
These verbs mean to bring to public notice: announced a cease-fire; advertise a forthcoming concert; broadcasting their opinions; declared her political intentions; proclaiming his beliefs; promulgated a policy of nonresistance; publishing the marriage banns.


Synonyms: annoy, irritate, bother, irk, vex, provoke, aggravate, peeve, rile
These verbs mean to disturb or trouble a person, evoking moderate anger. Annoy refers to mild disturbance caused by an act that tries one's patience: The sound of the printer annoyed me.
Irritate is somewhat stronger: I was irritated by their constant interruptions.
Bother implies imposition: In the end, his complaining just bothered the supervisor.
Irk connotes a wearisome quality: The city council's inactivity irked the community.
Vex applies to an act capable of arousing anger or perplexity: Hecklers in the crowd vexed the speaker.
Provoke implies strong and often deliberate incitement to anger: His behavior provoked me to reprimand the whole team.
Aggravate is a less formal equivalent: "Threats only served to aggravate people in such cases" (William Makepeace Thackeray).
Peeve, also somewhat informal, suggests a querulous, resentful response to a mild disturbance: Your flippant answers peeved me.
To rile is to upset and to stir up: It riled me to have to listen to such lies.


Synonyms: answer, respond, reply, retort1
These verbs relate to action taken in return to a stimulus. Answer, respond, and reply, the most general, all mean to speak, write, or act in response: Please answer my question. Did you expect the President to respond personally to your letter? The opposing team scored three runs; the home team replied with two of their own.
Respond also denotes a reaction, either voluntary (A bystander responded to the victim's need for help) or involuntary (She responded in spite of herself to the antics of the puppy). To retort is to answer verbally in a quick, caustic, or witty manner: She won the debate by retorting sharply to her opponent's questions. See Also Synonyms at satisfy.


Synonyms: anxiety, worry, care, concern, solicitude
These nouns refer to troubled states of mind. Anxiety suggests feelings of fear and apprehension: "Feelings of resentment and rage over this devious form of manipulation cannot surface in the child.... At the most, he will experience feelings of anxiety, shame, insecurity, and helplessness" (Alice Miller).
Worry implies persistent doubt or fear: "Having come to a decision the lad felt a sense of relief from the worry that had haunted him for many sleepless nights" (Edgar Rice Burroughs).
Care denotes a state of mind burdened by heavy responsibilities: The old man's face was worn with care.
Concern stresses serious thought combined with emotion: "Concern for man himself and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavors" (Albert Einstein).
Solicitude is active and sometimes excessive concern for another's well-being: "Animosity had given way ... to worried solicitude for Lindbergh's safety" (Warren Trabant).


Synonyms: apology, apologia, defense, justification
These nouns denote a statement that excuses or defends something, such as a past action or a policy: arguments that constituted an apology for capital punishment; published an apologia expounding her version of the events; a defense based on ignorance of the circumstances; an untenable justification for police brutality.


Synonyms: apparent, clear, clear-cut, distinct, evident, manifest, obvious, patent, plain
These adjectives mean readily seen, perceived, or understood: angry for no apparent reason; a clear danger; clear-cut evidence of tampering; distinct fingerprints; evident hostility; manifest pleasure; obvious errors; patent advantages; making my meaning plain.


Synonyms: appear, emerge, issue, loom1, materialize, show
These verbs mean to come into view: a ship appearing on the horizon; a star that emerged from behind a cloud; a diver issuing from the water; a peak that loomed through the mist; a job offer that materialized overnight; a shirtsleeve showing at the edge of the jacket. See Also Synonyms at seem.


Synonyms: appendage, appurtenance, adjunct, accessory, attachment
These nouns denote subordinate elements added to another entity. An appendage supplements without being essential: " ... and the complete absence of appendages at the stern decreases hull resistance" (R.J.L. Dicker).
An appurtenance belongs naturally as a subsidiary attribute, part, or member: "an internationally known first-class hotel ... equipped with such appurtenances as computers, word processors, copiers and telex" (Oscar Millard).
An adjunct is added as an auxiliary but is often self-sustaining: "Intelligence analysts ... believe that of all the countries of the Middle East, none use terrorism more effectively as an adjunct to diplomacy ..." (Elaine Sciolino).
An accessory is usually nonessential but desirable: Our new car has such accessories as air conditioning and a sunroof.
An attachment adds a function to the thing to which it is connected: The food processor has an attachment for kneading dough.


Synonyms: applaud, cheer, root3
These verbs mean to express approval or encouragement audibly: applauded at the end of the concert; cheered when the home team scored; rooting for the underdog in the tennis championship.


Synonyms: appoint, designate, name, nominate, tap1
These verbs mean to select for an office or position: was appointed chairperson of the committee; expects to be designated leader of the opposition; a new police commissioner named by the mayor; to be nominated as her party's candidate; was tapped for fraternity membership. See Also Synonyms at furnish.


Synonyms: appreciate, value, prize1, esteem, treasure, cherish
These verbs mean to have a highly favorable opinion of someone or something. Appreciate applies especially to high regard based on critical assessment, comparison, and judgment: As immigrants, they appreciated their newfound freedom.
Value implies high regard for the importance or worth of the object: "In principle, the modern university values . . . the free exchange of ideas . . ." (Eloise Salholz).
Prize often suggests pride of possession: "the nonchalance prized by teen-agers" (Elaine Louie).
Esteem implies respect: "If he had never esteemed my opinion before, he would have thought highly of me then" (Jane Austen).
Treasure and cherish stress solicitous care and affectionate regard: We treasure our freedom. "They seek out the Salish Indian woman . . . to learn the traditions she cherishes" (Tamara Jones).


Synonyms: apprehend, comprehend, understand, grasp
These verbs denote perception of the nature and significance of something. Apprehend denotes both mental and intuitive awareness: "Intelligence is quickness to apprehend" (Alfred North Whitehead).
Both comprehend and understand stress complete realization and knowledge: "To comprehend is to know a thing as well as that thing can be known" (John Donne). "No one who has not had the responsibility can really understand what it is like to be President" (Harry S. Truman).
To grasp is to seize an idea firmly: "We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount" (Omar N. Bradley).


Synonyms: appropriate, arrogate, commandeer, confiscate, preempt, usurp
These verbs mean to seize for oneself or as one's right: appropriated the family car; arrogated the chair at the head of the table; commandeered a plane for the escape; confiscating stolen property; preempted the glory for herself; usurped the throne. See Also Synonyms at allocate.


Synonyms: approve, endorse, sanction, certify, accredit, ratify
These verbs mean to express a favorable opinion or to signify satisfaction or acceptance. Approve means to consider right or good, but it can also denote official consent: "The colonel or commanding officer approves the sentence of a regimental court-martial" (Charles James).
Endorse implies the public expression of support: The senator endorsed the candidate by issuing a press release.
Sanction usually implies official authorization: The privilege of voting is a right sanctioned by law.
Certify and accredit imply official approval based on compliance with requirements or standards: "The proper officers, comparing every article with its voucher, certified them to be right" (Benjamin Franklin). The board of education will accredit only institutions that have a sufficiently rigorous curriculum.
To ratify is to invest officially with legal authority: "Amendments . . . shall be valid . . . when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States" (U.S. Constitution, Article V).


Synonyms: arbitrary, capricious, whimsical
These adjectives mean determined by or arising from whim or caprice rather than judgment or reason: an arbitrary decision; a capricious refusal; a whimsical remark.


Synonyms: argue, quarrel1, wrangle, squabble, bicker
These verbs denote verbal exchange expressing conflict. To argue is to present reasons or facts in order to persuade someone of something: "I am not arguing with you—I am telling you" (James McNeill Whistler).
Quarrel stresses hostility: The children quarreled over whose turn it was to wash the dishes.
Wrangle refers to loud, contentious argument: "audiences . . . who can be overheard wrangling about film facts in restaurants and coffee houses" (Sheila Benson).
Squabble suggests petty or trivial argument: "The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin . . . would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities" (Theodore Roosevelt).
Bicker connotes sharp, persistent, bad-tempered exchange: The senators bickered about the President's tax proposal for weeks. See Also Synonyms at discuss, indicate.


Synonyms: argument, dispute, controversy
These nouns denote discussion involving conflicting points of view. Argument stresses the advancement by each side of facts and reasons intended to persuade the other side: Emotions are seldom swayed by argument.
Dispute implies animosity: A dispute arose among union members about the terms of the new contract.
Controversy applies especially to major differences of opinion involving large groups of people: The use of nuclear power is the subject of widespread controversy.


Synonyms: argumentative, combative, contentious, disputatious, quarrelsome, scrappy2
These adjectives mean given to or fond of arguing: an argumentative child; a combative teenager; a contentious mood; a disputatious lawyer; a quarrelsome drinker; a scrappy litigator.


Synonyms: arrange, marshal, order, organize, sort, systematize
These verbs mean to distribute or dispose persons or things properly or methodically: arranging figures numerically; to marshal all relevant facts for presentation; ordered my chaotic life; organized the fundraiser; sorted the sweaters by color; systematized the assorted files.


Synonyms: art1, craft, expertise, knack, know-how, technique
These nouns denote skill in doing or performing that is attained by study, practice, or observation: the art of rhetoric; pottery that reveals an artist's craft; political expertise; a knack for teaching; mechanical know-how; a precise diving technique.


Synonyms: artificial, synthetic, ersatz, simulated
These adjectives refer to what is made by humans rather than natural in origin. Artificial is broadest in meaning and connotation: an artificial sweetener; artificial flowers.
Synthetic often implies the use of a chemical process to produce a substance that will look or function like the original, often with certain advantages: synthetic rubber; a synthetic fabric.
An ersatz product is a transparently inferior imitation: ersatz coffee; ersatz mink.
Simulated often refers to a fabricated substitute or imitation of a costlier substance: simulated diamonds.


Synonyms: ask, question, inquire, query, interrogate, examine, quiz
These verbs mean to seek information. Ask is the most neutral term: The coach asked me what was wrong.
Question implies careful and continuous asking: The prosecutor questioned the witness in great detail.
Inquire refers to a simple request for information: The committee will inquire how it can be of help.
Query usually suggests settling a doubt: The proofreader queried the spelling of the word.
Interrogate applies especially to official questioning: The detectives interrogated the suspects.
Examine refers particularly to close and detailed questioning to ascertain a person's knowledge or qualifications: Only lawyers who have been examined and certified by the bar association are admitted to practice.
Quiz denotes the informal examination of students: The teacher quizzed the pupils on the state capitals.


Synonyms: assent, agree, accede, acquiesce, consent, concur, subscribe
These verbs denote acceptance of and often belief in another's views, proposals, or actions. Assent implies agreement, especially as a result of deliberation: They readily assented to our suggestion.
Agree and accede are related in the sense that assent has been reached after discussion or persuasion, but accede implies that one person or group has yielded to the other: "It was not possible to agree to a proposal so extraordinary and unexpected" (William Robertson). "In an evil hour this proposal was acceded to" (Mary E. Herbert).
Acquiesce suggests passive assent because of inability or unwillingness to oppose: I acquiesced in their decision despite my misgivings.
Consent implies voluntary agreement: Her parents consented to her marriage.
Concur suggests that one has independently reached the same conclusion as another: "I concurred with our incumbent in getting up a petition against the Reform Bill" (George Eliot).
Subscribe indicates hearty approval: "I am contented to subscribe to the opinion of the best-qualified judge of our time" (Sir Walter Scott).


Synonyms: assistant, aide, coadjutant, coadjutor, helper, lieutenant, second2
These nouns denote a person who holds a position auxiliary to another and assumes some of his or her responsibilities: an editorial assistant; a senator's aide; the general's coadjutant; a bishop's coadjutor; a teacher's helper; a politician's lieutenant; a prizefighter's second.


Synonyms: attack, bombard, assail, storm, assault, beset
These verbs mean to set upon, physically or figuratively. Attack applies to offensive action, especially to the onset of planned aggression: The commandos attacked the outpost at dawn.
Bombard suggests showering with bombs or shells (The warplanes bombarded the town) or with words (The celebrity was bombarded with invitations). Assail implies repeated attacks: Critics assailed the author's second novel.
Storm refers to a sudden, sweeping attempt to achieve a victory: "After triumphantly storming the country, is obliged to storm Capitol Hill" (The Economist).
Assault usually implies sudden, intense violence: Muggers often assault their victims on dark streets.
Beset suggests beleaguerment from all sides: The fox was beset by hunters and hounds.


Synonyms: attribute, ascribe, impute, credit, assign, refer
These verbs mean to consider as resulting from or belonging to a person or thing. Attribute and ascribe, often interchangeable, have the widest application: The historian discovered a new symphony attributed to Mozart. The museum displayed an invention ascribed to the 15th century.
Impute is often used in laying guilt or fault to another: "We usually good; but evil" (Samuel Johnson).
Credit frequently applies to an accomplishment or virtue: "Some excellent remarks were made on immortality, but mainly borrowed from and credited to Plato" (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.)
Assign and refer are often used to classify or categorize: Program music as a genre is usually assigned to the Romantic period. "A person thus prepared will be able to refer any particular history he takes up to its proper place in universal history" (Joseph Priestley). See Also Synonyms at quality.


Synonyms: authentic, bona fide, genuine, real1, true, undoubted, unquestionable
These adjectives mean not counterfeit or copied: an authentic painting by Corot; a bona fide transfer of property; genuine crabmeat; a real diamond; true courage; undoubted evidence; an unquestionable antique.
Antonym: counterfeit


Synonyms: authorize, accredit, commission, empower, license
These verbs mean to give someone the authority to act: authorized her partner to negotiate on her behalf; a representative who was accredited by his government; commissioned the real-estate agent to purchase the house; was empowered to make decisions during the president's absence; a pharmacist licensed to practice in two states.


Synonyms: average, medium, mediocre, fair1, middling, indifferent, tolerable
These adjectives indicate a middle position on a scale of evaluation. Average and medium apply to what is midway between extremes and imply both sufficiency and lack of distinction: a novel of average merit; an orange of medium size.
Mediocre stresses the undistinguished aspect of what is average: "The caliber of the students . . . has gone from mediocre to above average" (Judy Pasternak).
What is fair is passable but substantially below excellent: in fair health.
Middling refers to a ranking between average and mediocre: gave a middling performance.
Indifferent suggests neutrality: "His home, alas, was but an indifferent attic" (Edward Everett Hale).
Something tolerable is merely acceptable: prepared a tolerable meal.


Synonyms: aware, cognizant, conscious, sensible, awake, alert, watchful, vigilant
These adjectives mean mindful or heedful: Aware implies knowledge gained through one's own perceptions or by means of information: Are you aware of your opponent's hostility? I am aware that the legislation passed.
Cognizant is a formal equivalent of aware: "Our research indicates that the nation's youth are cognizant of the law" (Jerry D. Jennings).
Conscious emphasizes the recognition of something sensed or felt: "an importance . . . of which even Americans are barely conscious" (William Stanley Jevons).
Sensible implies knowledge gained through intuition or intellectual perception: "I am sensible that the mention of such a circumstance may appear trifling" (Henry Hallam).
To be awake is to have full consciousness of something: "as much awake to the novelty of attention in that quarter as Elizabeth herself" (Jane Austen).
Alert stresses quickness to recognize and respond: I remained alert to career opportunities.
Watchful and vigilant imply looking out for what is dangerous or potentially so: The watchful parents protected their toddler. The ranger kept a vigilant eye out for forest fires.


Synonyms: band2, company, corps, party, troop, troupe
These nouns denote a group of individuals acting together for a common purpose: a band of thieves; a company of scientists; a corps of drummers; a party of tourists; a troop of students on a field trip; a troupe of actors.


Synonyms: banish, exile, expatriate, deport, transport, extradite
These verbs mean to send away from a country or state. Banish applies to forced departure from a country by official decree: The spy was found guilty of treason and banished from the country.
Exile specifies voluntary or involuntary departure from one's own country because of adverse circumstances: The royal family was exiled after the uprising.
Expatriate pertains to departure that is sometimes forced but often voluntary and may imply change of citizenship: She was expatriated because of her political beliefs.
Deport denotes the official act of expelling an alien: The foreigner was deported for entering the country illegally.
Transport pertains to sending a criminal abroad, usually to a penal colony: Offenders were transported to Devil's Island.
Extradite applies to the delivery of an accused or convicted person to the state or country having jurisdiction over him or her: The court will extradite the terrorists.


Synonyms: banter, chaff2, josh, kid, rag2, razz, rib
These verbs mean to poke fun good-humoredly: bantered with her colleagues during a coffee break; chaffed him for forgetting the appointment; joshed her brother about his strange new haircut; kidded me about my outfit; ragged her for being so stubborn; razzed the teammate who missed the shot; ribbing a friend for being in love.


Synonyms: bargain, compact2, contract, covenant, deal1
These nouns denote an agreement arrived at after a discussion in which the parties involved promise to honor their respective obligations: kept my end of the bargain and mowed the lawn; made a compact to correspond regularly; a legally binding contract to install new windows; a covenant for mutual defense; ignored the requests that weren't part of the deal.


Synonyms: barrage2, bombard, pepper, shower1
These verbs mean to direct a concentrated outpouring at something or someone: barraged the speaker with questions; bombarded the box office with ticket orders; peppered the senator with protests; showered the child with gifts.


Synonyms: base1, basis, foundation, ground1, groundwork
These nouns all pertain to what underlies and supports. Base is applied chiefly to material objects: the wide base of the pyramid.
Basis is used in a nonphysical sense: "Healthy scepticism is the basis of all accurate observation" (Arthur Conan Doyle).
Foundation often stresses firmness of support for something of relative magnitude: "Our flagrant disregard for the law attacks the foundation of this society" (Peter D. Relic).
Ground is used figuratively in the plural to mean a justifiable reason: grounds for divorce.
Groundwork usually has the sense of a necessary preliminary: "It has laid the groundwork for the world's war crimes tribunals" (Hillary Rodham Clinton).


Synonyms: baseless, groundless, idle, unfounded, unwarranted
These adjectives mean being without a basis or foundation in fact: a baseless accusation; groundless rumors; idle gossip; unfounded suspicions; unwarranted jealousy.


Synonyms: batter1, maim, mangle1, maul, mutilate
These verbs mean to damage, injure, or disfigure by beating, abuse, or hard use: a house battered by a hurricane; a construction worker maimed in an accident; machinery that mangled the worker's fingers; a tent mauled by a hungry bear; mutilated the painting with a razor. See Also Synonyms at beat.


Synonyms: bear1, endure, stand, abide, suffer, tolerate
These verbs mean to withstand something difficult or painful. Bear pertains broadly to the capacity to withstand: "Those best can bear reproof who merit praise" (Alexander Pope).
Endure specifies a continuing capacity to face pain or hardship: "Human life is everywhere a state in which much is to be endured and little to be enjoyed" (Samuel Johnson).
Stand implies resoluteness of spirit: Actors who can't stand criticism shouldn't perform in public.
Abide and suffer suggest the capacity to withstand patiently: She couldn't abide fools. He suffered their insults in silence.
Tolerate, when applied to something other than pain, connotes reluctant acceptance: "A decent . . . examination of the acts of government should be not only tolerated, but encouraged" (William Henry Harrison). See Also Synonyms at convey, produce.


Synonyms: beat, baste3, batter1, belabor, buffet2, hammer, lambaste, pound2, pummel, thrash
These verbs mean to hit heavily and repeatedly with violent blows: was mugged and beaten; basted him with a stick; was battered in the boxing ring; rioting students belabored by police officers; buffeted him with her open palm; hammered the opponent with his fists; lambasted every challenger; troops pounded with mortar fire; pummeled the bully soundly; thrashed the thief for stealing the candy. See Also Synonyms at defeat.


Synonyms: beautiful, lovely, pretty, handsome, comely, fair1
All these adjectives apply to what excites aesthetic admiration. Beautiful is most comprehensive: a beautiful child; a beautiful painting; a beautiful mathematical proof.
Lovely applies to what inspires emotion rather than intellectual appreciation: "They were lovely, your eyes" (George Seferis).
What is pretty is beautiful in a delicate or graceful way: a pretty face; a pretty song; a pretty room.
Handsome stresses poise and dignity of form and proportion: a very large, handsome paneled library. "She is very pretty, but not so handsome" (William Makepeace Thackeray).
Comely suggests wholesome physical attractiveness: "Mrs. Hurd is a large woman with a big, comely, simple face" (Ernest Hemingway).
Fair emphasizes freshness or purity: "In the highlands, in the country places,/Where the old plain men have rosy faces,/And the young fair maidens/Quiet eyes" (Robert Louis Stevenson).


Synonyms: beg, crave, beseech, implore, entreat, importune
These verbs mean to make an earnest request. Beg and crave mean to ask in a serious and sometimes humble manner, especially for something one cannot claim as a right: I begged her to forgive me. The attorney craved the court's indulgence.
Beseech emphasizes earnestness and often implies anxiety: Be silent, we beseech you.
Implore intensifies the sense of urgency and anxiety: The child implored his father not to be angry.
Entreat pertains to persuasive pleading: "Ask me no questions, I entreat you" (Charles Dickens).
Importune adds the sense of persistent and sometimes irksome pleading: The foundation was importuned by fundraisers. See Also Synonyms at cadge.


Synonyms: begin, commence, start, initiate, inaugurate
These verbs denote coming into being or taking the first step, as in a procedure. Begin, commence, and start are equivalent in meaning, though commence is more formal, and start often stresses the point where inaction turns to action: The play begins at eight o'clock. The festivities commenced with the national anthem. We will stay on the platform until the train starts.
Initiate applies to causing the first steps in a process: I initiated a lawsuit against the driver who hit my car.
Inaugurate often connotes a formal beginning: "The exhibition inaugurated a new era of cultural relations" (Serge Schmemann).


Synonyms: beginning, birth, dawn, genesis, nascence, rise
These nouns denote the initial stage of a developmental process: the beginning of a new era in technology; the birth of generative grammar; the dawn of civilization; the genesis of quantum mechanics; the nascence of classical sculpture; the rise and decline of an ancient city-state.
Antonym: end


Synonyms: behavior, conduct, deportment
These nouns all pertain to a person's actions as they constitute a means of evaluation by others. Behavior is the most general: The children were on their best behavior.
Conduct applies to actions considered from the standpoint of morality and ethics: "Life, not the parson, teaches conduct" (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.)
Deportment more narrowly pertains to actions measured by a prevailing code of social behavior: "was not like anything in the world but a model of Deportment" (Charles Dickens).


Synonyms: belief, credence, credit, faith
These nouns denote mental acceptance of the truth, actuality, or validity of something: a statement unworthy of belief; an idea steadily gaining credence; testimony meriting credit; has no faith in a liar's assertions. See Also Synonyms at opinion.
Antonym: disbelief


Synonyms: belligerent, bellicose, pugnacious, contentious, quarrelsome
These adjectives mean having or showing an eagerness to fight. Belligerent refers to a tendency to hostile behavior: A belligerent reporter badgered the politician.
Bellicose and pugnacious suggest a natural disposition to fight: "All successful newspapers are ceaselessly querulous and bellicose" (H.L. Mencken). A good litigator needs a pugnacious intellect.
Contentious implies chronic argumentativeness: "His style has been described variously as abrasive and contentious, overbearing and pompous" (Victor Merina).
Quarrelsome suggests bad temper and a perverse readiness to bicker: "The men gave him much room, for he was notorious as a quarrelsome person when drunk" (Stephen Crane).


Synonyms: bend1, crook1, curve, round1
These verbs mean to swerve or cause to swerve from a straight line: bent his knees and knelt; crooked an arm around the package; claws that curve under; rounding the lips to articulate an "o"
Antonym: straighten


Synonyms: beneficial, profitable, advantageous
These adjectives apply to what promotes a favorable result or gain. Beneficial is said of what enhances well-being: a trade agreement beneficial to all countries.
Profitable refers to what yields material gain or useful compensation: profitable speculation on the stock market.
Something advantageous affords improvement in relative position or in chances of success: found it socially advantageous to entertain often and well.


Synonyms: benefit, capitalize, profit
These verbs mean to derive advantage from something: benefited from the stock split; capitalized on her adversary's blunder; profiting from experience.


Synonyms: benevolent, charitable, eleemosynary, philanthropic
These adjectives mean of, concerned with, providing, or provided by charity: a benevolent fund; a charitable foundation; eleemosynary relief; philanthropic contributions. See Also Synonyms at kind1.


Synonyms: besiege, beleaguer, blockade, invest, siege
These verbs mean to surround with hostile forces: besiege a walled city; the enemy beleaguered the enclave; blockaded the harbor; investing a fortress; a castle sieged by invaders.


Synonyms: bet, ante, pot1, stake, wager
These nouns denote something valuable risked on an uncertain outcome: placed a 50-dollar bet in the first race; raising the ante in a poker game; won the whole pot at cards; played for high stakes; laid a wager on who would win.


Synonyms: bias, color, jaundice, prejudice, warp
These verbs mean to influence unfavorably or detrimentally: His experiences biased his outlook. Your misbehavior has colored my opinion of you. Dishonest leaders have jaundiced her view of politics. Lying has prejudiced the public against them. Bitterness has warped your judgment. See Also Synonyms at incline, predilection.


Synonyms: binge, fling, jag2, orgy, spree
These nouns denote a period of uncontrolled self-indulgence: a gambling binge; had one last fling before beginning a new job; a crying jag; an eating orgy; a shopping spree.


Synonyms: bite, champ1, chomp, gnaw
These verbs mean to seize and tear or grind something with the teeth: bite into a ripe apple; a horse champing at its bit; a cow chomping its hay; a dog gnawing a bone.


Synonyms: bitter, acerbic, acrid
These adjectives mean unpleasantly sharp or pungent in taste or smell: a bitter cough syrup; an acerbic green apple; acrid smoke.


Synonyms: blackball, blacklist, boycott, ostracize
These verbs mean to exclude from social, professional, or commercial activities: blackballed by the fraternity; blacklisted because of her political beliefs; a threat to boycott the product; ostracized following the harassment charges.
Antonym: admit


Synonyms: blackout, faint, swoon, syncope
These nouns denote a temporary loss of consciousness: suffers blackouts at high altitudes; fell in a dead faint at the sight of the body; sank to the ground in a swoon; was taken to the clinic in a state of syncope.


Synonyms: blame, fault, guilt
These nouns denote a sense of responsibility for an offense. Blame stresses censure or punishment for a lapse or misdeed for which one is held accountable: The police laid the blame for the accident on the driver.
Fault is culpability for wrongdoing or failure: It is my own fault that I wasn't prepared for the exam.
Guilt applies to willful wrongdoing and stresses moral culpability: The prosecution had evidence of the defendant's guilt. See Also Synonyms at criticize.


Synonyms: blameworthy, blamable, blameful, censurable, culpable, guilty, reprehensible
These adjectives mean meriting reproof or punishment: blameworthy behavior; blamable but understandable resentment; blameful impulsiveness; censurable misconduct; culpable negligence; guilty deeds; reprehensible arrogance.
Antonym: blameless


Synonyms: blast, blight, dash1, nip1, wreck
These verbs mean to have a pernicious, destructive, or ruinous effect on something: actions that blasted the chance for peace; hopes blighted by ill wishes; ambitions dashed by lack of funds; plans nipped in the bud; a life wrecked by depression.


Synonyms: blemish, imperfection, fault, defect, flaw1
These nouns denote loss or absence of perfection. A blemish is something thought to mar the appearance or character of a thing: "Industry in art is a necessity—not a virtue—and any evidence of the same, in the production, is a blemish" (James McNeill Whistler).
Imperfection and fault apply more comprehensively to any deficiency or shortcoming: "A true critic ought to dwell rather upon excellencies than imperfections" (Joseph Addison). "Each of us would point out to the other her most serious faults, and thereby help her to remedy them" (Anna Howard Shaw).
Defect denotes a serious functional or structural shortcoming: "Ill breeding . . . is not a single defect, it is the result of many" (Henry Fielding).
Flaw refers to an often small but always fundamental weakness: Experiments revealed a very basic flaw in the theory.


Synonyms: blink, nictitate, twinkle, wink
These verbs mean to open and close the eyelids or an eyelid rapidly: a dog blinking lazily at the fire; reptiles nictitating; twinkled, then laughed and responded; winked conspiratorially at his friend.


Synonyms: block, hide1, obscure, obstruct, screen, shroud
These verbs mean to cut off from sight: a tree that blocked the view; a road hidden by brush; mist that obscured the mountain peak; skyscrapers obstructing the sky; a fence that screens the alley; a face shrouded by a heavy veil. See Also Synonyms at hinder1, obstacle.


Synonyms: bloom1, blossom, efflorescence, florescence, flower, flush1, prime
These nouns denote a condition or time of greatest vigor and freshness: beauty in full bloom; the blossom of a great romance; the efflorescence of humanitarianism; the florescence of Greek civilization; in the flower of youthful enthusiasm; in the flush of their success; the prime of life.


Synonyms: blunder, bumble1, flounder1, lumber2, lurch1, stumble
These verbs mean to move awkwardly or unsteadily: blundered about the dark room; flies bumbling against the screen; floundered up the muddy trail; a wagon lumbering along an unpaved road; twisted her ankle and lurched home; stumbled but regained his balance.


Synonyms: boast1, brag, crow2, vaunt
These verbs all mean to speak with pride, often excessive pride, about oneself or something related to oneself. Boast is the most general: "We confide in our strength, without boasting of it; we respect that of others, without fearing it" (Thomas Jefferson).
Brag implies exaggerated claims and often an air of insolent superiority: He bragged about his grades.
Crow stresses exultation and often loud rejoicing: No candidate should crow until the votes have been counted.
Vaunt suggests ostentatiousness and lofty extravagance of expression: "He did not vaunt of his new dignity, but I understood he was highly pleased with it" (James Boswell).


Synonyms: bodily, corporal1, corporeal, fleshly, physical, somatic
These adjectives mean of or relating to the human body: a bodily organ; a corporal defect; corporeal suffering; fleshly frailty; physical robustness; a somatic symptom.


Synonyms: boil1, simmer, seethe, stew
These verbs mean, both literally and figuratively, to stir up or agitate. To boil is to heat a liquid to a temperature at which it bubbles up and gives off vapor: The water boiled in the kettle.
Figuratively boil pertains to intense agitation: She boiled with resentment.
Simmer denotes gentle cooking just at or below the boiling point: Let the stock simmer for a couple of hours.
Figuratively it refers to a state of gentle ferment: Plans were simmering in his mind.
Seethe emphasizes in both senses the turbulence of steady boiling: Water seethed in the cauldron. "The city had ... been seething with discontent" (John R. Green).
Stew refers literally to slow boiling and figuratively to a persistent but not violent state of agitation: As the prunes stewed, I stirred them gently. "They don't want a man to fret and stew about his work" (William H. Whyte, Jr.)


Synonyms: book, bespeak, engage, reserve
These verbs mean to cause something to be set aside in advance, as for one's use or possession: will book a hotel room; made sure their selections were bespoken; engaged a box for the opera season; reserving a table at a restaurant.
Word History: From an etymological perspective, book and beech are branches of the same tree. The Germanic root of both words is *bōk-, ultimately from an Indo-European root meaning "beech tree." The Old English form of book is bōc, from Germanic *bōk-ō, "written document, book." The Old English form of beech is bēce, from Germanic *bōk-jōn, "beech tree," because the early Germanic peoples used strips of beech wood to write on. A similar semantic development occurred in Latin. The Latin word for book is liber, whence library. Liber, however, originally meant "bark"—that is, the smooth inner bark of a tree, which the early Romans likewise used to write on.


Synonyms: boor, barbarian, churl, lout1, vulgarian, yahoo
These nouns denote an uncouth and uncultivated person: listened to the boor talk about himself all night; a barbarian bewildered by the art exhibit; offended by the churl's lack of manners; was married to an uncaring lout; refused to invite the vulgarian; acted like a yahoo at the restaurant.


Synonyms: border, margin, edge, verge1, brink, rim, brim
These nouns refer to the line or narrow area that marks the outside limit of something such as a surface. Border refers either to the boundary line (a fence along the border of the property) or to the area immediately inside (a frame with a wide border). Margin is a border of more or less precisely definable width: the margin of the page.
Edge refers to the bounding line formed by the continuous convergence of two surfaces: sat on the edge of the chair.
Verge is an extreme terminating line or edge: the sun's afterglow on the verge of the horizon.
Figuratively it indicates a point at which something is likely to begin or to happen: an explorer on the verge of a great discovery.
Brink denotes the edge of a steep place: stood on the brink of the cliff.
In an extended sense it indicates the likelihood or imminence of a sudden change: on the brink of falling in love.
Rim most often denotes the edge of something circular or curved: a crack in the rim of the lens.
Brim applies to the upper edge or inner side of the rim of something shaped like a basin: lava issuing from the brim of the crater.


Synonyms: boring, monotonous, tedious, irksome, tiresome, humdrum
These adjectives refer to what is so uninteresting as to cause mental weariness. Boring implies feelings of listlessness and discontent: I had never read such a boring book.
What is monotonous bores because of lack of variety: "There is nothing so desperately monotonous as the sea" (James Russell Lowell).
Tedious suggests dull slowness or long-windedness: Traveling by plane avoids spending tedious days on the train.
Irksome describes what is demanding of time and effort and yet is dull and often unrewarding: "I know and feel what an irksome task the writing of long letters is" (Edmund Burke).
Something tiresome fatigues because it seems to be interminable or to be marked by unremitting sameness: "What a tiresome being is a man who is fond of talking" (Benjamin Jowett).
Humdrum refers to what is commonplace, trivial, or unexcitingly routine: My quiet cousin led a humdrum existence.


Synonyms: botch, blow1, bungle, fumble, muff1
These verbs mean to harm or spoil through inept or clumsy handling: botch a repair; blow an opportunity; bungle an interview; fumbled my chance to apologize; muffed the painting job.


Synonyms: branch, arm1, fork, offshoot
These nouns denote something resembling or structurally similar to a limb of a tree: a branch of a railroad; an arm of the sea; the western fork of the river; an offshoot of a mountain range.


Synonyms: brave, courageous, fearless, intrepid, bold, audacious, valiant, valorous, mettlesome, plucky, dauntless, undaunted
These adjectives mean having or showing courage under difficult or dangerous conditions. Brave, the least specific, is frequently associated with an innate quality: "Familiarity with danger makes a brave man braver" (Herman Melville).
Courageous implies consciously rising to a specific test by drawing on a reserve of inner strength: The courageous soldier helped the civilians escape from the enemy.
Fearless emphasizes absence of fear and resolute self-possession: "world-classraces for fearless loners willing to face the distinct possibility of being run down, dismasted, capsized, attacked by whales" (Jo Ann Morse Ridley).
Intrepid sometimes suggests invulnerability to fear: Intrepid pioneers settled the American West.
Bold stresses readiness to meet danger or difficulty and often a tendency to seek it out: "If we shrink from the hard contests where men must win at the hazard of their lives ... then bolder and stronger peoples will pass us by" (Theodore Roosevelt).
Audacious implies extreme confidence and boldness: "To demand these God-given rights is to seek black power—what I call audacious power" (Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.)
Valiant suggests the bravery of a hero or a heroine: "a sympathetic and detailed biography that sees Hemingway as a valiant and moral man" (New York Times).
Valorous applies to the deeds of heroes and heroines: "The other hostages never forget her calm, confident, valorous work" (William W. Bradley).
Mettlesome stresses spirit and love of challenge: "her horse, whose mettlesome spirit required a better rider" (Henry Fielding).
Plucky emphasizes spirit and heart in the face of unfavorable odds: "Everybody was ... anxious to show these Belgians what England thought of their plucky little country" (H.G. Wells).
Dauntless refers to courage that resists subjection or intimidation: "So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,/There never was knight like the young Lochinvar" (Sir Walter Scott).
Undaunted suggests persistent courage and resolve: "Death and sorrow will be the companions of our journey.... We must be united, we must be undaunted, we must be inflexible" (Winston S. Churchill). See Also Synonyms at defy.


Synonyms: brawl, broil2, donnybrook, fracas, fray1, free-for-all, melee, row3
These nouns denote a noisy, disorderly, and often violent quarrel or fight: a barroom brawl; a broil between the opposing teams; a vicious legal donnybrook; a fracas among prison inmates; eager for the fray; a free-for-all in the schoolyard; police plunging into the melee; an angry domestic row.


Synonyms: breach, infraction, violation, transgression, trespass, infringement
These nouns denote an act or instance of breaking a law or regulation or failing to fulfill a duty, obligation, or promise. Breach and infraction are the least specific: Revealing the secret would be a breach of trust. Infractions of the rules will not be tolerated.
A violation is committed willfully and with complete lack of regard for legal, moral, or ethical considerations: In violation of her contract, she failed to appear.
Transgression most often applies to divine or moral law: "The children shall not be punished for the father's transgression" (Daniel Defoe).
Trespass implies willful intrusion on another's rights, possessions, or person: "In the limited and confined sense signifies no more than an entry on another man's ground without a lawful authority" (William Blackstone).
Infringement is most frequently used to denote encroachment on another's rights: "Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom" (William Pitt the Younger).


Synonyms: break, crack, fracture, burst, split, splinter, shatter, smash
These verbs mean to separate or cause to separate into parts or pieces, either by the sudden application of force or by the pressure of internal stress. Break is the most general: The window was broken by vandals. I broke my arm when I fell. That delicate ornament will break easily.
To crack is to break, often with a sharp snapping sound, without dividing into parts: I cracked the coffeepot, but it didn't leak. The building's foundation cracked during the earthquake.
Fracture applies to a break or crack in a rigid body: She fractured her skull in the accident.
Burst implies a sudden coming apart, especially from internal pressure, and the dispersion of contents: The child burst the balloon with a pin.
Split refers to a division longitudinally or with the grain: She split the log with an ax.
Splinter implies splitting into long, thin, sharp pieces: Repeated blows splintered the door.
To shatter is to break into many scattered pieces: The bullet shattered the mirror upon impact.
Smash stresses force of blow or impact and suggests complete destruction: He angrily smashed the vase against the wall. See Also Synonyms at demote, opportunity.


Synonyms: breeze1, cinch, pushover, snap
These nouns denote something easily accomplished: The exam was a breeze. Chopping onions is a cinch with a food processor. Winning the playoffs was no pushover. The new computer program was a snap to learn.


Synonyms: bright, brilliant, radiant, lustrous, lambent, luminous, incandescent, effulgent
These adjectives refer to what emits or reflects light. Bright is the most general: bright sunshine; a bright blue.
Brilliant implies intense brightness and often suggests sparkling or gleaming light: a brilliant color; a brilliant gemstone.
Something radiant emits or seems to emit light in rays: a radiant sunrise; a radiant smile.
A lustrous object reflects an agreeable sheen: thick, lustrous auburn hair.
Lambent applies to a soft, flickering light: "its tranquil streets, bathed in the lambent green of budding trees" (James C. McKinley).
Luminous especially refers to something that glows in the dark: a luminous watch dial.
Incandescent stresses burning brilliance: Flames consist of incandescent gases.
Effulgent suggests splendid radiance: "The crocus, the snowdrop, and the effulgent daffodil are considered bright harbingers of spring" (John Gould). See Also Synonyms at intelligent.


Synonyms: broach1, introduce, moot, raise
These verbs mean to bring forward a point, topic, or question for consideration or discussion: broach the subject tactfully; introduce a tax bill before the legislature; an idea that was mooted before the committee; raised the problem of dropouts with the faculty.


Synonyms: broad-minded, broad, liberal, open-minded, tolerant
These adjectives mean having or showing an inclination to respect views and beliefs that differ from one's own: a broad-minded judge; showed broad sympathies; a liberal cleric; open-minded impartiality; a tolerant attitude.
Antonym: narrow-minded


Synonyms: brood, dwell, fret1, mope, stew, worry
These verbs mean to turn over in the mind moodily and at length: brooding about his decline in popularity; dwelled on her defeat; fretted over the loss of his job; moping about his illness; stewing over her upcoming trial; worrying about the unpaid bills. See Also Synonyms at flock1.


Synonyms: brush1, flick1, glance1, graze2, shave, skim
These verbs mean to make light contact with something in passing: Her arm brushed mine. I flicked the paper with my finger. The arrow glanced off the tree. The knife blade grazed the countertop. A taxi shaved the curb. The oar skims the pond's surface.


Synonyms: bulge, balloon, belly, jut, overhang, project, protrude
These verbs mean to curve, spread, or extend outward past the normal or usual limit: a wallet bulging with money; expenses ballooning; a sail bellying in the wind; a pipe jutting from his mouth; overhanging eaves; projecting teeth; a head protruding from the window.


Synonyms: bulwark, barricade, breastwork, earthwork, rampart, bastion, parapet
These nouns refer literally to structures used as a defense against attack. A bulwark can be a mound of earth, an embankment, or a wall-like fortification. Barricade usually implies hasty construction to meet an imminent threat. Breastwork denotes a low defensive wall, especially a temporary one hurriedly built. Earthwork is a defensive construction of earth. A rampart, the main defensive structure around a guarded place, is permanent, high, and broad. A bastion is a projecting section of a fortification from which defenders have a wide range of view and fire. Parapet applies to any low fortification, typically a wall atop a rampart. Of these words bulwark and bastion are the most frequently used to refer figuratively to something regarded as being a safeguard or a source of protection: "The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over its government" (Franklin D. Roosevelt). A free press is one of the bastions of a democracy.


Synonyms: burden1, affliction, cross, trial, tribulation
These nouns denote something onerous or troublesome: the burden of a guilty conscience; indebtedness that is an affliction; a temper that is her cross; a troublemaker who is a trial to the teacher; suffered many tribulations in rising from poverty. See Also Synonyms at substance.


Synonyms: burdensome, onerous, oppressive, arduous, demanding, rigorous, exacting
These adjectives apply to what imposes a severe test of bodily or spiritual strength. Burdensome is associated with both mental and physical hardship: The burdensome task of preparing her tax return awaited her.
Onerous connotes the figuratively heavy load imposed by something irksome or annoying: My only onerous duty was having to greet the guests.
Something oppressive weighs one down in body or spirit: "Old forms of government finally grow so oppressive that they must be thrown off" (Herbert Spencer).
Arduous emphasizes the expenditure of sustained and often exhausting labor: Becoming a doctor is an arduous undertaking.
Demanding, rigorous, and exacting imply the imposition of severe and uncompromising demands: Music is a demanding art. "Yet out of this unflattering, rigorous realism . . . Swift made great art" (M.D. Aeschliman). Archaeology is exacting work.


Synonyms: burn1, scorch, singe, sear1, char1, parch
These verbs mean to injure or alter by means of intense heat or flames. Burn, the most general, applies to the effects of exposure to a source of heat or to something that can produce a similar effect: burned the muffins in the oven.
Scorch involves superficial burning that discolors or damages the texture of something: scorched the shirt with the iron.
Singe specifies superficial burning and especially the deliberate removal of projections such as feathers from a carcass before cooking: singed my eyelashes when the fire flared up; singed the chicken before roasting it.
Sear applies to surface burning of organic tissue: seared the lamb over high heat.
To char is to use fire to reduce a substance to carbon or charcoal: wood charred by the fire.
Parch in this sense emphasizes the drying and often fissuring of a surface: the hot sun that parched the soil.


Synonyms: business, industry, commerce, trade, traffic
These nouns apply to forms of activity that have the objective of supplying commodities. Business pertains broadly to commercial, financial, and industrial activity: decided to go into the oil business.
Industry entails the production and manufacture of goods or commodities, especially on a large scale: the computer industry.
Commerce and trade refer to the exchange and distribution of goods or commodities: laws regulating interstate commerce; involved in the domestic fur trade.
Traffic pertains in particular to businesses engaged in the transportation of goods or passengers: renovated the docks to attract shipping traffic.
The word may also suggest illegal trade: discovered a brisk traffic in stolen goods. See Also Synonyms at affair.


Synonyms: busy, industrious, diligent, assiduous, sedulous
These adjectives suggest active or sustained effort to accomplish something. Busy, the most general, sometimes indicates constant and customary work or activity: a busy lawyer; a busy day.
Industrious implies steady application that is often habitual or the result of a natural inclination: weeds pulled by an industrious gardener.
Diligent suggests constant painstaking effort, often toward the achievement of a specific goal: a diligent detective.
Assiduous emphasizes sustained application: assiduous efforts to learn French.
Sedulous adds to assiduous the sense of persistent, thoroughgoing endeavor: "the sedulous pursuit of legal and moral principles" (Ernest van den Haag).


Synonyms: cadge, beg, bum1, mooch, panhandle1
These verbs mean to ask for or obtain by charity: cadged a meal; begging for change; bum a ride; mooching food; homeless people forced to panhandle.


Synonyms: calculate, compute, reckon, cipher, figure
These verbs refer to the use of mathematical methods to determine a result. Calculate, the most comprehensive, often implies a relatively high level of abstraction or procedural complexity: The astronomer calculated the planet's position.
Compute applies to possibly lengthy arithmetic operations: computing fees according to time spent.
Reckon, cipher, and figure suggest the use of simple arithmetic: reckoned the number of hours before her departure; had to be taught to read and to cipher; trying to figure my share of the bill.


Synonyms: call, convene, convoke, muster, summon
These verbs mean to demand or request to appear, come, or assemble: called a taxi; convened a meeting; will convoke the legislature; mustering the militia; summoned a witness.


Synonyms: calm, tranquil, placid, serene, peaceful
These adjectives denote absence of excitement or disturbance: calm acceptance of the inevitable; hoped for a more tranquil life in the country; a soothing, placid tempermant; spent a serene, restful weekend at the lake; a peaceful hike through the scenic hills.


Synonyms: campaign, crusade, drive, push
These nouns denote a vigorous concerted effort to accomplish a purpose: a fund-raising campaign; a crusade for improved social services; a drive to sell bonds; a push to get the bill passed.


Synonyms: care, charge, custody, keeping, supervision, trust
These nouns refer to the function of watching, guarding, or overseeing: left the house keys in my care; has charge of all rare books in the library; had custody of his children; left the canary in the neighbors' keeping; assumed supervision of the students; documents committed to the bank's trust. See Also Synonyms at anxiety.


Synonyms: careful, heedful, mindful, observant, watchful
These adjectives mean cautiously attentive: was careful not to get her shoes muddy; heedful of the danger; mindful of his health; observant of the patient's symptoms; a watchful babysitter. See Also Synonyms at meticulous.
Antonym: careless


Synonyms: careless, heedless, thoughtless, inadvertent
These adjectives apply to what is marked by insufficient care or attention. Careless often implies negligence: "It is natural for careless writers to run into faults they never think of" (George Berkeley).
Heedless often suggests recklessness: "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics" (Franklin D. Roosevelt).
Thoughtless applies to actions taken without due consideration: "But thoughtless follies laid him low / And stain'd his name" (Robert Burns).
Inadvertent implies unintentional lack of care: With an inadvertent gesture, she swept the vase off the table.


Synonyms: caress, cuddle, fondle, pet1
These verbs mean to touch or handle affectionately: caressed the baby's forehead; cuddled the kitten in her arms; fondling the dog's ears; petting his pony.


Synonyms: caricature, burlesque, parody, travesty, satire, lampoon
These nouns denote artistic forms in which someone or something is imitated in an amusing and generally critical manner. A caricature grossly exaggerates a distinctive or striking feature with intent to ridicule: drew a caricature of the politician.
Burlesque, which usually denotes a dramatic work, suggests outlandish mimicry and broad comedy to provoke laughter: a burlesque playing at the theater.
Parody, travesty, and satire generally apply to written works. Parody employs the manner and style of a well-known work or writer for a ludicrous effect: wrote a parody of the famous novel.
A travesty is a harshly distorted imitation: a travesty of morality.
Satire usually involves ridiculing follies and vices: employs satire in her poetry.
A lampoon is a malicious but broadly humorous satire: a lampoon authored by a standup comic.
Word History: The history of the word caricature takes us back through the centuries to a time when the Romans occupied Gaul, offering the blessings of civilization to the Gauls but also borrowing from them as well. One such borrowing, the Gaulish word *karros, meaning "a wagon or cart," became Latin carrus, "a Gallic type of wagon." This Latin word has continued to roll through the English language, giving us car, career, cargo, carry, and charge, among others. Caricature, another offspring of carrus, came to us via French from Italian, in which caricatura, the source of the French word, was derived from Italian caricare, "to load, burden, or exaggerate." Caricare in turn came from Late Latin carricāre, "to load," derived from the Romans' Gaulish borrowing carrus.


Synonyms: catch, enmesh, ensnare, entangle, entrap, snare1, tangle1, trap1
These verbs mean to take in and hold as if by using bait or a lure: caught in a web of lies; enmeshed in the neighbors' dispute; ensnared an unsuspecting customer; became entangled in her own contradictions; entrapped by a convincing undercover agent; snared by false hopes; tangled by his own duplicity; trapped into incriminating himself.


Synonyms: cause, reason, occasion, antecedent
These nouns denote what brings about or is associated with an effect or result. A cause is an agent or condition that permits the occurrence of an effect or leads to a result: "He is not only dull in himself, but the cause of dullness in others" (Samuel Foote).
Reason refers to what explains the occurrence or nature of an effect: There was no obvious reason for the accident.
Occasion is a situation that permits or stimulates existing causes to come into play: "The immediate occasion of his departure ... was the favorable opportunity ... of migrating in a pleasant way" (Thomas De Quincey).
Antecedent refers to what has gone before and implies a relationship—but not necessarily a causal one—with what ensues: Some of the antecedents of World War II lie in economic conditions in Europe following World War I.


Synonyms: celebrity, hero, luminary, name, notable, personage
These nouns refer to a widely known person: a social celebrity; the heroes of science; a theatrical luminary; a big name in sports; a notable of the concert stage; a personage in the field of philosophy.


Synonyms: center, focus, headquarters, heart, hub, seat
These nouns refer to a region, person, or thing around which some activity is concentrated: a great cultural center; the focus of research efforts; the headquarters of a multinational corporation; a town that is the heart of the colony; the hub of a steel empire; the seat of government.


Synonyms: certain, inescapable, inevitable, sure, unavoidable
These adjectives mean impossible to avoid or evade: soldiers who knew they faced certain death; facts that led to an inescapable conclusion; an inevitable result; sudden but sure retribution; an unavoidable accident. See Also Synonyms at sure.


Synonyms: certainty, certitude, assurance, conviction
These nouns mean freedom from doubt. Certainty implies a thorough consideration of evidence: "the emphasis of a certainty that is not impaired by any shade of doubt" (Mark Twain).
Certitude is based more on personal belief than on objective facts: "Certitude is not the test of certainty" (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.)
Assurance is a feeling of confidence resulting from subjective experience: "There is no such thing as absolute certainty, but there is assurance sufficient for the purposes of human life" (John Stuart Mill).
Conviction arises from the vanquishing of doubt: "His religion . . . was substantial and concrete, made up of good, hard convictions and opinions. (Willa Cather).


Synonyms: chafe, abrade, excoriate, fret1, gall2
These verbs mean to wear down or rub away a surface by or as if by scraping: chafed my skin; water abrading the canyon walls; metal bristles that excoriated her scalp; rope that fretted a groove in the post; stone steps galled by years of heavy use.


Synonyms: chance, random, casual, haphazard, desultory
These adjectives apply to what is determined not by deliberation but by accident. Chance stresses lack of premeditation: a chance meeting with a friend.
Random implies the absence of a specific pattern or objective: took a random guess.
Casual often suggests an absence of due concern: a casual observation.
Haphazard implies a carelessness or a willful leaving to chance: a haphazard plan of action.
Desultory suggests a shifting about from one thing to another that reflects a lack of method: a desultory conversation. See Also Synonyms at happen, opportunity.


Synonyms: charge, imbue, impregnate, permeate, pervade, saturate, suffuse
These verbs mean to cause to be filled with a particular mood or tone: an atmosphere charged with excitement; poetry imbued with lyricism; a spirit impregnated with lofty ideals; optimism that permeates a group; letters pervaded with gloom; a play saturated with imagination; a heart suffused with love. See Also Synonyms at care.


Synonyms: charm, beguile, bewitch, captivate, enchant, entrance2, fascinate
These verbs mean to attract strongly or irresistibly: manners that charmed the old curmudgeon; delicacies that beguile even the most discerning gourmet; a performance that bewitched the audience; a novel that captivates its readers; a child who enchanted his grandparents; music that entrances its listeners; a celebrity who fascinated his interviewer.
Antonym: repel


Synonyms: chief, principal, main, leading1, foremost, primary, prime
These adjectives refer to what is first in rank or in importance. Chief applies to a person of the highest authority: a chief magistrate.
Used figuratively, chief implies maximum importance or value: her chief joy.
Principal applies to someone or something of the first order in power or significance: their principal source of entertainment.
Main applies to what exceeds others in extent, size, or importance: the main building on the campus.
Leading suggests personal magnetism, a record of achievement, or capacity for influencing others: one of the leading physicians of the city.
Foremost emphasizes the sense of having forged ahead of others: the foremost research scientist of the day.
Primary stresses first in the sense of origin, sequence, or development: primary school.
It can also mean first in the sense of "fundamental": the primary function of this machine.
Prime applies to what is first in comparison with others and to what is of the best quality: a theory of prime significance; a prime Burgundy.


Synonyms: choice, alternative, option, preference, selection, election
These nouns denote the act, power, or right of choosing. Choice implies broadly the freedom to choose from a set: The store offers a wide choice of vegetables. I had no choice in the matter.
Alternative emphasizes choice between only two possibilities or courses of action: "An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth.... Your mother will never see you again if you domarry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you (Jane Austen).
Option often stresses a power or liberty to choose that has been granted: The legislature outlined several tax options.
Preference indicates choice based on one's values, bias, or predilections: We were offered our preference of wines.
Selection suggests a variety of things or persons to choose from: The video store had a wide selection of foreign films.
Election especially emphasizes the use of judgment: The university recommends the election of courses in literature. See Also Synonyms at delicate.


Synonyms: chronic, confirmed, habitual, inveterate
These adjectives mean having long had a habit or a disease: a chronic complainer; a confirmed alcoholic; a habitual cheat; an inveterate smoker.


Synonyms: circumference, circuit, compass, perimeter, periphery
These nouns refer to a line around a closed figure or area: the circumference of the earth; followed the circuit around the park; stayed within the compass of the schoolyard; the perimeter of a rectangle; a fence around the periphery of the property.


Synonyms: citizen, national, subject
These nouns denote a person owing allegiance to a nation or state and entitled to its protection: an American citizen; a British national; a French subject.


Synonyms: claim, pretense, pretension, title
These nouns refer to a legitimate or asserted right to demand something as one's due: had a legal claim to the property; makes no pretense to scholarliness; justified pretensions to the presidency; has no title to our thanks. See Also Synonyms at demand.


Synonyms: clean, antiseptic, cleanly, immaculate, spotless
These adjectives mean free from dirt: clean clothing; antiseptic surgical instruments; a cleanly pet; an immaculate tablecloth; a spotless kitchen.
Antonym: dirty


Synonyms: clear, limpid, lucid, pellucid, transparent
These adjectives mean not opaque or clouded: clear, sediment-free claret; limpid blue eyes; lucid air; a pellucid brook; transparent crystal. See Also Synonyms at apparent.


Synonyms: clever, ingenious, shrewd
These adjectives refer to mental adroitness or to practical ingenuity and skill. Clever is the most comprehensive: "Everybody's family doctor was remarkably clever, and was understood to have immeasurable skill in the management and training of the most skittish or vicious diseases" (George Eliot).
Ingenious implies originality and inventiveness: "an ingenious solution to the storage problem" (Linda Greider).
Shrewd emphasizes mental astuteness and practical understanding: "a woman of shrewd intellect" (Leslie Stephen).


Synonyms: clich, bromide, commonplace, platitude, truism
These nouns denote an expression or idea that has lost its originality or force through overuse: a short story weakened by clichs; the old bromide that we are what we eat; uttered the commonplace "welcome aboard"; a eulogy full of platitudes; a once-original thought that has become a truism.


Synonyms: clothe, cloak, drape, mantle, robe
These verbs mean to cover as if with clothes: trees clothed in leafy splendor; mist that cloaks the mountains; a beam draped with cobwebs; a boulder mantled with moss; snow robing fields and gardens.


Synonyms: coagulate, clot, congeal, curdle, jell, jelly, set1
These verbs mean to change or be changed from a liquid into a thickened mass: egg white coagulating when heated; blood clotting over the wound; gravy congealing as it cools; milk that had curdled; used pectin to jell the jam; jellied consomm; allowed the aspic to set.


Synonyms: cold, arctic, chilly, cool, frigid, frosty, gelid, glacial, icy
These adjectives mean marked by a low or an extremely low temperature: cold air; an arctic climate; a chilly day; cool water; a frigid room; a frosty morning; gelid seas; glacial winds; icy hands.
Antonym: hot


Synonyms: collision, concussion, crash1, impact, jar2, jolt, shock1
These nouns denote violent forcible contact between two or more things: the midair collision of two light planes; the concussion caused by an explosion; a crash involving two cars; the impact of a sledgehammer on pilings; felt repeated jars as the train ground to a halt; a series of jolts as the baby carriage rolled down the steps; experienced the physical shock of a sudden fall.


Synonyms: comfort, console1, solace
These verbs mean to give hope or help to in time of grief or pain: comforted the distressed child; consoling a recent widow; solaced myself with a hot cup of coffee See Also Synonyms at amenity.


Synonyms: comfortable, cozy, snug1, restful
These adjectives mean affording ease of mind or body. Comfortable implies the absence of sources of pain or distress: wears comfortable clothes.
The word may also suggest peace of mind: felt comfortable with the decision.
Cozy suggests homey and reassuring ease: sat in a cozy nook near the fire.
Snug brings to mind the image of a warm, secure, compact shelter: children snug in their beds.
Restful suggests a quiet conducive to tranquillity: spent a restful hour reading.


Synonyms: comment, observation, remark
These nouns denote an expression of fact, opinion, or explanation: made an unpleasant comment about my friend; a casual observation about the movie; an offensive personal remark.


Synonyms: commit, consign, entrust, confide, relegate
These verbs mean to give over to another for a purpose such as care or safekeeping. Commit has the widest application: The troops were committed to the general's charge. I committed the sonata to memory. The patient was committed to the hospital.
To consign is to transfer to another's custody or charge: The owner consigned the paintings to a dealer for sale.
Entrust and confide stress trust in another: The task was too dangerous to be entrusted to a child. She confided her plans to her family.
To relegate is to assign to a specific and especially an inferior category or position: Some scientists relegate parapsychology to the sphere of quackery.


Synonyms: common, ordinary, familiar, vulgar
These adjectives describe what is generally known or frequently encountered. Common applies to what takes place often, is widely used, or is well known: The botanist studied the common dandelion.
The term also implies coarseness or a lack of distinction: My wallet was stolen by a common thief.
Ordinary describes something usual that is indistinguishable from others, sometimes derogatorily: A ballpoint pen is adequate for ordinary purposes. The critic gave the ordinary performance a mediocre review.
Familiar applies to what is well known or quickly recognized: Most children can recite familiar nursery rhymes.
Vulgar describes association with the great mass of people and often connotes lack of refinement: "He was not something sacred and aloof from the vulgar herd of men" (William Hazlitt). See Also Synonyms at general.


Synonyms: complete, close, end, finish, conclude, terminate
These verbs mean to bring or come to a natural or proper stopping point. Complete and finish suggest the final stage in an undertaking: "Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime" (Reinhold Niebuhr). "Give us the tools, and we will finish the job" (Winston S. Churchill).
Close applies to the ending of something ongoing or continuing: The band closed the concert with an encore.
End emphasizes finality: We ended the meal with fruit and cheese.
Conclude is more formal than complete and close: The author concluded the article by restating the major points.
Terminate suggests reaching an established limit: The playing of the national anthem terminated the station's broadcast for the night.
It also indicates the dissolution of a formal arrangement: The firm terminated my contract yesterday.


Synonyms: complex, complicated, intricate, involved, tangled, knotty
These adjectives mean having parts so interconnected as to make the whole perplexing. Complex implies a combination of many associated parts: The composer transformed a simple folk tune into a complex set of variations.
Complicated stresses elaborate relationship of parts: The party's complicated platform confused many voters.
Intricate refers to a pattern of intertwining parts that is difficult to follow or analyze: "No one could soar into a more intricate labyrinth of refined phraseology" (Anthony Trollope).
Involved stresses confusion arising from the commingling of parts and the consequent difficulty of separating them: The movie's plot was criticized as being too involved.
Tangled strongly suggests the random twisting of many parts: "Oh, what a tangled web we weave,/When first we practice to deceive!" (Sir Walter Scott).
Knotty stresses intellectual complexity leading to difficulty of solution or comprehension: Even the professor couldn't clarify the knotty point.


Synonyms: conceit, egoism, egotism, narcissism, vanity
These nouns denote excessive high regard for oneself: boasting that reveals conceit; imperturbable egoism; arrogance and egotism that were obvious from her actions; narcissism that shut out everyone else; wounded his vanity by looking in the mirror.
Antonym: humility


Synonyms: condemn, damn, doom, sentence
These verbs mean to determine the punishment or destiny of one found to be guilty or undeserving: condemned the dissident to hard labor; damned the murderer to everlasting misery; an attempt that was doomed to failure; sentenced the traitor to life in prison. See Also Synonyms at criticize.


Synonyms: conduct, direct, manage, control, steer1
These verbs mean to exercise direction over an activity: Conduct can apply to the guidance, authority, and responsibility of a single person: The chairperson conducted the hearing.
It can also refer to the coordinated actions of a group: The elections were conducted fairly.
Direct stresses regulation to assure proper planning and implementation: The seasoned politician directed a brilliant political campaign.
Manage suggests the manipulation of a person, a group, or, often, a complex organization: It takes skill to manage a hotel.
Control stresses regulation through restraint and also connotes domination: Our vice-president controls the firm's personnel policies.
Steer suggests guidance that controls direction or course: I deftly steered the conversation away from politics. See Also Synonyms at accompany, behavior.


Synonyms: confidence, assurance, aplomb, self-confidence, self-possession
These nouns denote a feeling of emotional security resulting from faith in oneself. Confidence is a firm belief in one's powers, abilities, or capacities: "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face" (Eleanor Roosevelt).
Assurance even more strongly stresses certainty and can suggest arrogance: How can you explain an abstruse theory with such assurance?
Aplomb implies calm poise: "It is native personality, and that alone, that endows a man to stand before presidents or generals . . . with " (Walt Whitman).
Self-confidence stresses trust in one's own self-sufficiency: "The most vital quality a soldier can possess is self-confidence" (George S. Patton).
Self-possession implies composure arising from control over one's own reactions: "In life courtesy and self-possession . . . are the sensible impressions of the free mind, for both arise . . . from never being swept away, whatever the emotion, into confusion or dullness" (William Butler Yeats). See Also Synonyms at trust.


Synonyms: confirm, corroborate, substantiate, authenticate, validate, verify
These verbs mean to affirm the truth, accuracy, or genuineness of something. Confirm implies removal of all doubt: "We must never make experiments to confirm our ideas, but simply to control them" (Claude Bernard).
Corroborate refers to supporting something by means of strengthening evidence: The witness is expected to corroborate the plaintiff's testimony.
To substantiate is to establish by presenting substantial or tangible evidence: "one of the most fully substantiated of historical facts" (James Harvey Robinson).
Authenticate implies the establishment of genuineness of something by the testimony of an expert: Never purchase an antique before it has been authenticated.
Validate refers to establishing the validity of something, such as a theory, claim, or judgment: The divorce validated my parents' original objection to the marriage.
Verify implies proving by comparison with an original or with established fact: The bank refused to cash the check until the signature was verified.


Synonyms: conflict, contest, combat, fight
These nouns denote struggle between opposing forces for victory or supremacy. Conflict applies both to open fighting between hostile groups and to a struggle between antithetical forces: "The kind of victory MacArthur had in mind . . . victory by expanding the conflict to all of China—would have been the wrong kind of victory" (Harry S. Truman). "Fortunately analysis is not the only way to resolve inner conflicts" (Karen Horney).
Contest can refer either to friendly competition or to a hostile struggle to achieve an objective: a spelling contest; the gubernatorial contest.
Combat most commonly implies an encounter between two armed persons or groups: "Alexander had appeared to him, armed for combat" (Connop Thirlwall).
Fight usually refers to a clash involving individual adversaries: A fight was scheduled between the world boxing champion and the challenger. "There is nothing I love as much as a good fight" (Franklin D. Roosevelt). See Also Synonyms at discord.


Synonyms: confuse, addle, befuddle, discombobulate, fuddle, muddle, throw
These verbs mean to cause to be unclear in mind or intent: heavy traffic that confused the driver; problems that addle my brain; a question that befuddled even the professor; was discombobulated by all of the possibilities; a complex plot line that fuddled my comprehension; a student who was muddled by endless facts and figures; behavior that really threw me.


Synonyms: consider, deem, regard, account, reckon
These verbs refer to holding opinions or views that are based on evaluation. Consider suggests objective reflection and reasoning: He considers success to be of little importance.
Deem is more subjective, emphasizing judgment rather than contemplation: The faculty deemed the essay to be acceptable.
Regard often implies a personal attitude: I regard your apology as genuine.
Account and reckon in this sense are literary and imply calculated judgment: "I account no man to be a philosopher who attempts to do more" (John Henry Newman). "I cannot reckon you as an admirer" (Nathaniel Hawthorne).


Synonyms: contain, hold1, accommodate
These verbs mean to have within or have a capacity. Contain means to have within or have as a part or constituent: The book contains some amusing passages.
Hold stresses capacity for containing: The pitcher holds two pints but contains only one.
Accommodate refers to capacity for holding comfortably: The restaurant accommodates 50 customers.


Synonyms: contaminate, befoul, foul, poison, pollute, taint
These verbs mean to make dirty or impure: Pesticides contaminated the lake. Mud befouled my shoes. Noxious fumes fouled the air. Drugs poisoned her mind. Exhaust polluted the air. Improper storage tainted the food.


Synonyms: contemporary, contemporaneous, simultaneous, synchronous, concurrent, coincident, concomitant
These adjectives mean existing or occurring at the same time. Contemporary is used more often of persons, contemporaneous of events and facts: The composer Salieri was contemporary with Mozart. A rise in interest rates is often contemporaneous with an increase in inflation.
Simultaneous more narrowly specifies occurrence of events at the same time: The activists organized simultaneous demonstrations in many major cities.
Synchronous refers to correspondence of events in time over a short period: The dancers executed a series of synchronous movements.
Concurrent implies parallelism in character or length of time: The mass murderer was given three concurrent life sentences.
Coincident applies to events occurring at the same time without implying a relationship: "The resistance to the Pope's authority . . . is pretty nearly coincident with the rise of the Ottomans" (John Henry Newman).
Concomitant refers to coincidence in time of events so clearly related that one seems attendant on the other: He is an adherent of Freud's theories and had a concomitant belief in the efficacy of psychoanalysis.


Synonyms: continual, continuous, constant, ceaseless, incessant, perpetual, eternal, perennial, interminable
These adjectives mean occurring repeatedly over a long period of time. Continual is chiefly restricted to what is intermittent or repeated at intervals: The continual banging of the shutter in the wind gave me a headache.
Continuous implies lack of interruption: The horizon is a continuous line.
Constant stresses steadiness or persistence and unvarying nature: The constant ticking of the clock lulled him to sleep.
Ceaseless and incessant pertain to uninterrupted activity: The ceaseless thunder of the surf eroded the beach. The toddler asked incessant questions.
Perpetual emphasizes both steadiness and duration: The ambassador had a perpetual stream of visitors.
Eternal refers to what is everlasting, especially to what is seemingly without temporal beginning or end: "That freedom can be retained only by the eternal vigilance which has always been its price" (Elmer Davis).
Perennial describes existence that goes on year after year, often with the suggestion of self-renewal: The candidates discussed the perennial problem of urban poverty.
Interminable refers to what is or seems to be endless and is often applied to something prolonged and wearisome: After an interminable delay, our flight was canceled outright.


Synonyms: convert, metamorphose, transfigure, transform, transmogrify, transmute
These verbs mean to change into a different form, substance, or state: convert stocks into cash; misery that was metamorphosed into happiness; a gangling adolescent who was transfigured into a handsome adult; transformed the bare stage into an enchanted forest; a boom that transmogrified the sleepy town into a bustling city; impossible to transmute lead into gold.


Synonyms: convey, carry, bear1, transport, transmit
These verbs refer to movement from one place to another. Convey often implies continuous, regular movement or flow: Pipelines convey water.
The word also means to serve as a medium for delivery or transmission: A fleet of trucks will convey the produce to the market.
Carry often means to support something while moving: The train carries baggage, mail, and passengers.
The term can also refer to conveyance through a channel or medium: Nerve cells carry and receive nervous impulses.
Bear strongly suggests the effort of supporting an important burden: The envoy bore the sad news.
Transport is largely limited to the movement over a considerable distance: Huge tankers are used to transport oil.
Transmit refers to passing along, sending, or communicating something: Please transmit the stock certificates by special messenger.
The word also means to serve as a medium for the movement of physical phenomena such as light, electricity, or sound: "The motion is transmitted from particle to particle, to a great distance" (Thomas H. Huxley).


Synonyms: cool, composed, collected, unruffled, nonchalant, imperturbable, detached
These adjectives indicate absence of excitement or discomposure in a person, especially in times of stress. Cool usually implies merely a high degree of self-control, but it may also indicate aloofness: "Keep strong, if possible. In any case, keep cool. Have unlimited patience" (B.H. Liddell Hart). "An honest hater is often a better fellow than a cool friend" (John Stuart Blackie).
Composed implies serenity arising from self-discipline: The dancer was composed as she prepared for her recital.
Collected suggests self-possession: The witness remained collected throughout the questioning.
Unruffled emphasizes calm despite circumstances that might elicit agitation: "with contented mind and unruffled spirit" (Anthony Trollope).
Nonchalant describes a casual manner that may suggest, sometimes misleadingly, a lack of interest or concern: He reacted to the news in a nonchalant manner.
Imperturbable stresses unshakable calmness usually considered as an inherent trait: "A man ... /Cool, and quite English, imperturbable" (Byron).
Detached implies aloofness resulting either from lack of active concern or from resistance to emotional involvement: He sat through the service with a detached air. See Also Synonyms at cold.


Synonyms: correct, rectify, remedy, redress, reform, revise, amend
These verbs mean to make right what is wrong. Correct refers to eliminating faults, errors, or defects: I corrected the spelling mistakes.
Rectify stresses the idea of bringing something into conformity with a standard of what is right: The omission of your name from the list will be rectified.
Remedy involves removing or counteracting something considered a cause of harm or damage: He took courses to remedy his abysmal ignorance.
Redress refers to setting right something considered immoral or unethical and usually involves making reparation: The wrong is too great to be redressed.
Reform implies broad change that improves form or character: "Let us reform our schools, and we shall find little reform needed in our prisons" (John Ruskin).
Revise suggests change that results from reconsideration: The author revised her manuscript for publication.
Amend implies improvement through alteration or correction: "Whenever shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it" (Abraham Lincoln). See Also Synonyms at punish.


Synonyms: corrupt, debase, debauch, deprave, pervert, vitiate
These verbs mean to ruin utterly in character or quality: was corrupted by limitless power; debased himself by pleading with the captors; a youth debauched by drugs and drink; indulgence that depraves the moral fiber; perverted her talent by putting it to evil purposes; a proof vitiated by a serious omission.


Synonyms: count1, import, matter, signify, weigh1
These verbs mean to be of significance or importance: an opinion that counts; actions that import little; decisions that really matter; thoughts that signify much; considerations that weigh with her.


Synonyms: crisis, crossroad, exigency, head, juncture, pass
These nouns denote a critical point or state of affairs: a military crisis; government policy at the crossroad; had predicted the health-care exigency; a problem that is coming to a head; negotiations that had reached a crucial juncture; things rapidly coming to a desperate pass.


Synonyms: criticize, blame, reprehend, censure, condemn, denounce
These verbs mean to express an unfavorable judgment. Criticize can mean merely to evaluate without necessarily finding fault; however, usually the word implies the expression of disapproval: The review criticized the novel.
Blame emphasizes the finding of fault and the fixing of responsibility: "People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are" (George Bernard Shaw).
Reprehend implies sharp disapproval: "reprehends students who have protested apartheid" (New York Times).
Censure refers to open and strong expression of criticism; often it implies a formal reprimand: "No man can justly censure or condemn another, because indeed no man truly knows another" (Thomas Browne).
Condemn denotes the pronouncement of harshly adverse judgment: "The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant and so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored because it cannot survive their being repeated" (Robert H. Jackson).
Denounce implies public proclamation of condemnation or repudiation: The press denounces the new taxation policies.


Synonyms: crowd1, crush, flock1, horde, mob, press1, throng
These nouns denote a large group of people gathered close to one another: a crowd of well-wishers; a crush of autograph seekers; a flock of schoolchildren; a horde of demonstrators; a mob of hard-rock enthusiasts; a press of shoppers; throngs of tourists.


Synonyms: crude, native, raw
These adjectives mean in a natural state and not yet processed for use: crude rubber; native iron; raw cotton. See Also Synonyms at rude.


Synonyms: cruel, fierce, ferocious, barbarous, inhuman, savage, vicious
These adjectives mean predisposed to inflict violence, pain, or hardship, or to find satisfaction in the suffering of others: a cruel tyrant; a fierce warrior; a ferocious attack dog; a barbarous crime; inhuman treatment of captured soldiers; a savage outburst of temper; a vicious kick.


Synonyms: crush, mash, pulp, smash, squash2
These verbs mean to press forcefully so as to reduce to a pulpy mass: crushed the rose geranium leaves; mashed the sweet potatoes; pulped raspberries through a sieve; smashed the bamboo stems with a hammer; squashed the wine grapes. See Also Synonyms at crowd1.


Synonyms: cry, weep, wail, keen2, whimper, sob, blubber1
These verbs mean to make inarticulate sounds of grief, unhappiness, or pain. Cry and weep both involve the shedding of tears; cry more strongly implies accompanying sound: "She cried without trying to suppress any of the noisier manifestations of grief and confusion" (J. D. Salinger). "I weep for what I'm like when I'm alone" (Theodore Roethke).
Wail refers primarily to sustained, inarticulate mournful sound: "The women . . . began to wail together; they mourned with shrill cries" (Joseph Conrad).
Keen suggests wailing and lamentation for the dead: "It is the wild Irish women keening over their dead" (George A. Lawrence).
Whimper refers to low, plaintive, broken or repressed cries: The condemned prisoner cowered and began to whimper for clemency.
Sob describes weeping or a mixture of broken speech and weeping marked by convulsive breathing or gasping: "sobbing and crying, and wringing her hands as if her heart would break" (Laurence Sterne).
Blubber refers to noisy shedding of tears accompanied by broken or inarticulate speech: "When he drew out what had been a fiddle, crushed to morsels in the greatcoat, he blubbered aloud" (Emily Bront).


Synonyms: cure, heal, remedy
These verbs mean to set right an undesirable or unhealthy condition: cure an ailing economy; heal a wounded spirit; remedy a structural defect.


Synonyms: curious, inquisitive, snoopy, nosy
These adjectives apply to persons who show a marked desire for information or knowledge. Curious most often implies an avid desire to know or learn, though it can suggest prying: A curious child is a teacher's delight. A curious neighbor can be a nuisance.
Inquisitive frequently suggests excessive curiosity and the asking of many questions: "Remember, no revolvers. The police are, I believe, proverbially inquisitive" (Lord Dunsany).
Snoopy suggests underhanded prying: The snoopy hotel detective spied on guests in the lobby.
Nosy implies impertinent curiosity likened to that of an animal using its nose to examine or probe: My nosy colleague went through my mail. See Also Synonyms at strange.


Synonyms: dark, dim, murky, dusky, obscure, opaque, shady, shadowy
These adjectives indicate the absence of light or clarity. Dark, the most widely applicable, can refer to insufficiency of illumination for seeing (a dark evening), deepness of shade or color (dark brown), absence of cheer (a dark, somber mood), or lack of rectitude (a dark past). Dim suggests lack of clarity of outline: "life and the memory of it cramped,/dim, on a piece of Bristol board" (Elizabeth Bishop).
It can also apply to a source of light to indicate insufficiency: "storied Windows richly dight,/Casting a dim religious light" (John Milton).
Murky implies darkness, often extreme, such as that produced by smoke or fog: "The path was altogether indiscernible in the murky darkness which surrounded them" (Sir Walter Scott).
Dusky suggests the dimness that is characteristic of diminishing light, as at twilight: "The dusky night rides down the sky,/And ushers in the morn" (Henry Fielding).
Also, it often refers to deepness of shade of a color: "A dusky blush rose to her cheek" (Edith Wharton).
Obscure usually means unclear to the mind or senses, but it can refer to physical darkness: the obscure rooms of a shuttered mansion.
Opaque means incapable of being penetrated by light: an opaque window shade
; figuratively it applies to something that is unintelligible: opaque philosophical arguments.
Shady refers literally to what is sheltered from light, especially sunlight (a shady grove of pines) or figuratively to what is of questionable honesty (shady business deals). Shadowy also implies obstructed light (a shadowy path) but may suggest shifting illumination and indistinctness: "retreated from the limelight to the shadowy fringe of music history" (Charles Sherman).
It can also refer to something that seems to lack substance and is mysterious or sinister: a shadowy figure in a black cape.


Synonyms: daze, bemuse, benumb, stun, stupefy
These verbs mean to dull or paralyze the mental capacities with or as if with a shock: dazed by the defeat; bemused by the senator's resignation; a boring performance that benumbed the audience; stunned by his sudden death; a display that stupefied all onlookers.


Synonyms: dead, deceased, departed, extinct, lifeless, inanimate
These adjectives all mean without life. Dead applies in general to whatever once had—but no longer has—physical life (a dead man; a dead leaf), function (a dead battery), or force or currency (a dead issue; a dead language). Deceased and departed refer only to nonliving humans: attended a memorial service for a recently deceased friend; looking at pictures of departed relatives.
Extinct can refer to what has no living successors (extinct species such as the dodo) or to what is extinguished or inactive (an extinct volcano). Lifeless applies to what no longer has physical life (a lifeless body), to what does not support life (a lifeless planet), or to what lacks animation, spirit, or brightness (a lifeless performance; lifeless colors). Inanimate is most often limited to what has never had physical life: "The anchored gunboat simply would not sink. It evinced that unnatural stubbornness which is sometimes displayed by inanimate objects" (Stephen Crane).


Synonyms: decay, rot, putrefy, spoil, crumble, molder, disintegrate, decompose
These verbs refer to gradual change resulting in destruction or dissolution. Decay can denote partial deterioration short of complete destruction: Brush and floss regularly to prevent teeth from decaying.
Rot is sometimes synonymous with decay, but often, like putrefy, stresses offensiveness to the sense of smell: The food left on the counter began to rot. Arctic cold prevented the prehistoric animal from putrefying.
Spoil usually refers to the process by which perishable substances become unfit for use or consumption: Put the fish in the refrigerator before they spoil.
Crumble implies physical breakdown into small fragments or particles: The ancient church had crumbled to ruins.
To molder is to crumble to dust: The shawl had moldered away in the trunk.
Disintegrate refers to complete breakdown into component parts: The sandstone faade had disintegrated from exposure to the elements.
Decompose, largely restricted to the breakdown of substances into their chemical components, also connotes rotting and putrefying, both literally and figuratively: "trivial personalities decomposing in the eternity of print" (Virginia Woolf).


Synonyms: deceive, betray, mislead, beguile, delude, dupe, hoodwink, bamboozle, double-cross
These verbs mean to lead another into error, danger, or a disadvantageous position by underhand means. Deceive involves the deliberate misrepresentation of the truth: "We are inclined to believe those whom we do not know, because they have never deceived us" (Samuel Johnson).
Betray implies treachery: "When you betray somebody else, you also betray yourself" (Isaac Bashevis Singer).
Mislead means to lead in the wrong direction or into error of thought or action: "My manhood, long misled by wandering fires,/Followed false lights" (John Dryden).
Beguile suggests deceiving by means of charm or allure: They beguiled unwary investors with tales of overnight fortunes.
To delude is to mislead the mind or judgment. The government deluded the public about the dangers of low-level radiation.
Dupe implies playing upon another's susceptibilities or naivet: The shoppers were duped by false advertising.
Hoodwink refers to deluding by trickery: It is difficult to hoodwink a smart lawyer.
Bamboozle means to delude by the use of such tactics as hoaxing or artful persuasion: "Perhaps if I wanted to be understood or to understand I would bamboozle myself into belief, but I am a reporter" (Graham Greene).
Double-cross implies the betrayal of a confidence or the willful breaking of a pledge: The thief double-crossed his accomplice.


Synonyms: decide, determine, settle, rule, conclude, resolve
These verbs mean to come to a decision. Decide is the least specific: "If two laws conflict with each other, the courts must decide on the operation of each" (John Marshall).
Determine often involves somewhat narrower issues: A jury will determine the verdict.
Settle stresses finality of decision: "The lama waved a hand to show that the matter was finally settled in his mind" (Rudyard Kipling).
Rule implies that the decision is handed down by someone in authority: The committee ruled that changes in the curriculum should be implemented.
Conclude suggests that a decision, opinion, or judgment has been arrived at after careful consideration: She concluded that the criticism was unjust.
Resolve stresses the exercise of choice in making a firm decision: I resolved to lose weight.


Synonyms: decision, conclusion, determination
These nouns denote a position, opinion, or judgment reached after consideration: a decision unfavorable to the opposition; came to the conclusion not to proceed; satisfied with the panel's determination.


Synonyms: decisive, conclusive, crucial, definitive, determinative
These adjectives mean determining or having the power to determine an outcome: the decisive vote; a conclusive reason; crucial experiments; a definitive verdict; the determinative battle.
Antonym: indecisive


Synonyms: decrease, lessen, reduce, dwindle, abate, diminish, subside
These verbs mean to become or cause to become smaller or less. Decrease and lessen refer to steady or gradual diminution: Lack of success decreases confidence. His appetite lessens as his illness progresses.
Reduce emphasizes bringing down in size, degree, or intensity: The workers reduced their wage demands.
Dwindle suggests decreasing bit by bit to a vanishing point: Their savings dwindled away.
Abate stresses a decrease in amount or intensity and suggests a reduction of excess: Toward evening the fire began to abate.
Diminish implies taking away or removal: The warden's authority diminished after the revolt.
Subside implies a falling away to a more normal level: The wild enthusiasm aroused by the team's victory did not subside for days.


Synonyms: decry, disparage, depreciate, derogate, belittle, minimize, downgrade
These verbs mean to think, write, or speak of as being of little value or importance. Decry implies open denunciation or condemnation: A staunch materialist, he decries economy.
Disparage often implies the communication of a low opinion by indirection: Many critics disparage psychoanalysis as being a pseudoscience.
To depreciate is to assign a lower than customary value to someone or something: Some musicologists depreciate Liszt's compositions.
Derogate implies a detraction that impairs: People often derogate what they don't understand.
Belittle and minimize mean to make less important, but minimize strongly implies the minimum level: He belittled the child's attempts to draw. She tried to minimize my accomplishment.
To downgrade is to minimize in importance or estimation: Her rival downgraded the painting, calling it decorative but superficial.


Synonyms: defeat, conquer, vanquish, beat, rout1, subdue, subjugate, overcome
These verbs mean to triumph over an adversary. Defeat is the most general: "Whether we defeat the enemy in one battle, or by degrees, the consequences will be the same" (Thomas Paine).
Conquer suggests decisive and often wide-scale victory: "The Franks . . . having conquered the Gauls, established the kingdom which has taken its name from them" (Alexander Hamilton).
Vanquish emphasizes total mastery: Napoleon's forces were vanquished at Waterloo.
Beat is similar to defeat, though less formal and often more emphatic: "To win battles . . . you beat the soul . . . of the enemy man" (George S. Patton).
Rout implies complete victory followed by the disorderly flight of the defeated force: The enemy was routed in the first battle.
Subdue suggests mastery and control achieved by overpowering: "It cost two great wars, and three great battles, to subdue that little kingdom (Adam Smith).
Subjugate more strongly implies reducing an opponent to submission: "The last foreigner to subjugate England was a Norman duke in the Middle Ages named William" (Stanley Meisler).
To overcome is to prevail over, often by persevering: He overcame his injury after months of physical therapy.


Synonyms: defend, protect, guard, preserve, shield, safeguard
These verbs mean to make or keep safe from danger, attack, or harm. Defend implies repelling an attack: defending her territory; defended his reputation.
Protect often suggests providing a barrier to discomfort, injury, or attack: bought a dog to protect the children; wore sunglasses to protect her eyes.
Guard suggests keeping watch: guarded the house against intruders.
To preserve is to take measures to maintain something in safety: ecologists working to preserve our natural resources.
Shield suggests protecting with a piece of defensive armor: hid the newspaper to shield me from the bad news.
Safeguard stresses protection against potential danger: The Bill of Rights safeguards our individual liberties.


Synonyms: defer1, postpone, shelve, stay1, suspend
These verbs mean to put off until a later time: deferred paying the bills; postponing our trip; shelved the issue; stay an execution; suspending train service.


Synonyms: defy, brave, challenge, dare, face
These verbs mean to confront boldly and courageously: an innovator defying tradition; braving all criticism; challenged the opposition to produce proof; daring him to deny the statement; faced her accusers.


Synonyms: degrade, abase, debase, demean2, humble, humiliate
These verbs mean to deprive of self-esteem or self-worth. Degrade implies reduction to a state of shame or disgrace: "If I pitied you for crying ... you should spurn such pity.... Rise, and don't degrade yourself into an abject reptile!" (Emily Bront).
Abase refers principally to loss of rank or prestige: "Meg pardoned him, and Mrs. March's grave face relaxed . . . when she heard him declare that he would ... abase himself like a worm before the injured damsel" (Louisa May Alcott).
Debase implies reduction in quality or value: "debasing the moral currency" (George Eliot).
Demean suggests lowering in social position: "It puts him where he can make the advances without demeaning himself" (William Dean Howells).
Humble can refer to lowering in rank or, more often, to reducing in pride: dreamed of humbling his opponent.
To humiliate is to subject to loss of self-respect or dignity: a defeat that humiliated both army and nation. See Also Synonyms at demote.


Synonyms: delicate, choice, dainty, elegant, exquisite, fine1
These adjectives mean appealing to refined taste: a delicate flavor; choice exotic flowers; a dainty dish; elegant handwriting; an exquisite wine; the finest embroidery. See Also Synonyms at fragile.


Synonyms: delicious, ambrosial, delectable, luscious, scrumptious, toothsome, yummy
These adjectives mean very pleasing to the sense of taste: a delicious pate; ambrosial fruit salad; delectable raspberries; luscious chocolate bonbons; a scrumptious peach; a toothsome apple; yummy fudge.


Synonyms: demand, claim, exact, require
These verbs mean to ask for urgently or insistently: demanding better working conditions; claiming repayment of a debt; exacted obedience from the child; tax payments required by law.


Synonyms: demote, break, bust2, degrade, downgrade, reduce
These verbs mean to lower in grade, rank, or status: was demoted from captain to lieutenant; a noncommissioned officer broken to the ranks; a detective who was busted to uniformed traffic patrol for insubordination; a supervisor degraded to an assistant; a popular author downgraded by critical opinion to a genre writer; was reduced from a command post to a desk job.
Antonym: promote


Synonyms: deny, contradict, contravene, disaffirm, gainsay, negate, traverse
These verbs mean to refuse to admit the existence, truth, or value of: denied the rumor; contradicted the statement; contravene a conclusion; disaffirm a suggestion; trying to gainsay the evidence; negated the allegations; traverse an indictment.
Antonym: affirm


Synonyms: dependent, conditional, contingent, relative, subject
These adjectives mean determined or to be determined by something else: a water supply dependent on rainfall; conditional acceptance of the apology; assistance contingent on need; the importance of a discovery as relative to its usefulness; promotion subject to merit.
Antonym: independent


Synonyms: deplete, drain, exhaust, impoverish, enervate
These verbs all mean to weaken severely by removing something essential. Deplete refers to using up gradually and only hints at harmful consequences: The campers' food supply was quickly depleted.
Drain suggests gradual drawing off and harm: War often drains a nation's economy.
Exhaust stresses reduction to a point of uselessness: "The resources of civilization are not yet exhausted" (William Ewart Gladstone).
Impoverish refers to severe reduction of resources or essential qualities: "His death has eclipsed the gaiety of nations, and impoverished the public stock of harmless pleasure" (Samuel Johnson).
Enervate refers to weakening or destruction of vitality or strength: Idleness enervates the will to succeed.


Synonyms: depressed, blue, dejected, dispirited, downcast, downhearted
These adjectives mean affected or marked by low spirits: depressed by the loss of his job; lonely and blue in a strange city; is dejected but trying to look cheerful; a dispirited and resigned expression on her face; looked downcast after his defeat; a downhearted patient who welcomed visitors.


Synonyms: describe, narrate, recite, recount, rehearse, relate, report
These verbs mean to tell the facts, details, or particulars of something verbally or in writing: described the accident; narrated their travel experiences; an explorer reciting her adventures; a mercenary recounting his exploits; parents rehearsing street safety with their children; related the day's events; reported what she had seen.


Synonyms: desire, covet, crave, want, wish
These verbs mean to have a strong longing for: desire peace; coveted the new convertible; craving fame and fortune; wanted a drink of water; got all she wished.


Synonyms: despise, contemn, disdain, scorn, scout2
These verbs mean to regard with utter contempt: despises incompetence; contemned the dictator's actions; disdained my suggestion; scorns sentimentality; scouted simplistic explanations.
Antonym: esteem


Synonyms: despondent, despairing, forlorn, hopeless
These adjectives mean being without or almost without hope: despondent about the company's failure; took a despairing view of world politics; a forlorn cause; a hopeless case.
Antonym: hopeful


Synonyms: development, evolution, progress
These nouns mean a progression from a simpler or lower to a more advanced, mature, or complex form or stage: the development of an idea into reality; the evolution of a plant from a seed; attempts made to foster social progress.


Synonyms: deviation, aberration, divergence
These nouns mean a departure from what is prescribed or expected: tolerates no deviation from the rules; regretted the aberrations of my adolescence; the divergence of two cultures.


Synonyms: devote, dedicate, consecrate, pledge
These verbs mean to give to a particular end and especially to a higher purpose. Devote implies faithfulness and loyalty: Nurses devote themselves to the care of the sick.
Dedicate connotes a solemn, often formal commitment: "To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes" (Woodrow Wilson).
Consecrate suggests sacred commitment: His entire life is consecrated to science.
To pledge is to back a personal commitment by a solemn promise: "I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people" (Franklin D. Roosevelt).


Synonyms: dexterous, deft, adroit, handy, nimble
These adjectives refer to skill and ease in performance. Dexterous implies physical or mental agility: dexterous fingers.
Deft suggests quickness, sureness, neatness, and lightness of touch: deft strokes; a deft turn of phrase.
Adroit implies ease and natural skill, especially in challenging situations: an adroit skier; an adroit negotiator.
Handy suggests a more modest aptitude, principally in manual work: handy with tools.
Nimble stresses quickness and lightness in physical or mental performance: nimble feet; nimble wits.


Synonyms: dialect, vernacular, jargon, cant2, argot, lingo, patois
These nouns denote forms of language that vary from the standard. Dialect usually applies to the vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation characteristic of specific geographic localities or social classes. The vernacular is the informal everyday language spoken by a people. Jargon is specialized language understood only by a particular group, as one sharing an occupation or interest. Cant now usually refers to the specialized vocabulary of a group or trade and is often marked by the use of stock phrases. Argot applies especially to the language of the underworld. Lingo is often applied to language that is unfamiliar or difficult to understand. Patois is sometimes used as a synonym for jargon or cant, but it can also refer to a regional dialect that has no literary tradition.


Synonyms: dictate, decree, impose, ordain, prescribe
These verbs mean to set forth expressly and authoritatively: victors dictating the terms of surrender; martial law decreed by the governor; impose obedience; a separation seemingly ordained by fate; taxes prescribed by law.


Synonyms: dictatorial, authoritarian, dogmatic, doctrinaire, imperious, overbearing
These adjectives mean asserting or tending to assert one's authority or to impose one's will on others. Dictatorial stresses the highhanded, peremptory manner characteristic of a dictator: ordered the staff about in her usual dictatorial manner.
Authoritarian implies the expectation of unquestioning obedience: the timid child of authoritarian parents.
Dogmatic suggests the imposing of one's will or opinion as though these were beyond challenge: "When people are least sure, they are often most dogmatic" (John Kenneth Galbraith).
Doctrinaire implies the imposition of one's theories, beliefs, or doctrines: "They didn't know the facts . . . and I don't think it would've mattered in the slightest if they had. Very doctrinaire" (George V. Higgins).
Imperious suggests the arrogant manner of one accustomed to commanding: dismissed my opinion with an imperious gesture.
Overbearing implies a tendency to be oppressively or rudely domineering: an overbearing customer demanding to see the manager.


Synonyms: differ, disagree, vary
These verbs mean to be unlike or dissimilar: Birds differ from mammals. Their testimony disagreed on several points. People vary in intelligence.
Antonym: agree


Synonyms: difference, dissimilarity, unlikeness, divergence, variation, distinction, discrepancy
These nouns refer to a lack of correspondence or agreement. Difference is the most general: differences in color and size; a difference of opinion.
Dissimilarity is difference between things otherwise alike or comparable: a dissimilarity between the twins' personalities.
Unlikeness usually implies greater and more obvious difference: unlikeness among their teaching styles.
Divergence suggests an increasing difference: points of divergence between British and American English.
Variation occurs between things of the same class or species; often it refers to modification of something original, prescribed, or typical: variations in temperature; a variation in shape.
Distinction often means a difference in detail determinable only by close inspection: the distinction between "good" and "excellent."
A discrepancy is a difference between things that should correspond or match: a discrepancy between his words and his actions.


Synonyms: difficulty, hardship, rigor, vicissitude
These nouns denote something that requires great effort to overcome: grappling with financial difficulties; a life of hardship; undergoing the rigors of prison; withstood the vicissitudes of an army career.


Synonyms: dip, douse1, duck2, dunk
These verbs mean to immerse briefly into a liquid: dipped her hand into the basin; doused his head in the shower; playmates ducking each other in the pool; dunked his cookies in milk.


Synonyms: dirty, filthy, foul, squalid, grimy
These adjectives apply to what is unclean, impure, or unkempt. Dirty is the most general: dirty clothes; dirty sidewalks.
Something that is filthy is disgustingly dirty: filthy rags.
Foul suggests gross offensiveness, particularly to the sense of smell: a foul stench; a foul pond.
Squalid suggests dirtiness, wretchedness, and sordidness: lived in a squalid apartment.
Grimy describes something ingrained or smudged with dirt or soot: grimy hands.


Synonyms: disadvantage, detriment, drawback, handicap
These nouns denote a condition, circumstance, or characteristic unfavorable to success: Poor health is a disadvantage to athletes. To its detriment, the museum has no parking lot. Every job has its drawbacks. Illiteracy is a serious handicap in life.


Synonyms: disappear, evanesce, evaporate, fade, vanish
These verbs mean to pass out of sight or existence: a skyscraper disappearing in the fog; time seeming to evanesce; courage evaporating; memories fading away; hope slowly vanishing.


Synonyms: discord, strife, contention, dissension, conflict, clash, variance
These nouns refer to a state of disagreement and disharmony. Discord is a lack of harmony often marked by bickering and antipathy: family discord.
Strife usually implies a struggle, often destructive, between rivals or factions: political strife.
Contention suggests a dispute in the form of heated debate or quarreling: lively contention among the candidates.
Dissension implies difference of opinion that disrupts unity within a group: rampant dissension among the staff.
Conflict suggests antagonism of ideas or interests that often results in hostility or divisiveness: conflict between smoking and nonsmoking factions.
Clash involves irreconcilable ideas or interests: a personality clash.
Variance usually suggests discrepancy or incompatibility: actions at variance with his principles.


Synonyms: discourage, dishearten, dispirit
These verbs mean to make less hopeful or enthusiastic: researchers who were discouraged by the problem's magnitude; apathy that disheartened the instructor; a failure that dispirited the team. See Also Synonyms at dissuade.
Antonym: encourage


Synonyms: discover, ascertain, determine, learn
These verbs mean to gain knowledge or awareness of something not known before: discovered a star in a distant galaxy; ascertaining the facts; tried to determine the origins of the problem; learned the sad news from the radio.


Synonyms: discuss, argue, debate, dispute, contend
These verbs mean to talk with others in an effort to reach agreement, to ascertain truth, or to convince. Discuss involves close examination of a subject with interchange of opinions: My therapist discussed my concerns with my parents.
Argue emphasizes the presentation of facts and reasons in support of a position opposed by others: The lawyer argued the plaintiff's case.
Debate involves formal, often public argument: The candidates debated the campaign issues.
Dispute implies differences of opinion and usually sharp argument: The senators disputed over increases in the proposed budget.
To contend is to strive in debate or controversy: She contended that her theory was easily proven.


Synonyms: disguise, camouflage, cloak, dissemble, dissimulate, mask
These verbs mean to change or modify so as to conceal the true identity or character of: disguised her interest with nonchalance; trying to camouflage their impatience; cloaked his anxiety with a smile; dissembling ill will with false solicitude; couldn't dissimulate his vanity; ambition that is masked as altruism.


Synonyms: disgust, nauseate, repel, revolt, sicken
These verbs mean to offend the senses or feelings of: a stench that disgusted us; hypocrisy that nauseated me; repelled by your arrogance; brutality that revolts my sensibilities; a fetid odor that sickened the workers.


Synonyms: dishonest, lying2, untruthful, deceitful, mendacious
These adjectives mean lacking honesty or truthfulness. Dishonest is the least specific: a dishonest business executive.
Lying conveys a blunt accusation of untruth: a lying witness giving inconsistent testimony.
Untruthful is a softer term and suggests lack of veracity and divergence from fact: made an untruthful statement.
Deceitful implies misleading by falsehood or by concealment of the truth: deceitful advertising.
Mendacious is more formal than lying, and suggests a chronic inclination toward untruth: a mendacious and troublesome employee.


Synonyms: dismay, appall, daunt, horrify, shake
These verbs mean to deprive a person of courage or the power to act as a result of fear or anxiety. Dismay is the least specific: Plummeting stock prices dismayed speculators.
Appall implies a sense of helplessness caused by an awareness of the enormity of something: "for as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land" (Herman Melville).
Daunt suggests an abatement of courage: "captains courageous, whom death could not daunt" (Anonymous ballad).
Horrify implies dread, shock, or revulsion: The citizens were horrified by the possibility of nuclear war.
To shake is to dismay profoundly: "A little swift brutality shook him to the very soul" (John Galsworthy). See Also Synonyms at fear.


Synonyms: dismiss, boot1, bounce, can2, cashier2, discharge, drop, fire, sack1
These verbs mean to terminate the employment of: was dismissed for insubordination; was booted for being late; afraid of being bounced for union activities; wasn't canned because his uncle owns the business; will be cashiered from the army; resort workers discharged at the end of the season; was dropped for incompetence; was fired unjustly; a reporter sacked for revealing a confidential source. See Also Synonyms at eject.


Synonyms: display, array, panoply, parade, pomp
These nouns denote an impressive or ostentatious exhibition: a tasteless display of wealth; an array of diamond rings; a panoply of medals; a parade of knowledge and virtue; ceremonial pomp. See Also Synonyms at show.


Synonyms: disposition, temperament, character, personality, nature
These nouns refer to the combination of qualities that identify a person. Disposition is approximately equivalent to prevailing frame of mind or spirit: "A patronizing disposition always has its meaner side" (George Eliot).
Temperament applies broadly to the sum of physical, emotional, and intellectual components that affect or determine a person's actions and reactions: "She is . . . of a serene and proud and dignified temperament" (H.G. Wells).
Character especially emphasizes moral and ethical qualities: "Education has for its object the formation of character" (Herbert Spencer).
Personality is the sum of distinctive traits that give a person individuality: possessed a truly unique personality.
Nature denotes native or inherent qualities: "It is my habit,—I hope I may say, my nature,—to believe the best of people" (George W. Curtis).


Synonyms: dissuade, deter, discourage
These verbs mean to persuade someone not to do something: tried to dissuade her from suing; couldn't be deterred from leaving; discouraged me from accepting the offer.
Antonym: persuade


Synonyms: distinct, discrete, separate, several
These adjectives mean distinguished from others in nature or qualities: 12 distinct colors; a company with six discrete divisions; a problem consisting of two separate issues; performed several steps of the process. See Also Synonyms at apparent.


Synonyms: distort, twist, deform, contort, warp
These verbs mean to alter the form or character of something, usually disadvantageously. To distort is to change the physical shape of something, as by torsion or exaggeration of certain features, or to misconstrue the meaning of something: "The human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolors the nature of things" (Francis Bacon).
Twist applies to distortion of form or meaning: twisted his mouth in pain; accused me of twisting her words.
Deform refers to change that disfigures and often implies the loss of desirable qualities such as beauty: erosion that deformed the landscape.
Contort implies violent change that produces unnatural or grotesque effects: contorted her face with rage.
Warp can refer to turning from a flat or straight form or from a true course or direction: floorboards that had warped over the years; judgment warped by prejudice.


Synonyms: distribute, divide, dispense, dole1, deal1, ration
These verbs mean to give out in portions or shares. Distribute is the least specific: The government distributed land to settlers.
Divide implies giving out portions, often equal, on the basis of a plan or purpose: The estate will be divided among the heirs.
Dispense stresses the careful determination of portions, often according to measurement or weight: The pharmacist dispensed the medication.
Dole, often followed by out, implies careful, usually sparing measurement of portions. It can refer to the distribution of charity: The city doled out surplus milk to the needy.
It can also suggest lack of generosity: The professor doled out meager praise to the students.
Deal implies orderly, equitable distribution, often piece by piece: I dealt five cards to each player.
Ration refers to equitable division in limited portions of scarce, often necessary, items: The government rationed fuel during the war.


Synonyms: doctrine, dogma, tenet
These nouns denote a principle taught, advanced, or accepted, as by a group of philosophers: the legal doctrine of due process; church dogma; experimentation, one of the tenets of the physical sciences.


Synonyms: dominant, predominant, preponderant, paramount, preeminent
These adjectives mean surpassing all others in power, influence, or position. Dominant applies to what exercises principal control or authority or is unmistakably ascendant: For decades, the Soviet Union was the dominant nation of eastern Europe.
Predominant often implies being uppermost at a particular time or for the time being: "Egrets, gulls and small mammals are the predominant wildlife on the island these days" (Dan McCoubrey).
Preponderant implies superiority as the result of outweighing or outnumbering all others: "No big modern war has been won without preponderant sea power" (Samuel Eliot Morison).
Paramount means first in importance, rank, or regard: "My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union" (Abraham Lincoln).
Preeminent suggests generally recognized supremacy: He is the preeminent tenor of the modern era.


Synonyms: dry, dehydrate, desiccate, parch
These verbs mean to remove the moisture from: drying the dishes; added water to eggs that were dehydrated; a factory where coconut meat is shredded and desiccated; land parched by the sun. See Also Synonyms at sour.
Antonym: moisten


Synonyms: dull, colorless, drab1, humdrum, lackluster, pedestrian, stodgy, uninspired
These adjectives mean lacking in liveliness, charm, or surprise: a dull, uninteresting performance; a colorless and unimaginative person; a drab and boring job; a humdrum conversation; a lackluster life; a pedestrian movie plot; a stodgy dinner party; an uninspired lecture.
Antonym: lively


Synonyms: earn1, deserve, merit, rate1, win
These verbs mean to gain as a result of one's behavior or effort: earns a large salary; deserves our congratulations; a suggestion that merits consideration; an event that rates a mention in the news; a candidate who won wide support.


Synonyms: easy, simple, facile, effortless
These adjectives mean requiring little effort or posing little if any difficulty. Easy applies to tasks that require little effort: "The diagnosis of disease is often easy, often difficult, and often impossible" (Peter M. Latham).
Simple implies a lack of complexity that facilitates understanding or performance: "the faculty ... of reducing his thought on any subject to the simplest and plainest terms possible" (Baron Charnwood).
Facile stresses readiness and fluency: a facile speaker.
Often, though, the word implies glibness or insincerity, superficiality, or lack of care: an explanation too facile for complex events.
Effortless refers to performance in which the application of great strength or skill makes the execution seem easy: wrote effortless prose.


Synonyms: eat, consume, devour, ingest
These verbs mean to take food into the body by the mouth: ate a hearty dinner; greedily consumed the sandwich; hyenas devouring their prey; whales ingesting krill.


Synonyms: echo, reecho, reflect, resound, reverberate
These verbs mean to send back the sound of: a cry echoed by the canyon; a cathedral roof reechoing joyous hymns; caves that reflect the noise of footsteps; cliffs resounding the thunder of the ocean; blasting reverberated by quarry walls.


Synonyms: effect, consequence, result, outcome, upshot, sequel
These nouns denote an occurrence, situation, or condition that is caused by an antecedent. An effect is produced by the action of an agent or a cause and follows it in time: "Every cause produces more than one effect" (Herbert Spencer).
A consequence has a less sharply definable relationship to its cause: "Servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt" (John P. Curran).
A result is viewed as the end product of the operation of the cause: "Judging from the results I have seen ... I cannot say ... that I agree with you" (William H. Mallock).
An outcome more strongly implies finality and may suggest the operation of a cause over a relatively long period: The trial's outcome might have changed if the defendant had testified.
An upshot is a decisive result, often of the nature of a climax: "The upshot of the matter ... was that she showed both of them the door" (Robert Louis Stevenson).
A sequel is a consequence that ensues after a lapse of time: "Our dreams are the sequel of our waking knowledge" (Ralph Waldo Emerson). See Also Synonyms at perform.


Synonyms: effective, effectual, efficacious, efficient
These adjectives mean producing or capable of producing a desired effect: an effective reprimand; an effectual complaint; an efficacious remedy; the efficient cause of the revolution.


Synonyms: eject, expel, evict, dismiss, oust
These verbs mean to put out by force. To eject is to throw or cast out from within: The fire ejected yellow flames into the night sky.
Expel means to drive out or away, and it implies permanent removal: The dean expelled the student for having cheated.
Evict most commonly refers to the expulsion of persons from property by legal process: The apartment manager evicted the noisy tenants.
Dismiss refers to putting someone or something out of one's mind (trying to dismiss his fears) or, in law, to refusing to give an appeal or a complaint further consideration (dismissed the case for lack of evidence). Oust is applied chiefly to the removal of a person from a position lawfully or otherwise: There were no grounds for ousting the prime minister.


Synonyms: elaborate, complicated, intricate
These adjectives mean marked by complexity of detail: an elaborate lace pattern; the eye, a complicated organ; an intricate problem.
Antonym: simple


Synonyms: element, component, constituent, factor, ingredient
These nouns denote one of the individual parts of which a composite entity is made up: the grammatical elements of a sentence; jealousy, a component of his character; melody and harmony, two of the constituents of a musical composition; ambition as a key factor in her success; humor, an effective ingredient of a speech.


Synonyms: elevation, altitude, height
These nouns denote the distance of something above a point of reference such as the horizon: a city at an elevation of 3,000 feet above sea level; flying at an altitude of 1 mile; grew to a height of 6 feet.


Synonyms: eliminate, eradicate, liquidate, purge
These verbs mean to wipe out someone or something, especially by using drastic methods such as banishment or execution: eliminated all opposition; eradicate guerrilla activity; liquidating traitors; purged the army of dissidents.


Synonyms: embarrass, abash, chagrin, discomfit, disconcert, faze, rattle1
These verbs mean to cause someone to feel self-conscious and uneasy: were embarrassed by their child's tantrum; felt abashed at the extravagant praise; will be chagrined if my confident prediction fails; was discomfited by the sudden personal question; is disconcerted by sarcastic remarks; refuses to be fazed by your objections; isn't easily rattled before an audience.


Synonyms: emphasis, accent, stress
These nouns mean special weight placed on something considered important: an education with an emphasis on science; will study music with an accent on jazz; laid heavy stress on law and order.


Synonyms: empty, vacant, blank, void, vacuous, bare1, barren
These adjectives mean without contents that could or should be present. Empty applies to what is wholly lacking contents or substance: an empty room; empty promises.
Vacant refers to what is without an occupant or incumbent, or to what is without intelligence or thought: a vacant auditorium; a vacant stare.
Blank stresses the absence of something, especially on a surface, that would convey meaning or content: blank pages.
Void applies to what is free from or completely destitute of discernible content: gibberish void of all meaning.
Vacuous describes what is as devoid of substance as a vacuum is: led a vacuous life.
Something that is bare lacks surface covering (a bare head) or detail (the bare facts); the word also denotes the condition of being stripped of contents or furnishings: a bare closet.
Barren literally and figuratively stresses lack of productivity: barren land; writing barren of insight. See Also Synonyms at vain.
Word History: In Old English Ic eom ǣmtig could mean "I am empty," "I am unoccupied," or "I am unmarried." The sense "unoccupied, at leisure," which did not survive Old English, points to the derivation of ǣmtig from the Old English word ǣmetta, "leisure, rest." The word ǣmetta may in turn go back to the Germanic root *mōt-, meaning "ability, leisure." In any case, Old English ǣmtig also meant "vacant," a sense that was destined to take over the meaning of the word. Empty, the Modern English descendant of Old English ǣmtig, has come to have the sense "idle," so that one can speak of empty leisure.


Synonyms: enclose, cage, coop, fence, hem1, pen2, wall
These verbs mean to surround and confine within a limited area: cattle enclosed in feedlots; was caged in the office all afternoon; was cooped up in a studio apartment; a garden fenced in by shrubbery; a battalion hemmed in by enemy troops; ships penned up in the harbor; prisoners who were walled in.


Synonyms: encourage, animate, cheer, embolden, hearten, inspirit
These verbs mean to impart courage, inspiration, and resolution to: encouraged the athlete to compete; played music to animate the crowd; a visitor cheering the patient; was emboldened to sing for the guests; praise that heartened us; a pep talk that inspirited the weary team.
Antonym: discourage


Synonyms: endanger, hazard, imperil, jeopardize, risk
These verbs mean to subject to danger, loss, or destruction: driving that endangers lives; hazarded his health by smoking; a forest imperiled by acid rain; strikes that jeopardized company profits; wouldn't risk her financial security.


Synonyms: enemy, foe, opponent
These nouns denote one who is hostile to or opposes the purposes or interests of another: betrayed by enemies; a foe of fascism; a political opponent.


Synonyms: engagement, appointment, assignation, date1, rendezvous, tryst
These nouns denote a commitment to appear at a certain time and place: a business engagement; a dental appointment; a secret assignation; a date to play tennis; a rendezvous of agents at the border; a lovers' tryst.


Synonyms: enmity, hostility, antagonism, animosity, rancor, antipathy, animus
These nouns refer to the feeling or expression of deep-seated ill will. Enmity is hatred such as might be felt for an enemy: the wartime enmity of the two nations.
Hostility implies the clear expression of enmity: "If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find . . . enough to disarm all hostility" (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow).
Antagonism is hostility that quickly results in active resistance, opposition, or contentiousness: "the early struggles of famous authors, the notorious antagonism of publishers and editors to any new writer of exceptional promise" (Edith Wharton).
Animosity often triggers bitter resentment or punitive action: overcame her animosity toward her parents.
Rancor suggests vengeful hatred and resentment: filled with rancor after losing his job.
Antipathy is deep-seated aversion or repugnance: an antipathy to social pretension.
Animus is distinctively personal, often based on one's prejudices or temperament: an inexplicable animus against intellectuals.


Synonyms: enormous, immense, huge, gigantic, colossal, mammoth, tremendous, stupendous, gargantuan, vast
These adjectives describe what is extraordinarily large. Enormous suggests a marked excess beyond the norm in size, amount, or degree: an enormous boulder.
Immense refers to boundless or immeasurable size or extent: immense pleasure.
Huge especially implies greatness of size or capacity: a huge success.
Gigantic refers to size likened to that of a giant: a gigantic redwood tree.
Colossal suggests a hugeness that elicits awe or taxes belief: a colossal ancient temple.
Mammoth is applied to something of unwieldy hugeness: "mammoth stone figures in . . . buckled eighteenth-century pumps, the very soles of which seem mountainously tall" (Cynthia Ozick).
Tremendous suggests awe-inspiring or fearsome size: ate a tremendous meal.
Stupendous implies size that astounds or defies description: "The whole thing was a stupendous, incomprehensible farce" (W. Somerset Maugham).
Gargantuan especially stresses greatness of capacity, as for food or pleasure: a gargantuan appetite.
Vast refers to greatness of extent, size, area, or scope: "Of creatures, how few vast as the whale" (Herman Melville).


Synonyms: enrapture, entrance2, ravish, thrill, transport
These verbs mean to have a powerful, agreeable, and often overwhelming emotional effect on someone: enraptured by the music; scenery that entranced us; a painting that ravished the eye; thrilled by their success; transported with joy.


Synonyms: envy, begrudge, covet
These verbs mean to feel resentful or painful desire for another's advantages or possessions. Envy, the most general, combines discontent, resentment, and desire: "When I peruse the conquered fame of heroes and the victories of mighty generals, I do not envy the generals" (Walt Whitman).
Begrudge stresses ill will and reluctance to acknowledge another's right or claim: Why begrudge him his success?
Covet stresses a secret or culpable longing for something to which one has no right: "We hate no people and covet no people's lands" (Wendell L. Willkie).


Synonyms: equipment, apparatus, gear, materiel, outfit, paraphernalia
These nouns denote the materials needed for a purpose such as a task or a journey: hiking equipment; laboratory apparatus; skiing gear; naval materiel; an explorer's outfit; a beekeeper's paraphernalia.


Synonyms: erase, expunge, efface, delete, cancel
These verbs mean to remove or invalidate something, especially something stored, recorded, or written down. To erase is to wipe or rub out, literally or figuratively: erased the equation from the blackboard; erased any hope of success.
Expunge and efface imply thorough removal: expunged their names from the list; tried to efface prejudice from his mind.
To delete is to remove matter from a manuscript or data from a computer application: deleted expletives from the transcript; deleted the file with one keystroke.
Cancel refers to invalidating by or as if by drawing lines through something written: canceled the postage stamp; canceled the reservation.


Synonyms: escape, avoid, shun, eschew, evade, elude
These verbs mean to get or stay away from persons or things. Escape can mean to get free or to remain untouched or unaffected by something unwanted: "Let no guilty man escape, if it can be avoided" (Ulysses S. Grant).
Avoid always involves an effort to keep away from what is considered to be a source of danger or difficulty: avoiding strenuous exercise.
Shun refers to deliberately keeping clear of what is unwelcome or undesirable: "Family friends ... she shunned like the plague" (John Galsworthy).
Eschew involves staying clear of something because to do otherwise would be unwise or morally wrong: "Eschew evil, and do good" (Book of Common Prayer).
Evade implies adroit maneuvering and sometimes implies dishonesty or irresponsibility: tried to evade jury duty.
To elude is to get away from artfully: eluded their pursuers.


Synonyms: estimate, appraise, assess, assay, evaluate, rate1
These verbs mean to form a judgment of worth or significance. Estimate usually implies a subjective and somewhat inexact judgment: difficult to estimate the possible results in advance.
Appraise stresses expert judgment: appraised the works of art.
Assess implies authoritative judgment in setting a monetary value on something as a basis for taxation: assessing real estate for investors.
Assay refers to careful examination, especially to chemical analysis of an ore: will assay the ingot.
In extended senses appraise, assess, and assay can refer to any critical analysis: appraised his character; will assess the impact of higher taxes; assaying the idea's merit.
Evaluate implies considered judgment in ascertaining value: evaluating a student's thesis for content and organization.
Rate involves determining the rank or grade of someone or something in relation to others: rated the restaurant higher than any other in the city.


Synonyms: estrange, alienate, disaffect
These verbs refer to disruption of a bond of love, friendship, or loyalty. Estrange and alienate are often used with reference to two persons whose harmonious relationship has been replaced by hostility or indifference: Political disagreements led to quarrels that finally estranged the two friends. His persistent antagonism alienated his wife.
Disaffect usually implies discontent, ill will, and disloyalty within the membership of a group: Colonists were disaffected by the royal governor's actions.


Synonyms: evoke, educe, elicit
These verbs mean to draw forth or bring out something latent, hidden, or unexpressed: evoke laughter; educed significance from the event; trying to elicit the truth.


Synonyms: exaggerate, inflate, magnify, overstate
These verbs mean to represent something as being larger or greater than it actually is: exaggerated the size of the fish I caught; inflated his own importance; magnifying her part in their success; overstated his income on the loan application.
Antonym: minimize


Synonyms: example, instance, case1, illustration, sample, specimen
These nouns refer to what is representative of or serves to explain a larger group or class. An example is a typically representative part that demonstrates the character of the whole: "Of the despotism to which unrestrained military power leads we have plenty of examples from Alexander to Mao" (Samuel Eliot Morison).
An instance is an example that is cited to prove or to illustrate a point: an instance of flagrant corruption.
A case is an action, an occurrence, or a condition that relates specifically to something being discussed, decided, or treated: a typical case of child neglect.
An illustration clarifies or explains: provided an illustration of the word in context.
A sample is an actual part of something larger, presented as evidence of the quality or nature of the whole: gave us a sample of her temper.
Specimen often denotes an individual, representative member of a group or class: This poem is a fair specimen of her work. See Also Synonyms at ideal.


Synonyms: excel, surpass, exceed, transcend, outdo, outstrip
These verbs mean to be or go beyond a limit or standard. To excel is to be preeminent (excels at figure skating) or to be at a level higher than another or others (excelled her father as a lawyer). To surpass another is to be superior in performance, quality, or degree: an athlete surpassed by none.
Exceed can refer to being superior (an invention that exceeds all others in ingenuity), to being greater than another (a salary exceeding 70 thousand dollars a year), and to going beyond a proper limit (exceed one's authority). Transcend often implies the attainment of a level so high that comparison is hardly possible: Great art transcends mere rules of composition.
To outdo is to excel in doing or performing: won't be outdone in generosity.
Outstrip strongly suggests leaving another behind, as in a contest: a case of the student outstripping the teacher.


Synonyms: excessive, exorbitant, extravagant, immoderate, inordinate, extreme, unreasonable
These adjectives mean exceeding a normal, usual, reasonable, or proper limit. Excessive describes a quantity, amount, or degree that is more than what is justifiable, tolerable, or desirable: excessive drinking.
Exorbitant usually refers to a quantity or degree that far exceeds what is customary or fair: exorbitant interest rates.
Extravagant sometimes specifies lavish or unwise expenditure (extravagant gifts); often it implies unbridled divergence from reason or sound judgment (extravagant claims). Immoderate denotes lack of due moderation: immoderate enthusiasm.
Inordinate implies an overstepping of bounds imposed by authority or dictated by good sense: inordinate demands.
Extreme suggests the utmost degree of excessiveness: extreme joy.
Unreasonable applies to what exceeds reasonable limits: charged an unreasonable rent.


Synonyms: existence, actuality, being
These nouns denote the fact or state of existing: laws in existence for centuries; an idea progressing from possibility to actuality; a point of view gradually coming into being.
Antonym: nonexistence


Synonyms: expect, anticipate, hope, await
These verbs relate to the idea of looking ahead to something in the future. To expect is to look forward to the likely occurrence or appearance of someone or something: "We should not expect something for nothing—but we all do and call it Hope" (Edgar W. Howe).
Anticipate sometimes refers to taking advance action, as to forestall or prevent the occurrence of something expected or to meet a wish or request before it is articulated: anticipated the attack and locked the gates.
The term can also refer to having a foretaste of something expected: anticipate trouble.
To hope is to look forward with desire and usually with a measure of confidence in the likelihood of gaining what is desired: I hope to see you soon.
To await is to wait expectantly and with certainty: eagerly awaiting your letter.


Synonyms: explain, elucidate, expound, explicate, interpret, construe
These verbs mean to make understandable the nature or meaning of something. Explain is the most widely applicable: The professor explained the obscure symbols.
To elucidate is to throw light on something complex: "Man's whole life and environment have been laid open and elucidated" (Thomas Carlyle).
Expound and explicate imply detailed and usually learned and lengthy exploration or analysis: "We must never forget that it is a we are expounding" (John Marshall). "Ordinary language philosophers tried to explicate the standards of usage" (Jerrold J. Katz).
To interpret is to reveal the underlying meaning of something by the application of special knowledge or insight: "If a poet interprets a poem of his own he limits its suggestibility" (William Butler Yeats).
Construe involves putting a particular construction or interpretation on something: "I take the official oath today . . . with no purpose to construe the Constitution or laws by any hypercritical rules" (Abraham Lincoln).


Synonyms: explicit, categorical, definite, express, specific
These adjectives mean entirely clear and unambiguous: explicit statements; a categorical refusal; a definite answer; my express wishes; a specific purpose.
Antonym: ambiguous


Synonyms: expressive, eloquent, meaningful, significant
These adjectives mean effectively conveying a feeling, idea, or mood: an expressive gesture; an eloquent speech; a meaningful look; a significant smile.


Synonyms: extemporaneous, extemporary, extempore, impromptu, offhand, unrehearsed, unpremeditated, ad-lib
These adjectives mean spoken, performed, done, or composed with little or no preparation or forethought. Extemporaneous, extemporary, and extempore most often apply to discourse that is delivered without the assistance of a written text, though it may have been planned in advance: an extemporaneous address; an extemporary lecture; an extempore skit.
Impromptu even more strongly suggests happening on the spur of the moment: an impromptu dinner.
Offhand implies not only spontaneity but also a casual or even cavalier manner: an offhand remark.
What is unrehearsed is said or done without rehearsal or practice though not necessarily without forethought: a few unrehearsed comments.
Unpremeditated implies impulsiveness prompted by strong feeling: asked an unpremeditated question.
Something that is ad-lib is spontaneous and improvised and therefore not part of a prepared script or score: an ad-lib joke.


Synonyms: extricate, disengage, disentangle, untangle
These verbs mean to free from something that entangles: extricated herself from an embarrassing situation; trying to disengage his attention from the television; disentangled the oar from the water lilies; a trapped animal that untangled itself from a net.


Synonyms: fair1, just1, equitable, impartial, unprejudiced, unbiased, objective, dispassionate
These adjectives mean free from favoritism, self-interest, or preference in judgment. Fair is the most general: a fair referee; a fair deal.
Just stresses conformity with what is legally or ethically right or proper: "a just and lasting peace" (Abraham Lincoln).
Equitable implies justice dictated by reason, conscience, and a natural sense of what is fair: an equitable distribution of gifts among the children.
Impartial emphasizes lack of favoritism: "the cold neutrality of an impartial judge" (Edmund Burke).
Unprejudiced means without preconceived opinions or judgments: an unprejudiced evaluation of the proposal.
Unbiased implies absence of a preference or partiality: gave an unbiased account of her family problems.
Objective implies detachment that permits impersonal observation and judgment: an objective jury.
Dispassionate means free from or unaffected by strong emotions: a dispassionate reporter. See Also Synonyms at average, beautiful.


Synonyms: faithful, loyal, true, constant, fast1, steadfast, staunch1
These adjectives mean adhering firmly and devotedly to someone or something that elicits or demands one's fidelity. Faithful and loyal both suggest undeviating attachment, though loyal applies more often to political allegiance: a faithful employee; a loyal citizen.
True implies steadiness, sincerity, and reliability: "I would be true, for there are those who trust me" (Howard Arnold Walter).
Constant stresses uniformity and invariability: "But I am constant as the northern star" (Shakespeare).
Fast suggests loyalty that is not easily deflected: fast friends.
Steadfast strongly implies fixed, unswerving loyalty: a steadfast ally.
Staunch even more strongly suggests unshakable attachment or allegiance: "He lived and died a staunch loyalist" (Harriet Beecher Stowe).


Synonyms: faithless, unfaithful, false, disloyal, traitorous, treacherous, perfidious
These adjectives mean not true to duty or obligation. Faithless and unfaithful imply failure to adhere to promises, obligations, or allegiances: was faithless to her ideals; an unfaithful spouse.
False emphasizes deceitfulness: "To thine own self be true,/And it must follow, as the night the day,/Thou canst not then be false to any man" (Shakespeare).
One who is disloyal betrays an allegiance: disloyal staff members who exposed the senator's indiscretions.
Traitorous most commonly refers to disloyalty to a government or nation: a traitorous double agent.
Treacherous suggests a propensity for betraying trust or faith: "She gave the treacherous impulse time to subside" (Henry James).
Perfidious suggests vileness of behavior and often deceitfulness: a perfidious assassin.


Synonyms: fantastic, bizarre, grotesque, fanciful, exotic
These adjectives apply to what is very strange or strikingly unusual. Fantastic describes what seems to have slight relation to the real world because of its strangeness or extravagance: fantastic imaginary beasts such as the unicorn.
Bizarre stresses oddness that is heightened by striking contrasts and incongruities and that shocks or fascinates: a bizarre art nouveau faade.
Grotesque refers principally to deformity and distortion that approach the point of caricature or even absurdity: statues of grotesque creatures.
Fanciful applies to what is strongly influenced by imagination, caprice, or whimsy: a fanciful pattern.
Something exotic is unusual and intriguing: painted landscapes in exotic colors.


Synonyms: fashion, style, mode, vogue
These nouns refer to a prevailing or preferred manner of dress, adornment, behavior, or way of life at a given time. Fashion, the broadest term, usually refers to what accords with conventions adopted by polite society or by any culture or subculture: a time when long hair was the fashion.
Style is sometimes used interchangeably with fashion, but like mode often stresses adherence to standards of elegance: traveling in style; miniskirts that were the mode in the late sixties.
Vogue is applied to fashion that prevails widely and often suggests enthusiastic but short-lived acceptance: a video game that was in vogue a few years ago. See Also Synonyms at method.


Synonyms: fashionable, chic, dashing, in1, modish, posh, sharp, smart, stylish, swank, trendy
These adjectives mean in accordance with the current fashion: a fashionable restaurant; a chic dress; a dashing hat; the in place to go; modish jewelry; a posh address; a sharp jacket; a smart hotel; stylish clothes; a swank apartment; a trendy neighborhood.


Synonyms: fast1, rapid, swift, fleet2, speedy, quick, hasty, expeditious
These adjectives refer to something marked by great speed. Fast and rapid are often used interchangeably, though fast is more often applied to the person or thing in motion, and rapid, to the activity or movement involved: a fast runner; rapid strides.
Swift suggests smoothness and sureness of movement (a swift current), and fleet, lightness of movement (The cheetah is the fleetest of animals). Speedy refers to velocity (a speedy train) or to promptness or hurry (a speedy resolution to the problem). Quick most often applies to what takes little time or to what is prompt: a quick snack; your quick reaction.
Hasty implies hurried action (a hasty visit) and often a lack of care or thought (regretted the hasty decision). Expeditious suggests rapid efficiency: sent the package by the most expeditious means. See Also Synonyms at faithful.


Synonyms: fasten, anchor, fix, moor1, secure
These verbs mean to cause to remain firmly in position or place: fastened our seat belts; anchored the television antenna to the roof; fixed the flagpole in concrete; will moor the rowboat at the dock; secured the bolt after closing the door.


Synonyms: fat, obese, corpulent, fleshy, portly, stout, pudgy, rotund, plump1, chubby
These adjectives mean having an abundance and often an excess of flesh. Fat implies excessive weight and generally has negative connotations: was getting fat and decided to exercise.
Obese and corpulent imply gross overweight: "a woman of robust frame . . . though stout, not obese" (Charlotte Bronte). The dancer was corpulent but surprisingly graceful.
Fleshy implies a not necessarily excessive abundance of flesh: firm, fleshy arms.
Portly refers to bulk combined with a stately or imposing bearing: "a portly, rubicund man of middle age" (Winston Churchill).
Stout denotes a thickset, bulky figure: a painting of stout peasants.
Pudgy means short and fat: pudgy fingers.
Rotund suggests roundness of figure, often in a squat person: "this pink-faced rotund specimen of prosperity" (George Eliot).
Plump and chubby apply to a pleasing fullness of figure: a plump little toddler; chubby cheeks.


Synonyms: fatal, deadly, mortal, lethal
These adjectives apply to what causes or is likely to cause death. Fatal describes conditions, circumstances, or events that have caused or are destined to cause death or dire consequences: a fatal illness.
Deadly means capable of killing: a deadly poison.
Mortal describes a condition or action that produces death: a mortal wound.
Lethal refers to a sure agent of death that may have been created solely for the purpose of killing: execution by lethal injection.


Synonyms: favorable, propitious, auspicious, benign, conducive
These adjectives describe what is indicative of a successful outcome. Favorable can refer to what contributes in a positive way to the attainment of a goal: a favorable review.
Propitious implies a favorable tendency or inclination: "Miracles are propitious accidents" (George Santayana).
Auspicious refers to what presages good fortune: an auspicious beginning.
Benign applies to people or things that exert a beneficial influence: "I lingered round them, under that benign sky . . . and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers, for the sleepers in that quiet earth" (Emily Bront).
Something conducive leads or contributes to a result, often a desirable one: a quiet place conducive to reading.


Synonyms: fawn1, apple-polish, bootlick, kowtow, slaver1, toady, truckle
These verbs mean to curry favor by behaving obsequiously and submissively: fawned on her superior; students apple-polishing the teacher; bootlicked to get a promotion; lawyers kowtowing to a judge; slavered over his rich uncle; toadying to members of the club; nobles truckling to the king.


Synonyms: fear, fright, dread, terror, horror, panic, alarm, dismay, consternation, trepidation
These nouns denote the agitation and anxiety caused by the presence or imminence of danger. Fear is the most general term: "Fear is the parent of cruelty" (J.A. Froude).
Fright is sudden, usually momentary, great fear: In my fright, I forgot to lock the door.
Dread is strong fear, especially of what one is powerless to avoid: His dread of strangers kept him from socializing.
Terror is intense, overpowering fear: "And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror" (Edgar Allan Poe).
Horror is a combination of fear and aversion or repugnance: Murder arouses widespread horror.
Panic is sudden frantic fear, often groundless: The fire caused a panic among the horses.
Alarm is fright aroused by the first realization of danger: I watched with alarm as the sky darkened.
Dismay robs one of courage or the power to act effectively: The rumor of war caused universal dismay.
Consternation is often paralyzing, characterized by confusion and helplessness: Consternation gripped the city as the invaders approached.
Trepidation is dread characteristically marked by trembling or hesitancy: "They were ... full of trepidation about things that were never likely to happen" (John Morley).
Word History: Old English fǣr, the ancestor of our word fear, meant "calamity, disaster," but not the emotion engendered by such an event. This is in line with the meaning of the prehistoric Common Germanic word *fēraz, "danger," which is the source of words with similar senses in other Germanic languages, such as Old Saxon and Old High German fār, "ambush, danger," and Old Icelandic fār, "treachery, damage." Scholars have determined the form and meaning of Germanic *fēraz by working backward from the forms and the meanings of its descendants. The most important cause of the change of meaning in the word fear was probably the existence in Old English of the related verb fǣran, which meant "to terrify, take by surprise." Fear is first recorded in Middle English with the sense "emotion of fear" in a work composed around 1290.


Synonyms: feat1, achievement, exploit, masterstroke
These nouns denote an extraordinary deed or action: feats of bravery; achievements of diplomacy; military exploits; a masterstroke of entrepreneurship.


Synonyms: feeling, emotion, passion, sentiment
These nouns refer to complex and usually strong subjective human response. Although feeling and emotion are sometimes interchangeable, feeling is the more general and neutral: "Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity" (William Wordsworth).
Emotion often implies the presence of excitement or agitation: "Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion" (T.S. Eliot).
Passion is intense, compelling emotion: "They seemed like ungoverned children inflamed with the fiercest passions of men" (Francis Parkman).
Sentiment often applies to a thought or opinion arising from or influenced by emotion: We expressed our sentiments about the government's policies.
The word can also refer to delicate, sensitive, or higher or more refined feelings: "The mystic reverence, the religious allegiance, which are essential to a true monarchy, are imaginative sentiments that no legislature can manufacture in any people" (Walter Bagehot). See Also Synonyms at opinion.


Synonyms: female, feminine, womanlike, womanly, womanish, effeminate, ladylike
These adjectives mean of or characteristic of women. Female categorizes any living thing by gender or sex: the female population; a female kitten; a female plant.
Feminine refers to what is considered characteristic of women: feminine intuition.
Womanlike applies to qualities of a woman: womanlike resolve.
Womanly describes qualities regarded as becoming to a woman: womanly sympathy.
Womanish suggests qualities associated with or suggestive of women: womanish attitudes.
Effeminate applies to men who exhibit attributes traditionally associated with women: an effeminate actor.
Ladylike applies to what is regarded as befitting refined or well-mannered women: ladylike manners.


Synonyms: fertile, fecund, fruitful, productive, prolific
These adjectives mean marked by great productivity: fertile farmland; a fecund imagination; fruitful efforts; a productive meeting; a prolific writer.


Synonyms: fidelity, allegiance, fealty, loyalty
These nouns denote faithfulness. Fidelity implies the unfailing fulfillment of one's duties and obligations and strict adherence to vows or promises: fidelity to one's spouse.
Allegiance is faithfulness considered as a duty: "I know no South, no North, no East, no West, to which I owe any allegiance.... The Union, Sir, is my country" (Henry Clay).
Fealty, once applied to the obligation of a tenant or vassal to a feudal lord, now suggests faithfulness that one has pledged to uphold: swore fealty to the laws of that country.
Loyalty implies a steadfast and devoted attachment that is not easily turned aside: loyalty to an oath; loyalty to one's family.


Synonyms: field, bailiwick, domain, province, realm, sphere, territory
These nouns denote an area of activity, thought, study, or interest: the field of comparative literature; considers marketing to be her bailiwick; the domain of physics; the province of politics; the realm of constitutional law; a task within his assistant's sphere; the territory of historical research.


Synonyms: figure, design, device, motif, pattern
These nouns denote an element or a component in a decorative composition: a tapestry with a floral figure; a rug with a geometric design; a brooch with a fanciful and intricate device; a scarf with a heart motif; fabric with a plaid pattern. See Also Synonyms at calculate, form.


Synonyms: flagrant, glaring, gross, egregious, rank2
These adjectives refer to what is conspicuously bad or offensive. Flagrant applies to what is so offensive that it cannot escape notice: flagrant disregard for the law.
What is glaring is blatantly and painfully manifest: a glaring error; glaring contradictions.
Gross suggests a magnitude of offense or failing that cannot be condoned or forgiven: gross ineptitude; gross injustice.
What is egregious is outrageously bad: an egregious lie.
Rank implies that the term it qualifies is as indicated to an extreme, violent, or gross degree: rank stupidity; rank treachery.


Synonyms: flash, gleam, glance1, glint, sparkle, glitter, glisten, shimmer, glimmer, twinkle, scintillate
These verbs mean to send forth light. Flash refers to a sudden and brilliant but short-lived outburst of light: A bolt of lightning flashed across the horizon.
Gleam implies transient or constant light that often appears against a dark background: "The light gleams an instant, then it's night once more" (Samuel Beckett).
Glance refers most often to light reflected obliquely: Moonlight glanced off the windows of the darkened building.
Glint applies to briefly gleaming or flashing light: Rays of sun glinted among the autumn leaves.
Sparkle suggests a rapid succession of little flashes of high brilliance (crystal glasses sparkling in the candlelight), and glitter, a similar succession of even greater intensity (jewels glittering in the display case). To glisten is to shine with a sparkling luster: The snow glistened in the dawn light.
Shimmer means to shine with a soft, tremulous light: "Everything about her shimmered and glimmered softly, as if her dress had been woven out of candle-beams" (Edith Wharton).
Glimmer refers to faint, fleeting light: "On the French coast, the light/Gleams, and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,/Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay" (Matthew Arnold).
To twinkle is to shine with quick, intermittent flashes or gleams: "a few stars, twinkling faintly in the deep blue of the night sky" (Hugh Walpole).
Scintillate is applied to what flashes as if emitting sparks in a continuous stream: "ammonium chloride . . . depositing minute scintillating crystals on the windowpanes" (Primo Levi). See Also Synonyms at moment.


Synonyms: flexible, elastic, resilient, supple
These adjectives refer literally to what is capable of withstanding stress without injury and figuratively to what can undergo change or modification: a flexible wire; flexible plans; an elastic rubber band; an elastic interpretation of the law; thin, resilient copper; a resilient temperament; supple suede; a supple mind.


Synonyms: flirt, dally, play, toy, trifle
These verbs mean to deal lightly, casually, or flippantly with someone or something: flirted with the idea of getting a job; dallying with music; can't play with life; toyed with the problem; a person not to be trifled with.


Synonyms: flock1, herd, drove2, pack1, gang1, brood
These nouns denote a number of animals, birds, or fish considered collectively, and some have human connotations. Flock is applied to a congregation of animals of one kind, especially sheep or goats herded by people, and to any congregation of wild or domesticated birds, especially when on the ground. It is also applicable to people who form the membership of a church or to people under someone's care or supervision. Herd is used of a number of animals, especially cattle, herded by people; or of wild animals such as antelope, elephants, and zebras; or of whales and seals. Applied to people, it is used disparagingly of a crowd or of the masses and suggests the gregarious aspect of crowd psychology. Drove is used of a herd or flock, as of cattle or geese, that is being moved or driven from one place to another; less often it refers to a crowd of people in movement. Pack is applicable to any body of animals, especially wolves, or of birds, especially grouse, and to a body of hounds trained to hunt as a unit. It also refers disparagingly to a band or group of persons. Gang refers to a herd, especially of buffalo or elk; to a pack of wolves or wild dogs; or to various associations of persons, especially when engaged in violent or criminal pursuits. Brood is applicable to offspring that are still under the care of a mother, especially the offspring of domestic or game birds or, less formally, of people.The following related terms are used as indicated: bevy, a company of roe deer, larks, or quail; cast, the number of hawks or falcons cast off at one time, usually a pair; cete, a company of badgers; covert, a flock of coots; covey, a family of grouse, partridges, or other game birds; drift, a drove or herd, especially of hogs; exaltation, a flight of larks; fall, a family of woodcock in flight; flight, a flock of birds in flight; gaggle, a flock of geese; gam, a school of whales, or a social congregation of whalers, especially at sea; kennel, a number of hounds or dogs housed in one place or under the same ownership; kindle, a brood or litter, especially of kittens; litter, the total number of offspring produced at a single birth by a multiparous mammal; murder, a flock of crows; muster, a flock of peacocks; nide, a brood of pheasants; pod, a small herd of seals or whales; pride, a company of lions; rout, a company of people or animals in movement, especially knights or wolves; school, a congregation of fish, or aquatic mammals such as dolphins or porpoises; shrewdness, a company of apes; skein, a flight of wildfowl, especially geese; skulk, a congregation of vermin, especially foxes, or of thieves; sloth, a company of bears; sord, a flight of mallards; sounder, a herd of wild boar; stable, a number of horses housed in one place or under the same ownership; swarm, a colony of insects, such as ants, bees, or wasps, especially when migrating to a new nest or hive; troop, a number of animals, birds, or people, especially when on the move; warren, the inhabitants, such as rabbits, of a warren; watch, a flock of nightingales; and wisp, a flock of birds, especially of snipe. See Also Synonyms at crowd1.


Synonyms: flourish, brandish, wave
These verbs mean to swing back and forth boldly and dramatically: flourished her newly signed contract; brandish a sword; waving a baton.


Synonyms: flow, current, flood, flux, rush1, stream, tide1
These nouns denote something suggestive of running water: a flow of thought; the current of history; a flood of ideas; a flux of words; a rush of sympathy; a stream of complaints; a tide of immigration. See Also Synonyms at stem1.


Synonyms: follow, succeed, ensue, result, supervene
These verbs mean to come after something or someone. Follow, which has the widest application, can refer to coming after in time or order, as a consequence or result, or by the operation of logic: Night follows day. He disregarded doctor's orders, and a relapse followed. Because she decries violence, it follows that she won't carry a gun. To succeed is to come next after another, especially in planned order determined by considerations such as rank, inheritance, or election: The heir apparent succeeded to the throne.
Ensue usually applies to what is a consequence or logical development: After the government was toppled, chaos ensued.
Result implies that what follows is caused by what has preceded: Failure to file an income tax return can result in a fine.
Supervene, in contrast, refers to something that is often unexpected and that has little relation to what has preceded: "A bad harvest supervened" (Charlotte Bront).


Synonyms: foolish, silly, fatuous, absurd, preposterous, ridiculous, ludicrous
These adjectives are applied to what is so devoid of wisdom or good sense as to be laughable: a foolish expenditure of energy; a silly argument; made fatuous remarks; an absurd idea that is bound to fail; a preposterous excuse that no one believed; offered a ridiculous explanation for his tardiness; a ludicrous criticism that was immediately dismissed.


Synonyms: forbid, ban1, enjoin, interdict, prohibit, proscribe
These verbs mean to refuse to allow: laws that forbid speeding; banned smoking; was enjoined from broadcasting; interdict trafficking in drugs; rules that prohibit loitering; proscribed the importation of certain fruits.
Antonym: permit


Synonyms: force, compel, coerce, constrain, oblige, obligate
These verbs mean to cause a person or thing to follow a prescribed or dictated course. Force, the most general, usually implies the exertion of physical power or the operation of circumstances that permit no options: Tear gas forced the fugitives out of their hiding place.
Compel applies especially to an act dictated by one in authority: Say nothing unless you're compelled to.
Coerce invariably implies the use of strength or harsh measures in securing compliance: "The man of genius rules . . . by persuading an efficient minority to coerce an indifferent and self-indulgent majority" (James Fitzjames Stephen).
Constrain suggests that one is bound to a course of action by physical or moral means or by the operation of compelling circumstances: "I will never be by violence constrained to do anything" (Elizabeth I).
Oblige implies the operation of authority, necessity, or moral or ethical considerations: "Work consists of whatever a body isto do" (Mark Twain).
Obligate applies when compliance is enforced by a legal contract or by the dictates of one's conscience or sense of propriety: I am obligated to repay the loan. See Also Synonyms at strength.


Synonyms: foreign, alien, exotic, strange
These adjectives mean of, from, or characteristic of another place or part of the world: a foreign accent; alien customs; exotic birds; moved to a strange city.


Synonyms: foretell, augur, divine, prophesy, vaticinate
These verbs mean to tell about something beforehand by or as if by supernatural means: foretelling the future; augured a scandal; divined the enemy's victory; prophesying a stock-market boom; atrocities vaticinated by the antifascists. See Also Synonyms at predict.


Synonyms: forgive, pardon, excuse, condone
These verbs mean to refrain from imposing punishment on an offender or demanding satisfaction for an offense. The first three can be used as conventional ways of offering apology. More strictly, to forgive is to grant pardon without harboring resentment: "Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them" (Oscar Wilde).
Pardon more strongly implies release from the liability for or penalty entailed by an offense: After the revolution all political prisoners were pardoned.
To excuse is to pass over a mistake or fault without demanding punishment or redress: "There are some acts of injustice which no national interest can excuse" (J.A. Froude).
To condone is to overlook an offense, usually a serious one, and often suggests tacit forgiveness: Failure to protest the policy may imply a willingness to condone it.


Synonyms: form, figure, shape, configuration, contour, profile
These nouns refer to the external outline of a thing. Form is the outline and structure of a thing as opposed to its substance: a brooch in the form of a lovers' knot.
Figure refers usually to form as established by bounding or enclosing lines: The cube is a solid geometric figure.
Shape implies three-dimensional definition that indicates both outline and bulk or mass: "He faced her, a hooded and cloaked shape" (Joseph Conrad).
Configuration stresses the pattern formed by the arrangement of parts within an outline: The map shows the configuration of North America, with its mountains, rivers, and plains.
Contour refers especially to the outline of a three-dimensional figure: I traced the contour of the bow with my finger.
Profile denotes the outline of something viewed against a background and especially the outline of the human face in side view: The police took a photograph of the mugger's profile.


Synonyms: forte1, mtier, specialty, thing
These nouns denote something at which a person is particularly skilled: Writing fiction is her forte. The theater is his mtier. The professor's specialty was the study of ancient languages. Mountain climbing is really my thing.


Synonyms: found1, create, establish, institute, organize
These verbs mean to bring something into existence and set it in operation: founded a colony; created a trust fund; establishing a business; instituted an annual benefit concert; organizing a field trip.


Synonyms: fragile, breakable, frangible, delicate, brittle
These adjectives mean easily broken or damaged. Fragile applies to objects that are not made of strong or sturdy material and that require great care when handled: fragile porcelain plates.
Breakable and frangible mean capable of being broken but do not necessarily imply inherent weakness: breakable toys; frangible artifacts.
Delicate refers to what is so soft, tender, or fine as to be susceptible to injury: delicate fruit.
Brittle refers to inelasticity that makes something especially likely to fracture or snap when it is subjected to pressure: brittle bones. See Also Synonyms at weak.


Synonyms: fragrance, aroma, bouquet, perfume, redolence, scent
These nouns denote a pleasant or sweet odor: the fragrance of lilacs; the aroma of sizzling bacon; the bouquet of a fine wine; the perfume of roses; the redolence of fresh coffee; the scent of newly mown hay.


Synonyms: frank1, candid, outspoken, straightforward, open
These adjectives mean revealing or disposed to reveal one's thoughts freely and honestly. Frank implies forthrightness, sometimes to the point of bluntness: "Be calm and frank, and confess at once all that weighs on your heart" (Emily Bronte).
Candid often suggests refusal to evade difficult or unpleasant issues: "Save, save, oh save me from the candid friend!" (George Canning).
Outspoken usually implies bold lack of reserve: The outspoken activist protested the budget cuts.
Straightforward denotes directness of manner and expression: "George was a straightforward soul....'See here!' he said. 'Are you engaged to anybody?'" (Booth Tarkington).
Open suggests freedom from all trace of reserve or secretiveness: "I will be open and sincere with you" (Joseph Addison).


Synonyms: freedom, liberty, license
These nouns refer to the power to act, speak, or think without externally imposed restraints. Freedom is the most general term: "In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free" (Abraham Lincoln).
Liberty stresses the power of free choice: "liberty, perfect liberty, to think, feel, do just as one pleases" (William Hazlitt).
License sometimes denotes deliberate deviation from normally applicable rules or practices to achieve a desired effect: poetic license.
Frequently, though, it denotes undue freedom: "the intolerable license with which the newspapers break . . . the rules of decorum" (Edmund Burke).


Synonyms: frighten, scare, alarm, terrify, terrorize, startle, panic
These verbs mean to cause a person to experience fear. Frighten and the less formal scare are the most widely applicable: "The Count's mysterious warning frightened me at the time" (Bram Stoker). The angry dog scared the small child.
Alarm implies the often sudden onset of apprehension: Her sudden weight loss alarmed her doctor.
Terrify implies overwhelming, often paralyzing fear: "It is the coming of death that terrifies me" (Oscar Wilde).
Terrorize implies intimidation and sometimes suggests deliberate coercion: "The decent citizen was terrorized into paying public blackmail" (Arthur Conan Doyle).
Startle suggests a momentary shock that may cause a sudden, involuntary movement of the body: The clap of thunder startled us.
Panic implies sudden frantic fear that often impairs self-control and rationality: The realistic radio drama panicked the listeners who tuned in after it had begun.


Synonyms: frown, glower, lower1, scowl
These verbs mean to contract the brows in displeasure: frowns when he is annoyed; glowered upon being interrupted; lowering at the noisy child; scowled at my suggestion.


Synonyms: function, duty, office, role
These nouns denote the actions and activities assigned to, required of, or expected of a person: the function of a teacher; a bank clerk's duty; assumed the office of financial adviser; the role of a parent.


Synonyms: furnish, equip, outfit, appoint, accouter
These verbs mean to provide with what is necessary for an activity or a purpose: furnished the team with new uniforms; equip a car with snow tires; had to outfit the children for summer camp; a library that was appointed in leather; knights who were accoutered for battle.


Synonyms: futile, barren, bootless, fruitless, unavailing, useless, vain
These adjectives mean producing no result or effect: a futile effort; a barren search; bootless entreaties; fruitless labors; an unavailing attempt; a useless discussion; vain regrets.
Antonym: useful


Synonyms: gather, collect1, assemble, congregate, accumulate, amass
These verbs mean to bring or come together in a group or aggregate. Gather is the most widely applicable: I gathered sticks for the fire. Clouds gathered in the evening sky.
frequently refers to the careful selection of like or related things that become part of an organized whole: She collects stamps as a hobby. Tears collected in his eyes.
Assemble implies a definite and usually close relationship. With respect to persons, the term suggests convening out of common interest or purpose: Assembling an able staff was more difficult than expected. The reporters assembled for the press conference.
With respect to things, assemble implies gathering and fitting together components: The curator is assembling an interesting exhibit of Stone Age artifacts.
Congregate refers chiefly to the coming together of a large number of persons or animals: The students congregated after class to compare notes.
Accumulate applies to the increase of like or related things over an extended period: They accumulated enough capital to invest. Old newspapers accumulated in the basement.
Amass refers to the collection or accumulation of things, often valuable things, to form an imposing quantity: Their families had amassed great fortunes. Rocks had amassed at the bottom of the glacier. See Also Synonyms at reap.


Synonyms: gaudy1, flashy, garish, loud, meretricious, tawdry
These adjectives mean tastelessly showy: a gaudy costume; a flashy ring; garish colors; a loud sport shirt; a meretricious yet stylish book; tawdry ornaments.


Synonyms: gaze, stare, gape, gawk, glare1, peer1
These verbs mean to look long and intently. Gaze is often indicative of wonder, fascination, awe, or admiration: gazing at the stars.
Stare can indicate curiosity, boldness, insolence, or stupidity: stared at them in disbelief.
Gape suggests a prolonged open-mouthed look reflecting amazement, awe, or lack of intelligence: tourists gaping at the sights.
To gawk is to gape or stare stupidly: Drivers gawked at the disabled truck.
To glare is to fix another with a hard, piercing stare: glared furiously at me.
To peer is to look narrowly, searchingly, and seemingly with difficulty: peered at us through her glasses.


Synonyms: general, common, generic, universal
These adjectives mean belonging to, relating to, or affecting the whole: the general welfare; a common enemy; generic likenesses; universal military conscription.
Antonym: particular


Synonyms: gesture, gesticulation, sign, signal
These nouns denote an expressive, meaningful bodily motion: a gesture of approval; frantic gesticulations to get help; made a sign for silence; gave the signal to advance.


Synonyms: ghastly, grim, gruesome, grisly, macabre, lurid
These adjectives describe what is shockingly repellent in aspect or appearance. Ghastly applies to what inspires shock or horror because it suggests death: ghastly wounds.
Grim refers to what repels because of its stern or fierce aspect or its harsh, relentless nature: the grim task of burying the victims of the earthquake.
Gruesome and grisly describe what horrifies or revolts because of its appalling crudity or utter inhumanity: a gruesome murder; grisly jokes about cadavers.
Macabre suggests the horror of death and decay: macabre stories about a madman.
Lurid sometimes refers to an unnatural hue suggestive of death: The ill patient's skin took on a lurid pallor.
More often, the term describes what shocks because of its terrible and ghastly nature: lurid crimes.
At other times, it merely refers to glaring and usually unsavory sensationalism: a lurid account of the accident.


Synonyms: giddy, dizzy, vertiginous
These adjectives mean producing a sensation of whirling and a tendency to fall: a giddy precipice; a dizzy pinnacle; a vertiginous height.
Word History: The word giddy refers to fairly lightweight experiences or situations, but at one time it had to do with profundities. Giddy can be traced back to the same Germanic root *gud- that has given us the word God. The Germanic word *gudigaz formed on this root meant "possessed by a god." Such possession can be a rather unbalancing experience, and so it is not surprising that the Old English descendant of *gudigaz, gidig, meant "mad, possessed by an evil spirit," or that the Middle English development of gidig, gidi, meant the same thing, as well as "foolish; mad (used of an animal); dizzy; uncertain, unstable." Our sense "lighthearted, frivolous" represents the ultimate secularization of giddy.


Synonyms: glad1, happy, cheerful, lighthearted, joyful, joyous
These adjectives mean being in or showing good spirits. Glad often refers to the feeling that results from the gratification of a wish or from satisfaction with immediate circumstances: "Some folks rail against other folks, because other folks have what some folks would be glad of" (Henry Fielding).
Happy applies to a pleasurable feeling of contentment: "Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so" (John Stuart Mill).
Cheerful suggests characteristic good spirits: a cheerful volunteer.
Lighthearted stresses the absence of care: "He whistles as he goes, lighthearted wretch,/Cold and yet cheerful" (William Cowper).
Joyful and joyous suggest lively, often exultant happiness: a joyful heart; joyous laughter.


Synonyms: glib, slick, smooth-tongued
These adjectives mean being, marked by, or engaging in ready but often insincere or superficial discourse: a glib denial; a slick commercial; a smooth-tongued hypocrite.


Synonyms: gossip, blab, tattle
These verbs mean to engage in or communicate idle, indiscreet talk: gossiping about the neighbors; can't keep a secret—he always blabs; is disliked for tattling on mischief-makers.


Synonyms: gracious, cordial, genial1, sociable
These adjectives mean marked by kindness, sympathy, and unaffected politeness: gracious to visitors; a cordial welcome; a genial guest; enjoyed a sociable chat.
Antonym: ungracious


Synonyms: grand, magnificent, imposing, stately, majestic, august, grandiose
These adjectives mean strikingly large in size, scope, or extent. Both grand and magnificent apply to what is physically or aesthetically impressive. Grand implies dignity, sweep, or eminence: a grand hotel lobby with marble floors.
Magnificent suggests splendor, sumptuousness, and grandeur: a magnificent cathedral.
Imposing describes what impresses by virtue of its size, bearing, or power: mountain peaks of imposing height.
Stately refers principally to what is dignified and handsome: a stately oak.
Majestic suggests lofty dignity or nobility: the majestic Alps.
August describes what inspires solemn reverence or awe: the august presence of royalty.
Grandiose often suggests pretentiousness, affectation, or pompousness: grandiose ideas.


Synonyms: graphic, lifelike, realistic, vivid
These adjectives mean strikingly sharp and accurate: a graphic account of the battle; a lifelike portrait; a realistic description; a vivid recollection.


Synonyms: grieve, lament, mourn, sorrow
These verbs mean to feel, show, or express grief, sadness, or regret: grieved over her father's death; lamenting about the decline in academic standards; mourns for lost hopes; sorrowed by the level of poverty.
Antonym: rejoice


Synonyms: gruff, brusque, blunt, bluff2, curt, crusty
These adjectives mean abrupt and sometimes discourteous in manner or speech. Gruff implies roughness or surliness but does not necessarily suggest rudeness: a gruff reply.
Brusque emphasizes rude abruptness: a brusque manner.
Blunt stresses utter frankness and usually a disconcerting directness: a blunt refusal.
Bluff refers to unpolished, unceremonious manner but usually implies hearty good nature: a bluff and courageous sailor.
Curt denotes usually rude briefness and abruptness of speech: a curt letter of rejection.
Crusty suggests a rough and forbidding manner that sometimes conceals benevolence of spirit: a crusty old gentlemen who feeds stray cats.


Synonyms: guide, lead1, pilot, shepherd, steer1, usher
These verbs mean to conduct on or direct to the way: guided me to my seat; led the troops into battle; a teacher piloting students through the zoo; shepherding tourists to the bus; steered the applicant to the third floor; ushering a visitor out.


Synonyms: habit, practice, custom, usage, use, wont, habitude
These nouns denote patterns of behavior established by continual repetition. Habit applies to a behavior or practice so ingrained that it is often done without conscious thought: "Habit rules the unreflecting herd" (William Wordsworth).
Practice denotes an often chosen pattern of individual or group behavior: "You will find it a very good practice always to verify your references, sir" (Martin Joseph Routh).
Custom is behavior as established by long practice and especially by accepted conventions: "No written law has ever been more binding than unwritten custom supported by popular opinion" (Carrie Chapman Catt).
Usage refers to an accepted standard for a group that regulates individual behavior: "laws ... corrected, altered, and amended by acts of parliament and common usage" (William Blackstone).
Use and wont are terms for customary and distinctive practice: "situations where the use and wont of their fathers no longer meet their necessities" (J.A. Froude).
Habitude refers to an individual's behaving in a certain way rather than a specific act: "His real habitude gave life and grace/To appertainings and to ornament" (Shakespeare).


Synonyms: hamper1, fetter, handcuff, hobble, hogtie, manacle, shackle, trammel
These verbs mean to restrict the activity or free movement of: a swimmer hampered by clothing; prisoners fettered by chains; handcuffed by rigid regulations; hobbled by responsibilities; leadership that refused to be hogtied; imagination manacled by fear; shackled by custom; trammeled by debts. See Also Synonyms at hinder1.


Synonyms: handle, manipulate, wield, ply2
These verbs mean to use or operate with or as if with the hands. Handle applies widely and suggests competence: The lumberjack handled the ax expertly. The therapist handled every problem with sensitivity.
Manipulate connotes skillful or artful management: The pilot confidently manipulated the controls in the cockpit.
When manipulate refers to people or personal affairs, it often implies deviousness or fraud in gaining an end: I realized I'd been manipulated into helping them.
Wield implies freedom, skill, ease, and effectiveness in handling physical or figurative implements: Ready to make kindling, she wielded a hatchet. The mayor's speechwriter wields a persuasive pen.
It also connotes effectiveness in the exercise of intangibles such as authority or influence: The dictator wielded enormous power.
Ply suggests industry and persistence: The hungry child was plying his knife and fork with gusto.
The term also applies to the regular and diligent engagement in a task or pursuit: She plies the banker's trade with great success. See Also Synonyms at touch, treat.


Synonyms: happen, befall, betide, chance, occur
These verbs mean to come about: saw an awful thing happen; predicted that misery will befall humankind; woe that betides the poor soldier; former friends who chanced to meet again; described the accident exactly as it occurred.


Synonyms: happy, fortunate, lucky, providential
These adjectives mean attended by luck or good fortune: a happy outcome; a fortunate omen; a lucky guess; a providential recovery. See Also Synonyms at glad1.


Synonyms: harass, harry, hound, badger, pester, plague
These verbs mean to trouble persistently or incessantly. Harass and harry imply systematic persecution by besieging with repeated annoyances, threats, or demands: The landlord harassed tenants who were behind in their rent. A rude customer had harried the storekeeper.
Hound suggests unrelenting pursuit to gain a desired end: Reporters hounded the celebrity for an interview.
To badger is to nag or tease persistently: The child badgered his parents for a new bicycle.
To pester is to inflict a succession of petty annoyances: "How she would have pursued and pestered me with questions and surmises" (Charlotte Bront).
Plague refers to a problem likened to an epidemic disease: "As I have no estate, I am plagued with no tenants or stewards" (Henry Fielding).


Synonyms: hard, difficult, arduous
These adjectives mean requiring great physical or mental effort to do, achieve, or master. Hard is the most general term: "You write with ease to show your breeding,/But easy writing's curst hard reading" (Richard Brinsley Sheridan).
Difficult and hard are interchangeable in many instances. Difficult, however, is often preferable where the need for skill or ingenuity is implied: "All poetry is difficult to read,/—The sense of it is, anyhow" (Robert Browning).
Arduous applies to burdensome labor or sustained physical or spiritual effort: "knowledge at which Newton arrived through arduous and circuitous paths" (Thomas Macaulay).


Synonyms: harden, acclimate, acclimatize, season, toughen
These verbs mean to make resistant to hardship, especially through continued exposure: was hardened to frontier life; is acclimated to the tropical heat; was acclimatized by long hours to overwork; became seasoned to life in prison; toughened by experience.


Synonyms: haste, celerity, dispatch, expedition, hurry, speed
These nouns denote rapidity or promptness of movement or activity: left the room in haste; a legal system not known for celerity; advanced with all possible dispatch; cleaned up with remarkable expedition; worked without hurry; driving with excessive speed.
Antonym: deliberation


Synonyms: hateful, detestable, odious, offensive, repellent
These often interchangeable adjectives describe what elicits or deserves strong dislike, distaste, or revulsion. Hateful refers to what evokes hatred or deep animosity: "No vice is universally as hateful as ingratitude" (Joseph Priestley).
Detestable applies to what arouses abhorrence or scorn: detestable crimes against humanity.
Something odious is the object of disgust, aversion, or intense displeasure: "a kind of slimy stuff ... of a most nauseous, odious smell" (Daniel Defoe).
Offensive applies to what offends or excites displeasure: an offensive suggestion.
Something repellent arouses repugnance or disgust: repellent criminal behavior.


Synonyms: healthy, sound2, wholesome, hale1, robust, well2, hardy1, vigorous
These adjectives mean being in or indicative of good physical or mental health. Healthy stresses the absence of disease and often implies energy and strength: The healthy athlete biked twenty miles every day.
Sound emphasizes freedom from injury, imperfection, or impairment: "The man with the toothache thinks everyone happy whose teeth are sound" (George Bernard Shaw).
Wholesome suggests appealing healthiness and well-being: "Exercise develops wholesome appetites" (Louisa May Alcott).
Hale stresses freedom from infirmity, especially in elderly persons, while robust emphasizes healthy strength and ruggedness: "He is pretty well advanced in years, but hale, robust, and florid" (Tobias Smollett).
Well indicates absence of or recovery from sickness: You should stay home from work if you're not well.
Hardy implies robust and sturdy good health: The hardy mountaineers camped in the Alps.
Vigorous suggests healthy, active energy and strength: "a vigorous old man, who spent half of his day on horseback" (W.H. Hudson).


Synonyms: heap, bank1, mound, pile1, stack
These nouns denote a group or collection of things lying one on top of the other: a heap of old newspapers; a bank of thunderclouds; a mound of boulders; a pile of boxes; a stack of firewood.


Synonyms: heavy, weighty, hefty, massive, ponderous, cumbersome
These adjectives mean having a relatively great weight. Heavy refers to what has great physical weight (a heavy boulder) and figuratively to what is burdensome or oppressive to the spirit (heavy responsibilities). Weighty literally denotes having considerable weight (a weighty package); figuratively, it describes what is onerous, serious, or important (a weighty decision). Hefty refers principally to physical heaviness or brawniness: a hefty book; a tall, hefty wrestler.
Massive describes what is bulky, heavy, solid, and strong: massive marble columns.
Ponderous refers to what has great mass and weight and usually implies unwieldiness: ponderous prehistoric beasts.
Figuratively it describes what is complicated, involved, or lacking in grace: a book with a ponderous plot.
Something cumbersome is difficult to move, handle, or deal with because it is heavy, bulky, or clumsy: cumbersome luggage.


Synonyms: help, aid, assist, succor
These verbs mean to contribute to the fulfillment of a need, the furtherance of an effort, or the achievement of a purpose or end. Help and aid, the most general, are frequently interchangeable: a medication that helps aidsthe digestion.
Help, however, sometimes conveys a stronger suggestion of effectual action: I'll help you move the piano.
Assist usually implies making a secondary contribution or acting as a subordinate: Apprentices assisted the chef in preparing the banquet.
Succor refers to going to the relief of one in want, difficulty, or distress: "Mr. Harding thought . . . of the worn-out, aged men he had succored" (Anthony Trollope). See Also Synonyms at improve.


Synonyms: heritage, inheritance, legacy, tradition
These nouns denote something immaterial, such as a custom, that is passed from one generation to another: a heritage of moral uprightness; a rich inheritance of storytelling; a legacy of philosophical thought; the tradition of noblesse oblige.


Synonyms: hesitate, vacillate, waver, falter
These verbs mean to be uncertain, irresolute, or indecisive. To hesitate is to hold back or pause because of doubt or uncertainty: "A President either is constantly on top of events or, if he hesitates, events will soon be on top of him" (Harry S. Truman).
Vacillate implies going back and forth between alternative, usually conflicting courses: She vacillated about whether to go or to stay.
Waver suggests having second thoughts about a decision: After much wavering, he finally gave his permission.
To falter is to be unsteady in resolution or action: He resolved to ask for a raise but faltered when his boss entered the room.


Synonyms: hide1, conceal, secrete2, cache, screen, cloak
These verbs mean to keep from the sight or knowledge of others. Hide and conceal are the most general and are often used interchangeably: I used a throw rug to hide concealthe stain on the carpet. I smiled to hide conceal my hurt feelings.
Secrete and cache involve concealment in a place unknown to others; cache often implies storage for later use: The lioness secreted her cubs in the tall grass. The mountain climbers cached their provisions in a cave.
To screen is to shield or block from the view of others: Tall shrubs screen the actor's home from the curious.
To cloak is to conceal something by masking or disguising it: "On previously cloaked issues, the Soviets have suddenly become forthcoming" (John McLaughlin). See Also Synonyms at block.


Synonyms: hinder1, hamper1, impede, obstruct, block, dam1, bar1
These verbs mean to slow or prevent progress or movement. To hinder is to hold back and often implies stopping or prevention: The travelers were hindered by storms.
To hamper is to hinder by or as if by fastening or entangling: His clothes hampered his efforts to swim to safety.
To impede is to slow by making action or movement difficult: "Our journey was impeded by a thousand obstacles" (Mary Shelley).
Obstruct implies the presence of obstacles: A building obstructed our view of the mountains.
Block refers to complete obstruction that prevents progress, passage, or action: "Do not block the way of inquiry" (Charles S. Peirce).
Dam suggests obstruction of the flow, progress, or release of something: She dammed the brook to form a pool. He dammed up his emotions.
To bar is to prevent entry or exit or prohibit a course of action: The legislature passed laws that bar price fixing.


Synonyms: honor, homage, reverence, veneration, deference
These nouns denote admiration, respect, or esteem accorded to another as a right or as due. Honor is the most general term: The hero tried to be worthy of the honor in which he was held.
Homage is often in the form of a ceremonial tribute that conveys allegiance: "There is no country in which so absolute a homage is paid to wealth" (Ralph Waldo Emerson).
Reverence is a feeling of deep respect and devotion: "Kill reverence and you've killed the hero in man" (Ayn Rand).
Veneration is both the feeling and the reverential expression of respect, love, and awe: Her veneration for her mentor never wavered.
Deference is courteous, respectful regard for another that often implies yielding to him or her: The funeral was arranged with deference to the family of the deceased.


Synonyms: humane, compassionate, humanitarian, merciful
These adjectives mean marked or motivated by concern with the alleviation of suffering: a humane physician; compassionate toward impoverished people; released the prisoner for humanitarian reasons; is merciful to the repentant.


Synonyms: idea, thought, notion, concept, conception
These nouns refer to what is formed or represented in the mind as the product of mental activity. Idea has the widest range: "Human history is in essence a history of ideas" (H.G. Wells).
Thought is distinctively intellectual and stresses contemplation and reasoning: "Language is the dress of thought" (Samuel Johnson).
Notion often refers to a vague, general, or even fanciful idea: "She certainly has some notion of drawing" (Rudyard Kipling).
Concept and conception are applied to mental formulations on a broad scale: You seem to have absolutely no concept of time. "Every succeeding scientific discovery makes greater nonsense of old-time conceptions of sovereignty" (Anthony Eden).


Synonyms: ideal, example, exemplar, model, standard, pattern
These nouns refer to someone or something worthy of imitation or duplication. An ideal is a sometimes unattainable standard of perfection: "Religion is the vision of . . . something which is the ultimate ideal, and the hopeless quest" (Alfred North Whitehead).
An example can refer to something that is worthy of imitation but can also indicate something that serves as a deterrent or warning: "Our Government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example" (Louis D. Brandeis).
An exemplar, like a model, serves as an ideal example by reason of being either very worthy or truly representative of a type, admirable or otherwise: "He is indeed the perfect exemplar of all nobleness" (Jane Porter). "Our fellow countryman is a model of a man" (Charles Dickens).
A standard is an established criterion or recognized level of excellence: "It wouldn't be quite fair to test him by our standards" (William Dean Howells).
A pattern serves as a model, plan, or guide in the creation of something: "I will be the pattern of all patience" (Shakespeare).


Synonyms: imagination, fancy, fantasy
These nouns refer to the power of the mind to form images, especially of what is not present to the senses. Imagination is the most broadly applicable: "In the world of words, the imagination is one of the forces of nature" (Wallace Stevens).
Fancy especially suggests mental invention that is whimsical, capricious, or playful and that is characteristically well removed from reality: "All power of fancy over reason is a degree of insanity" (Samuel Johnson).
Fantasy is applied principally to elaborate or extravagant fancy as a product of the imagination given free rein: "The poet is in command of his fantasy, while it is exactly the mark of the neurotic that he is possessed by his fantasy" (Lionel Trilling).


Synonyms: imitate, copy, mimic, ape, parody, simulate
These verbs mean to follow something or someone taken as a model. To imitate is to act like or follow a pattern or style set by another: "Art imitates Nature" (Richard Franck).
To copy is to duplicate an original as precisely as possible: "His grandfather had spent a laborious life-time in Rome, copying the Old Masters for a generation which lacked the facile resource of the camera" (Edith Wharton).
To mimic is to make a close imitation, often with an intent to ridicule: "fresh carved cedar, mimicking a glade/Of palm and plaintain" (John Keats).
To ape is to follow another's lead slavishly but often with an absurd result: "Thosestates of mind do not come from aping an alien culture" (John Russell).
To parody is either to imitate with comic effect or to attempt a serious imitation and fail: "All these peculiaritieshave been imitated by his admirers and parodied by his assailants" (Thomas Macaulay).
To simulate is to feign or falsely assume the appearance or character of something: "I ... lay there simulating death" (W.H. Hudson).


Synonyms: immaterial, incorporeal, insubstantial, metaphysical, spiritual
These adjectives mean lacking material body, form, or substance: immaterial apparitions; an incorporeal spirit; insubstantial victories; metaphysical forces; spiritual beings. See Also Synonyms at irrelevant.


Synonyms: impetuous, heedless, hasty, headlong, precipitate, sudden
These adjectives describe abruptness or lack of deliberation. Impetuous suggests forceful impulsiveness or impatience: "flamboyant, impetuous, disdainful of death" (Jim Murray).
Heedless implies carelessness or lack of responsibility or proper regard for consequences: "Hobbling down stairs with heedless haste, I set my foot full in a pail of water" (Richard Steele).
Hasty and headlong both stress hurried, often reckless action: "Hasty marriage seldom proveth well" (Shakespeare). "In his headlong flight down the circular staircase, ... had pitched forward violently, struck his head against the door to the east veranda, and probably broken his neck" (Mary Roberts Rinehart).
Precipitate suggests impulsiveness and lack of due reflection: a precipitate decision.
Sudden applies to what becomes apparent abruptly or unexpectedly: is given to sudden paroxysms of anger.


Synonyms: importance, consequence, moment, significance, import, weight
These nouns refer to the state or quality of being significant, influential, or worthy of note or esteem. Importance is the most general term: the importance of a proper diet.
Consequence is especially applicable to persons or things of notable rank or position (scholars of consequence) and to what is important because of its possible outcome, result, or effect (tax laws of consequence to investors). Moment implies importance or consequence that is readily apparent: making decisions of great moment.
Significance and import refer to the quality of something, often not obvious, that gives it special meaning or value: an event of real significance; works of great social import.
Weight suggests a personal evaluation or judgment of importance: "The popular faction at Rome . . . was led by men of weight" (J.A. Froude).


Synonyms: impression, impress1, imprint, print, stamp
These nouns denote a visible mark made on a surface by pressure: an impression of a notary's seal on wax; the impress of bare feet in the sand; a medal with the imprint of a bald eagle; the print of automobile tires in the tar; a gold ingot with the refiner's stamp.


Synonyms: improper, unbecoming, unseemly, indelicate, indecent, indecorous
These adjectives mean not in keeping with accepted standards of what is right or proper. Improper often refers to unethical conduct, a breach of etiquette, or morally offensive behavior: improper business practices; improper behavior at the dinner table.
Unbecoming suggests what is beneath the standard implied by one's character or position: language unbecoming to an officer.
What is unseemly or indelicate is in gross violation of good taste; indelicate especially suggests immodesty, coarseness, or tactlessness: an unseemly use of profanity; an indelicate suggestion.
Indecent refers to what is morally offensive or harmful: an earthy but not indecent story.
Indecorous implies violation of societal manners: an indecorous remark about overeating.


Synonyms: improve, better1, help, ameliorate
These verbs mean to advance to a more desirable, valuable, or excellent state. Improve and better, the most general terms, are often interchangeable: You can improvebetteryour mind through study; I got a haircut to improvebettermy appearance.
Help usually implies limited relief or change: Gargling helps a sore throat.
To ameliorate is to improve circumstances that demand change: Volunteers were able to ameliorate conditions in the refugee camp.


Synonyms: inactive, idle, inert, passive, dormant, torpid, supine
These adjectives mean not involved in or disposed to movement or activity. Inactive simply indicates absence of activity: retired but not inactive; an inactive factory.
Idle refers to persons who are not doing anything or are not busy: employees idle because of the strike.
It also refers to what is not in use or operation: idle machinery.
Inert describes things powerless to move themselves or to produce a desired effect; applied to persons, it implies lethargy or sluggishness, especially of mind or spirit: "The Honorable Mrs. Jamieson . . . was fat and inert, and very much at the mercy of her old servants" (Elizabeth C. Gaskell).
Passive implies being reactive instead of proactive: "in an hour like this, when the mind has a passive sensibility, but no active strength" (Nathaniel Hawthorne).
Dormant refers principally to a state of suspended activity but often implies the possibility of renewal: dormant feelings of affection.
Torpid suggests sluggishness or apathy: "It is a man's own fault, it is from want of use, if his mind grows torpid in old age" (Samuel Johnson).
Supine implies abject lack of will: "No other colony showed such supine, selfish helplessness in allowing her own border citizens to be mercilessly harried" (Theodore Roosevelt).


Synonyms: incalculable, countless, immeasurable, incomputable, inestimable, infinite, innumerable, measureless
These adjectives mean being greater than can be calculated or reckoned: incalculable riches; countless hours; an immeasurable distance; an incomputable amount; jewels of inestimable value; an infinite number of reasons; innumerable difficulties; measureless power.


Synonyms: incisive, trenchant, biting, cutting, crisp
These adjectives refer to keenness and forcefulness of thought, expression, or intellect. Incisive and trenchant suggest penetration to the heart of a subject and clear, sharp, and vigorous expression: an incisive report; trenchant wit.
Biting and cutting often have a sarcastic or sardonic quality capable of wounding or stinging: "Biting remarks revealed her attitude of contempt" (D.H. Lawrence). "He can say the driest, most cutting things in the quietest of tones" (Charlotte Bront).
Crisp suggests clarity, conciseness, and briskness: a crisp retort.


Synonyms: incline, bias, dispose, predispose
These verbs mean to influence or be influenced toward a particular attitude or course of action: inclined to believe her; is biased in his favor; were disposed to admire him; predisposed to studying. See Also Synonyms at slant.
Antonym: disincline


Synonyms: include, comprise, comprehend, embrace, involve
These verbs mean to take in or contain as part of something larger. Include often implies an incomplete listing: "Through the process of amendment, interpretation and court decision I have finally been included in 'We, the people'" (Barbara C. Jordan).
Comprise usually implies that all of the components are stated: The book comprises 15 chapters.
Comprehend and embrace usually refer to the taking in of subordinate elements: My field of study comprehends several disciplines. This theory embraces many facets of human behavior.
Involve usually suggests inclusion as a logical consequence or necessary condition: "Every argument involves some assumptions" (Brooke F. Westcott).


Synonyms: increase, expand, enlarge, extend, augment, multiply1
These verbs mean to make or become greater or larger. Increase sometimes suggests steady growth: The mayor's political influence rapidly increased. "No machines will increase the possibilities of life. They only increase the possibilities of idleness" (John Ruskin).
To expand is to increase in size, area, volume, bulk, or range: He inhaled deeply, expanding his chest. "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion" (C. Northcote Parkinson).
Enlarge refers to expansion in size, extent, capacity, or scope: The landowner enlarged her property by repeated purchases. My knowledge of literature has enlarged considerably since I joined a reading group.
To extend is to lengthen in space or time or to broaden in range: The transit authority extended the subway line to the next town. The baseball season extends into October.
Augment usually applies to what is already developed or well under way: She augmented her collection of books each month. His depression augments with each visit to the hospital.
To multiply is to increase in number, especially by propagation or procreation: "As for my cats, they multiplied" (Daniel Defoe). "May thy days be multiplied!" (Sir Walter Scott).


Synonyms: indicate, argue, attest, bespeak, betoken, testify, witness
These verbs mean to give grounds for supposing or inferring the existence or presence of something: a fever indicating illness; a shabby house that argues poverty; paintings that attest the artist's genius; disorder that bespeaks negligence; melting snows that betoken spring floods; a comment testifying ignorance; a stunned silence that witnessed his shock.


Synonyms: indispensable, essential, necessary, needful, requisite
These adjectives indicate a pressing need: foods indispensable to good nutrition; funds essential to completing the project; necessary tools and materials; provided them with all things needful; lacking the requisite qualifications.


Synonyms: infinite, boundless, eternal, illimitable, sempiternal
These adjectives mean being without beginning or end: infinite wisdom; boundless ambition; eternal beauty; illimitable space; sempiternal truth. See Also Synonyms at incalculable.


Synonyms: inflexible, inexorable, adamant, obdurate
These adjectives mean not capable of being swayed or diverted from a course. Inflexible implies unyielding adherence to fixed principles or purposes: My boss is inflexible on many issues.
Inexorable implies lack of susceptibility to persuasion: "Cynthia was inexorable—she would have none of him" (Winston Churchill).
It also describes things that are inevitable, relentless, and often severe in effect: "Russia's final hour, it seemed, approached with inexorable certainty" (W. Bruce Lincoln).
Adamant implies imperviousness to pleas or appeals: He is adamant about leaving right now.
Obdurate implies hard, callous resistance to tender feelings: The child's misery would move even the most obdurate heart. See Also Synonyms at stiff.


Synonyms: injustice, injury, wrong, grievance
These nouns denote acts or conditions that cause people to suffer hardship or loss undeservedly. An injustice is a violation of a person's rights; the term can also refer to unfair treatment of another or others: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
An injury is an injustice for which legal redress is available: The court awarded the plaintiff compensation for the injury to his property.
Wrong is now more emphatic than injustice and in a legal sense refers to what violates the rights of an individual or adversely affects the public welfare: "The age of chivalry is never past, so long as there is a wrong left unredressed on earth" (Charles Kingsley).
A grievance is regarded by those involved as a wrong that affords cause for complaint: The warden addressed the inmates' grievances.


Synonyms: innate, inborn, inbred, congenital, hereditary
These adjectives mean existing in a person or thing from birth or origin. Something that is innate seems essential to the nature, character, or constitution: innate common sense.
Inborn strongly implies that something has been present since birth: inborn intelligence.
What is inbred has often been ingrained through earliest training or associations: an inbred love of music.
Congenital is applied principally to characteristics, especially defects, acquired during fetal development: a congenital disease.
It is also used figuratively of characteristics or people with characteristics that are so deep-seated as to appear natural: a congenital pessimism; a congenital liar.
Hereditary refers to what is transmitted by biological heredity (a hereditary heart anomaly) or by tradition: "that ignorance and superstitiousness hereditary to all sailors" (Herman Melville).


Synonyms: inquiry, inquest, inquisition, investigation, probe, research
These nouns denote a quest for knowledge, data, or truth: filed an inquiry about the lost shipment; holding an inquest to determine the cause of his death; an inquisition into her political activities; a criminal investigation; a probe into alleged police corruption; scientific research.


Synonyms: insanity, lunacy, madness, mania, dementia
These nouns denote conditions of serious mental disability. Insanity is a grave, often prolonged condition that prevents a person from being held legally responsible for his or her actions: was judged not guilty for reasons of insanity.
Lunacy often denotes derangement relieved intermittently by periods of clear-mindedness: yelled wildly in a moment of utter lunacy.
Madness often stresses the violent aspect of mental illness: a story about obsession and madness.
Mania refers principally to the excited, or manic, phase of bipolar disorder: prescribed drugs to control the patient's periods of mania.
Dementia implies mental deterioration brought on by an organic brain disorder: underwent progressive stages of dementia.


Synonyms: instinctive, instinctual, intuitive, visceral
These adjectives mean derived from or prompted by a natural tendency or impulse: an instinctive fear of snakes; instinctual behavior; an intuitive perception; visceral revulsion. See Also Synonyms at spontaneous.


Synonyms: insubordinate, rebellious, mutinous, factious, seditious
These adjectives mean in opposition to and usually in defiance of established authority. Insubordinate implies failure or refusal to recognize or submit to the authority of a superior: was fired for being insubordinate.
Rebellious implies open defiance of authority or resistance to control: rebellious students demonstrating on campus.
Mutinous pertains to revolt against constituted authority, especially that of a naval or military command: mutinous sailors defying the captain.
Factious implies divisiveness, dissension, or disunity within a group or an organization: "The army has been embroiled in a standoff battle against anest of factious groups" (Time).
Seditious applies mainly to the treasonous stirring up of resistance against a government: rebels distributing seditious pamphlets.


Synonyms: intelligent, bright, brilliant, knowing, quick-witted, smart, intellectual
These adjectives mean having or showing mental keenness. Intelligent usually implies the ability to cope with new problems and to use the power of reasoning and inference effectively: The intelligent math students excelled in calculus.
Bright implies quickness or ease in learning: The bright child learned the alphabet quickly.
Brilliant suggests unusually impressive mental acuteness: "The dullard's envy of brilliant men is always assuaged by the suspicion that they will come to a bad end" (Max Beerbohm).
Knowing implies the possession of knowledge, information, or understanding: Knowing collectors bought all the auctioned paintings.
Quick-witted suggests mental alertness and prompt response: The quick-witted emergency medical staff averted a tragedy.
Smart refers to quick intelligence and often a ready capability for taking care of one's own interests: Smart lawyers can effectively manipulate juries.
Intellectual implies the capacity to grasp difficult or abstract concepts: The former professor was the more intellectual candidate.


Synonyms: intense, fierce, vehement, violent
These adjectives mean of an extreme kind: intense fear; fierce pride; vehement dislike; violent rage.


Synonyms: intention, intent, purpose, goal, end, aim, object, objective
These nouns refer to what one plans to do or achieve. Intention simply signifies a course of action that one proposes to follow: It is my intention to take a vacation next month.
Intent more strongly implies deliberateness: The executor complied with the testator's intent.
Purpose strengthens the idea of resolution or determination: "His purpose was to discover how long these guests intended to stay" (Joseph Conrad).
Goal may suggest an idealistic or long-term purpose: The college's goal was to raise ten million dollars for a new library.
End suggests a long-range goal: The candidate wanted to win and pursued every means to achieve that end.
Aim stresses the direction one's efforts take in pursuit of an end: The aim of most students is to graduate.
An object is an end that one tries to carry out: The object of chess is to capture your opponent's king.
Objective often implies that the end or goal can be reached: The report outlines the committee's objectives.


Synonyms: interfere, meddle, tamper1
These verbs mean to intervene unasked in the affairs of others and often in an impudent or indiscreet manner. Interfere implies action that seriously hampers, hinders, or frustrates: "Romantics of all ages can recall occasions when lust interfered with reason" (Christine Gorman).
Meddle stresses unwanted, unwarranted, or unnecessary intrusion: "wholly unacquainted with the world in which they are so fond of meddling" (Edmund Burke).
To tamper is to interfere by making unsought, unwelcome, often destructive changes or by trying to influence another in an improper way: "a large number of persons accused of . . . tampering with ballot boxes" (James Bryce).


Synonyms: intimidate, browbeat, bulldoze, cow2, bully1, bludgeon
These verbs all mean to frighten into submission, compliance, or acquiescence. Intimidate implies the presence or operation of a fear-inspiring force: "It may intimidate the human race into bringing order into its international affairs" (Albert Einstein).
Browbeat suggests the persistent application of highhanded, disdainful, or imperious tactics: browbeating a witness.
Bulldoze connotes the leveling of all spirit of opposition: was bulldozed into hiring an unacceptable candidate.
Cow implies bringing out an abject state of timorousness and often demoralization: a dog that was cowed by abuse.
To bully is to intimidate through blustering, domineering, or threatening behavior: workers who were bullied into accepting a poor contract.
Bludgeon suggests the use of grossly aggressive or combative methods: had to be bludgeoned into fulfilling his duties.


Synonyms: introduce, insert, interject, interpolate, interpose
These verbs mean to put or set a person or thing into, between, or among others: introduce suspense into a novel; insert a letter into an envelope; interject a comment into a conversation; interpolated a transitional passage into the text; interposed himself between the scrapping boys. See Also Synonyms at broach1.


Synonyms: irrelevant, extraneous, immaterial, impertinent
These adjectives mean not pertinent to the subject under consideration: an irrelevant comment; a question extraneous to the discussion; an objection that is immaterial; mentioned several impertinent facts.
Antonym: relevant


Synonyms: isolate, insulate, seclude, segregate, sequester
These verbs mean to separate from others: a mountain that isolated the village from larger towns; insulated herself from the chaos surrounding her; a celebrity who was secluded from public scrutiny; segregated the infectious patients in a special ward; sequestering a jury during its deliberations.


Synonyms: item, detail, particular
These nouns denote an individual, often specialized element of a whole: a shopping list with many items; discussed the details of their trip; furnished the particulars of the accident.
Word History: The word item seems to us to be very much a noun, whether it refers to an article in a collection or a bit of information. But it began its life in English (first recorded before 1398) as an adverb meaning "moreover, also, in addition." Item was typically used in front of each object listed in an inventory, as we might put also. This use in English simply reflects a meaning of the word in Latin. However, it is easy to see how item could be taken to stand for the thing that it preceded, and so we get, for example, the sense "an article included in an enumeration." The first such usages are found in the 16th century, while the sense "a bit of information" is not found until the 19th century.


Synonyms: jealous, covetous, envious
These adjectives mean resentfully or painfully desirous of another's advantages: jealous of a friend's success; covetous of my neighbor's possessions; envious of their art collection.


Synonyms: jerk1, snap, twitch, wrench, yank
These verbs mean to move with a sudden short, quick motion: jerked the rope twice to pull it taut; snapped the lock shut; was twitching her mouth nervously; wrenched the stick out of his hand; yanks the door open.


Synonyms: join, combine, unite, link1, connect, relate, associate
These verbs mean to fasten or affix or become fastened or affixed. Join applies to the physical contact or union of at least two separate things and to the coming together of persons, as into a group: The children joined hands. The two armies joined together to face a common enemy. "Join the union, girls, and together say (Susan B. Anthony).
Combine suggests the mixing or merging of components, often for a specific purpose: The cook combined various ingredients. "When bad men combine, the good must associate" (Edmund Burke).
Unite stresses the coherence or oneness of the persons or things joined: The volunteers united to prevent their town from flooding. The strike united the oppressed workers.
Link and connect imply a firm attachment in which individual components nevertheless retain their identities: The study linked the high crime rate to unemployment. The reporter connected the police chief to the scandal.
Relate refers to connection of persons through marriage or kinship (Although we share a surname, she and I are not related) or of things through logical association (The two events were directly related). Associate usually implies a relationship of persons as partners or allies: My children are associated with me in the family business.
It can also refer to a relationship of things that are similar or complementary or that have a connection in one's thoughts: I associate the beach with pleasant memories of summer.


Synonyms: joke, jest, witticism, quip, sally, crack, wisecrack, gag
These nouns refer to something that is said or done in order to evoke laughter or amusement. Joke especially denotes an amusing story with a punch line at the end: told jokes at the party.
Jest suggests frolicsome humor: amusing jests that defused the tense situation.
A witticism is a witty, usually cleverly phrased remark: a speech full of witticisms.
A quip is a clever, pointed, often sarcastic remark: responded to the tough questions with quips.
Sally denotes a sudden quick witticism: ended the debate with a brilliant sally.
Crack and wisecrack refer less formally to flippant or sarcastic retorts: made a crack about my driving ability; punished for making wisecracks in class.
Gag is principally applicable to a broadly comic remark or to comic by-play in a theatrical routine: one of the most memorable gags in the history of vaudeville.


Synonyms: judge, arbitrator, arbiter, referee, umpire
These nouns denote persons who make decisions that determine or settle points at issue. A judge is one capable of making rational, dispassionate, and wise decisions: In this case, the jury members are the judges of the truth.
An arbitrator is either appointed or derives authority from the consent of the disputants: An experienced arbitrator mediated the contract dispute.
An arbiter is one whose opinion or judgment is recognized as being unassailable or binding: The critic considered himself an arbiter of fine literature.
A referee is an attorney appointed by a court to investigate and report on a case: The referee handled many bankruptcy cases each month.
An umpire is a person appointed to settle an issue that arbitrators are unable to resolve: The umpire studied complex tax cases.
In sports referee and umpire refer to officials who enforce the rules and settle points at issue.


Synonyms: justify, warrant
These verbs mean to be a proper or sufficient reason for: an outburst justified by extreme provocation; drastic measures not warranted by the circumstances.


Synonyms: keep, retain, withhold, reserve
These verbs mean to have and maintain in one's possession or control. Keep is the most general: We received a few offers but decided to keep the house.
Retain means to continue to hold, especially in the face of possible loss: Though unhappy, he retained his sense of humor.
Withhold implies reluctance or refusal to give, grant, or allow: The tenant withheld his rent until the owner fixed the boiler.
To reserve is to hold back for the future or for a special purpose: The farmer reserved two acres for an orchard. See Also Synonyms at observe.


Synonyms: kind1, kindly, kindhearted, benign, benevolent
These adjectives mean having or showing a tender, considerate, and helping nature. Kind and kindly are the least specific: thanked her for her kind letter; a kindly gentleman.
Kindhearted especially suggests an innately kind disposition: a kindhearted teacher.
Benign implies gentleness and mildness: benign intentions; a benign sovereign.
Benevolent suggests charitableness and a desire to promote the welfare or happiness of others: a benevolent contributor.


Synonyms: knowledge, information, learning, erudition, lore1, scholarship
These nouns refer to what is known, as through study or experience. Knowledge is the broadest: "Science is organized knowledge" (Herbert Spencer).
Information often implies a collection of facts and data: "A man's judgment cannot be better than the information on which he has based it" (Arthur Hays Sulzberger).
Learning usually refers to knowledge gained by schooling and study: "Learning ... must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence" (Abigail Adams).
Erudition implies profound, often specialized knowledge: "Some have criticized his poetry as elitist, unnecessarily impervious to readers who do not share his erudition" (Elizabeth Kastor).
Lore is usually applied to knowledge gained through tradition or anecdote about a particular subject: Many American folktales concern the lore of frontier life.
Scholarship is the mastery of a particular area of learning reflected in a scholar's work: A good journal article shows ample evidence of the author's scholarship.


Synonyms: lack, want, need
These verbs mean to be without something, especially something that is necessary or desirable. Lack emphasizes the absence of something: She lacks the money to buy new shoes. The plant died because it lacked moisture.
Want and need stress the urgent necessity for filling a void or remedying an inadequacy: "Her pens were uniformly bad and wanted fixing" (Bret Harte). The garden needs care.


Synonyms: large, big, great
These adjectives mean being notably above the average in size or magnitude: a large sum of money; a big brown barn; a great ocean liner.
Antonym: small


Synonyms: last1, final, terminal, ultimate
These adjectives mean coming after all others in chronology or sequence. Last applies to what comes at the end of a series: the last day of the month.
Something final stresses the definitiveness and decisiveness of the conclusion: "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality" (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Terminal applies to what marks or forms a limit or boundary, as in space, time, or development: The railroad chose as its terminal city a town with a large harbor.
Ultimate applies to what concludes a series, process, or progression, to what constitutes a final result or objective, and to what is most distant or remote, as in time: the ultimate sonata of that opus; our ultimate goal; the ultimate effect.


Synonyms: latent, dormant, quiescent
These adjectives mean present or in existence but not active or manifest. What is latent is present but not evident: latent ability.
Dormant evokes the idea of sleep: a dormant volcano.
Quiescent sometimes—but not always—suggests temporary inactivity: "For a time, helay quiescent" (Herman Melville).


Synonyms: lazy, fainant, idle, indolent, slothful
These adjectives mean not disposed to exertion, work, or activity: too lazy to wash the dishes; fainant aristocrats; an idle drifter; an indolent hanger-on; slothful employees.


Synonyms: lean2, spare, skinny, scrawny, lank, lanky, rawboned, gaunt
These adjectives mean lacking excess flesh. Lean emphasizes absence of fat: fattened the lean cattle for market.
Spare sometimes suggests trimness and good muscle tone: "an old man, very tall and spare, with an ascetic aspect" (William H. Mallock).
Skinny and scrawny imply unattractive thinness, as with undernourishment: The child has skinny legs with prominent knees. "He a long, scrawny neck that rose out of a very low collar" (Winston Churchill).
Lank describes one who is thin and tall, and lanky one who is thin, tall, and ungraceful: "He was . . . exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders" (Washington Irving). The boy had developed into a lanky adolescent.
Rawboned suggests a thin, bony, gangling build: a rawboned cowhand.
Gaunt implies boniness and a haggard appearance; it may suggest illness or hardship: a white-haired pioneer, her face gaunt from overwork.


Synonyms: learned, erudite, scholarly
These adjectives mean having or showing profound knowledge: a learned jurist; an erudite professor; a scholarly treatise.


Synonyms: lethargy, lassitude, torpor, torpidity, stupor, languor
These nouns refer to a deficiency in mental and physical alertness and activity. Lethargy is a state of sluggishness, drowsy dullness or apathy: The war roused the nation from its lethargy.
Lassitude implies weariness or diminished energy such as might result from physical or mental strain: "His anger had evaporated; he felt nothing but utter lassitude" (John Galsworthy).
Torpor and torpidity suggest the suspension of activity characteristic of an animal in hibernation: "My calmness was the torpor of despair" (Charles Brockden Brown). Nothing could dispel the torpidity of the indifferent audience.
Stupor is often produced by the effects of alcohol or narcotics; it suggests a benumbed or dazed state of mind: "The huge height of the buildings . . . the hubbub and endless stir . . . struck me into a kind of stupor of surprise" (Robert Louis Stevenson).
Languor is the indolence typical of one who is satiated by a life of luxury or pleasure: After the banquet, I was overcome by languor.


Synonyms: letter, epistle, missive, note
These nouns denote a written communication directed to another: received a letter of complaint; the Epistles of the New Testament; a missive of condolence; a thank-you note.


Synonyms: level, flat1, even1, plane1, smooth, flush1
These adjectives describe surfaces without elevations or depressions. Level implies being parallel with the line of the horizon: acres of level farmland.
Flat applies to surfaces without curves, protuberances, or indentations: a flat rock.
Even refers to flat surfaces in which no part is higher or lower than another: the even surface of the mirror.
Plane is a mathematical term referring to a surface containing all the straight lines connecting any two points on it: a plane figure.
Smooth describes a surface on which the absence of irregularities can be established by sight or touch: smooth marble.
Flush applies to a surface that is on an exact level with an adjoining one: a door that is flush with the wall. See Also Synonyms at aim.


Synonyms: liberal, bounteous, bountiful, freehanded, generous, handsome, munificent, openhanded
These adjectives mean willing or marked by a willingness to give unstintingly: a liberal backer of the arts; a bounteous feast; bountiful compliments; a freehanded host; a generous donation; a handsome offer; a munificent gift; fond and openhanded grandparents. See Also Synonyms at broad-minded.
Antonym: stingy


Synonyms: lie2, equivocate, fib, palter, prevaricate
These verbs mean to evade or depart from the truth: a witness who lied under oath; didn't equivocate about her real purpose; fibbed to escape being scolded; paltering with an irate customer; didn't prevaricate but answered honestly.


Synonyms: lift, raise, elevate, hoist, heave, boost
These verbs mean to move something from a lower to a higher level or position. Lift sometimes stresses the expenditure of effort: a trunk too heavy to lift.
Raise often implies movement to an approximately vertical position: raised my hand so I could ask a question.
Elevate is sometimes synonymous with the preceding terms (elevated his sprained ankle), but it more often suggests exalting, ennobling, or raising morally or intellectually: "A generous and elevated mind is distinguished by nothing more certainly than an eminent degree of curiosity" (Samuel Johnson).
Hoist is applied principally to the lifting of heavy objects, often by mechanical means: hoist a sunken ship.
To heave is to lift or raise with great effort or force: heaved the pack onto his back.
Boost suggests upward movement effected by or as if by pushing from below: boosted the child into the saddle. See Also Synonyms at steal.


Synonyms: likeness, similarity, similitude, resemblance, analogy, affinity
These nouns denote agreement or conformity. Likeness implies close agreement: It was your uncanny likeness to my brother that made me stare at you.
Similarity and similitude suggest agreement only in some respects or to some degree: They were drawn to each other by similarity of interests. "A striking similitude between the brother and sister now first arrested my attention" (Edgar Allan Poe).
Resemblance refers to similarity in external or superficial details: "The child . . . bore a remarkable resemblance to her grandfather" (Lytton Strachey).
Analogy is similarity, as of properties or functions, between things that are otherwise not comparable: The operation of a computer presents an interesting analogy to the working of the human brain.
Affinity is likeness deriving from kinship or from the possession of shared properties or sympathies: Being an orphan, she felt an affinity with other parentless children.


Synonyms: limit, restrict, confine, circumscribe
These verbs mean to establish or keep within specified bounds. Limit refers principally to the establishment of a maximum beyond which a person or thing cannot or may not go: The Constitution limits the President's term of office to four years.
To restrict is to keep within prescribed limits, as of choice or action: The sale of alcoholic beverages is restricted to those over 21.
Confine suggests imprisonment, restraint, or impediment: The children were confined to the nursery.
Circumscribe connotes an encircling or surrounding line that confines, especially narrowly: "A man . . . should not circumscribe his activity by any inflexible fence of rigid rules" (John Stuart Blackie).


Synonyms: limp, flabby, flaccid, floppy
These adjectives mean lacking in stiffness or firmness: a limp shirt collar; flabby, wrinkled flesh; flaccid cheeks; a floppy hat brim.
Antonym: firm1


Synonyms: living, alive, live2, animate, animated, vital
These adjectives mean possessed of or exhibiting life. Living, alive, and live refer principally to organisms that are not dead: living plants; the happiest person alive; a live canary.
Animate applies to living animal as distinct from living plant life: Something animate was moving inside the box.
Animated suggests renewed life, vigor, or spirit: The argument became very animated.
Vital refers to what is characteristic of or necessary to the continuation of life: You must eat to maintain vital energy.


Synonyms: logical, analytic, ratiocinative, rational
These adjectives mean capable of or reflecting the capability for correct and valid reasoning: a logical mind; an analytic thinker; the ratiocinative process; a rational being.
Antonym: illogical


Synonyms: loose, lax, slack1
These adjectives mean not tautly bound, held, or fastened: loose reins; a lax rope; slack sails.
Antonym: tight


Synonyms: loud, earsplitting, stentorian, strident
These adjectives mean marked by or producing great volume and often disagreeable intensity of sound: loud trumpets; earsplitting shrieks; stentorian tones; strident, screeching brakes. See Also Synonyms at gaudy1.
Antonym: soft


Synonyms: love, affection, devotion, fondness, infatuation
These nouns denote feelings of warm personal attachment or strong attraction to another person. Love is the most intense: marrying for love.
Affection is a less ardent and more unvarying feeling of tender regard: parental affection.
Devotion is earnest, affectionate dedication and implies selflessness: teachers admired for their devotion to children.
Fondness is strong liking or affection: a fondness for small animals.
Infatuation is foolish or extravagant attraction, often of short duration: lovers blinded to their differences by their mutual infatuation.


Synonyms: lure, entice, inveigle, decoy, tempt, seduce
These verbs mean to lead or attempt to lead into a wrong or foolish course: Lure suggests the use of something that attracts like bait: Industry often lures scientists from universities by offering them huge salaries.
To entice is to draw on skillfully, as by arousing hopes or desires: The teacher tried to entice the shy child into entering the classroom.
Inveigle implies winning over by coaxing, flattery, or artful talk: He inveigled a friend into becoming his law partner.
To decoy is to trap or ensnare by cunning or deception: Partisans dressed as simple farmers decoyed the soldiers into the crossfire.
Tempt implies an encouragement or an attraction to do something, especially something immoral, unwise, or contrary to one's better judgment: I am tempted to tell him what I really think of him.
To seduce is to entice away and usually suggests the overcoming of moral resistance: "The French King attempted by splendid offers to seduce him from the cause of the Republic" (Thomas Macaulay).


Synonyms: luxury, extravagance, frill
These nouns denote something desirable that is not a necessity: the real luxury of riding in a limousine; a simple wedding without any extravagances; caviar and other culinary frills.
Antonym: necessity


Synonyms: makeshift, expedient, resort, stopgap
These nouns denote something used as a substitute when other means fail or are not available: lacked a cane but used a stick as a makeshift; exhausted every expedient before filing suit; will use force only as a last resort; a crate serving as a stopgap for a chair.


Synonyms: male, masculine, manlike, manly, manful, virile, mannish
These adjectives mean of, relating to, or characteristic of men. Male categorizes any living thing by gender or sex: the male population; a male puppy; a male plant.
Masculine refers to what is considered characteristic of men: a masculine voice.
Manlike applies to qualities of a man (manlike fortitude) or resemblance to a human (manlike apes). Manly describes qualities regarded as becoming to a man: manly strength.
Manful suggests bravery and resoluteness: a manful display of chivalry.
Virile stresses the vigor, power, or sexual potency of an adult male: "The virile figure of Theodore Roosevelt swung down the national highway" (Edward Bok).
Mannish usually applies to women or their traits, clothing, or actions when they seem masculine: a mannish suit.


Synonyms: malign, defame, traduce, vilify, asperse, slander, calumniate, libel
These verbs mean to make evil, harmful, often untrue statements about another. Malign stresses malicious intent: "Have I not taken your part when you were maligned?" (Thackeray).
Defame suggests damage to reputation through misrepresentation: The plaintiff had been defamed and had legitimate grounds for a lawsuit.
Traduce connotes the resulting humiliation or disgrace: "My character was traduced by Captain Hawkins . . . even the ship's company cried out shame" (Frederick Marryat).
Vilify pertains to open, deliberate, vicious defamation: "One who belongs to the most vilified and persecuted minority in history is not likely to be insensible to the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution" (Felix Frankfurter).
To asperse is to spread unfavorable charges or insinuations against: "Who could be so base as to asperse the character of a family so harmless as ours?" (Oliver Goldsmith).
Slander and calumniate apply to oral expression: He slandered his political opponent. She calumniated and ridiculed her former employer.
Libel involves the communication of written or pictorial material: The celebrity sued the tabloid that libeled her. See Also Synonyms at sinister.


Synonyms: malleable, ductile, plastic, pliable, pliant
These adjectives mean capable of being shaped, bent, or drawn out: malleable metals such as gold and silver; ductile copper; a plastic substance such as wax; soaked the leather to make it pliable; pliant molten glass.


Synonyms: manipulate, exploit, maneuver
These verbs mean to influence, manage, use, or control to one's advantage by artful or indirect means: manipulated me into helping him; exploits natural resources; maneuvered me out of one job and into another. See Also Synonyms at handle.


Synonyms: mark1, brand, label, tag1, ticket
These verbs mean to place a mark of identification on: marked the items on the list with a check; brand cattle; labeled the boxes; tagged suitcases; ticketed the new merchandise. See Also Synonyms at sign.


Synonyms: mature, age, develop, ripen
These verbs mean to bring or come to full development or maximum excellence: maturing the wines in vats; aged the brandy for 100 years; developed the flavor slowly; fruits that were ripened on the vine.


Synonyms: mean2, low1, base2, abject, ignoble, sordid
These adjectives mean lacking in dignity or falling short of the standards befitting humans. Mean suggests pettiness, spite, or niggardliness: "Never ascribe to an opponent motives meaner than your own" (J.M. Barrie).
Something low violates standards of morality, ethics, or propriety: low cunning; a low trick.
Base suggests a contemptible, mean-spirited, or selfish lack of human decency: "that liberal obedience, without which your army would be a base rabble" (Edmund Burke).
Abject means brought low in condition: abject submission; abject poverty.
Ignoble means lacking noble qualities, such as elevated moral character: "For my part I think it a less evil that some criminals should escape than that the government should play an ignoble part" (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.)
Sordid suggests foul, repulsive degradation: "It is through art . . . that we can shield ourselves from the sordid perils of actual existence" (Oscar Wilde).


Synonyms: meaning, acceptation, import, sense, significance, signification
These nouns refer to the idea conveyed by something, such as a word, action, gesture, or situation: Synonyms are words with the same or nearly the same meaning. In one of its acceptationsis a technical term in music. The import of his statement is ambiguous. The term has only one sense. The significance of a green traffic light is widely understood. Linguists have determined the hieroglyphics' signification.


Synonyms: mercy, leniency, lenity, clemency, charity
These nouns mean humane and kind, sympathetic, or forgiving treatment of or disposition toward others. Mercy is compassionate forbearance: "We hand folks over to God's mercy, and show none ourselves" (George Eliot).
Leniency and lenity imply mildness, gentleness, and often a tendency to reduce punishment: "When you have gone too far to recede, do not sueto me for leniency" (Charles Dickens). "His Majesty gave many marks of his great lenity, often . . . endeavoring to extenuate your crimes" (Jonathan Swift).
Clemency is mercy shown by someone with judicial authority: The judge believed in clemency for youthful offenders.
Charity is goodwill and benevolence in judging others: "But how shall we expect charity towards others, when we are uncharitable to ourselves?" (Thomas Browne).


Synonyms: method, system, routine, manner, mode, fashion, way
These nouns refer to the plans or procedures followed to accomplish a task or attain a goal. Method implies a detailed, logically ordered plan: "I do not know of a better method for choosing a presidential nominee" (Harry S. Truman).
System suggests order, regularity, and coordination of methods: "Of generalship, of strategic system . . . there was little or none" (John Morely).
A routine is a habitual, often tiresome method: "The common business of the nation . . . is carried on in a constant routine by the clerks of the different offices" (Tobias Smollett).
Manner and fashion emphasize personal or distinctive behavior: a clearly articulated manner of speaking; issuing orders in an arbitrary and abrasive fashion.
Mode often denotes a manner influenced by or arising from tradition or custom: a nomadic mode of life.
Way is the least specific of these terms: "It is absurd to think that the only way to tell if a poem is lasting is to wait and see if it lasts" (Robert Frost).


Synonyms: meticulous, painstaking, careful, scrupulous, fastidious, punctilious
These adjectives mean showing or marked by attentiveness to all aspects or details. Meticulous and painstaking stress extreme care: "He had throughout been almost worryingly meticulous in his business formalities" (Arnold Bennett). Repairing the fine lace entailed slow and painstaking work.
Careful suggests circumspection and solicitude: A careful examination of the gem showed it to be fake.
Scrupulous suggests care prompted by conscience: "Cynthia was scrupulous in her efforts to give no trouble" (Winston Churchill).
Fastidious implies concern, often excessive, for the requirements of taste: "Your true lover of literature is never fastidious" (Robert Southey).
Punctilious specifically applies to minute details of conduct: "The more unpopular an opinion is, the more necessary is it that the holder should be somewhat punctilious in his observance of conventionalities generally" (Samuel Butler).


Synonyms: mind, intellect, intelligence, brain, wit1, reason
These nouns denote the capacity of thinking, reasoning, and acquiring and applying knowledge. Mind refers broadly to the capacities for thought, perception, memory, and decision: "No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear" (Edmund Burke).
Intellect stresses knowing, thinking, and understanding: "Opinion is ultimately determined by the feelings, and not by the intellect" (Herbert Spencer).
Intelligence implies solving problems, learning from experience, and reasoning abstractly: "The world of the future will be an ever more demanding struggle against the limitations of our intelligence" (Norbert Wiener).
Brain suggests strength of intellect: We racked our brains to find a solution.
Wit stresses quickness of intelligence or facility of comprehension: "There is no such whetstone, to sharpen a good wit and encourage a will to learning, as is praise" (Roger Ascham).
Reason, the capacity for logical, rational, and analytic thought, embraces comprehending, evaluating, and drawing conclusions: "Since I have had the full use of my reason, nobody has ever heard me laugh" (Earl of Chesterfield). See Also Synonyms at tend2.


Synonyms: miscellaneous, heterogeneous, mixed, varied, assorted
These adjectives mean consisting of a number of different kinds. Miscellaneous implies a varied, often haphazard combination: is selling postcards and miscellaneous novelties.
Heterogeneous emphasizes diversity and dissimilarity: a heterogeneous urban population.
Mixed suggests a combination of differing but not necessarily conflicting elements: a mixed program of baroque and contemporary music.
Varied stresses absence of uniformity: "The assembly was large and varied, containing clergy and laity, men and women" (Nicholas P.S. Wisemen).
Assorted often suggests the purposeful arrangement of different but complementary elements: a pretty arrangement of assorted flowers.


Synonyms: mix, blend, mingle, merge, amalgamate, coalesce, fuse2
These verbs mean to put into or come together in one mass so that constituent parts or elements are diffused or commingled. Mix is the least specific: The cook mixed eggs, flour, and sugar. Greed and charity don't mix.
To blend is to mix intimately and harmoniously so that the components lose their original definition: The clerk blended mocha and java coffee beans. Snow-covered mountains blended into the clouds.
Mingle implies combination without loss of individual characteristics: "Respect was mingled with surprise" (Sir Walter Scott). "His companions mingled freely and joyously with the natives" (Washington Irving).
Merge and amalgamate imply resultant homogeneity: Tradition and innovation are merged in this new composition. Twilight merged into night. "The four sentences of the original are amalgamated into two" (William Minto).
Coalesce implies a slow merging: Indigenous peoples and conquerors coalesced into the present-day population.
Fuse emphasizes an enduring union, as that formed by heating metals: "He diffuses a tone and spirit of unity, that blends, and (as it were) fuses, each into each" (Samuel Taylor Coleridge).


Synonyms: mixture, blend, amalgam, admixture, compound1, composite
These nouns refer to a combination produced by mixing. Mixture has the widest application: She routinely drank a mixture of tea and honey. "He showed a curious mixture of eagerness and terror" (Francis Parkman).
Blend and amalgam imply that the original components have lost their distinctness: The novel is a fascinating blend of romance and realism. The comedian's act was an amalgam of incisive wit and unceasing good humor.
Admixture suggests that one of the components is dissimilar to the others: a perfume containing an essential oil with a large admixture of alcohol.
A compound constitutes a new and independent entity: The school's program is a compound of scholarship and athleticism.
A composite has components that may retain part of their identities: a musical suite that is a composite of operatic themes.


Synonyms: moderate, qualify, temper
These verbs mean to make less extreme or intense: moderated the severity of his rebuke; qualified her criticism; admiration tempered with fear.
Antonym: intensify


Synonyms: moment, instant, minute1, second1, jiffy, flash
These nouns denote a brief interval of time. A moment is an indeterminately short but significant period: I'll be with you in a moment.
Instant is a period of time almost too brief to detect; it implies haste: He hesitated for just an instant.
Minute is often interchangable with moment and second with instant: The alarm will ring any minute. I'll be back in a second.
Jiffy and flash usually combine with in a; in a jiffy means in a short space of time, while in a flash suggests the almost imperceptible duration of a flash of light: "He was on his stool in a jiffy, driving away with his pen" (Charles Dickens). She finished the job in a flash. See Also Synonyms at importance.


Synonyms: monopolize, absorb, consume, engross, preoccupy
These verbs mean to exclusively possess or control: a service monopolized by one company; study that absorbs all her time; was consumed by fear; engrossed herself in her reading; was preoccupied with financial worries.


Synonyms: mood1, humor, temper
These nouns refer to a temporary state of mind or feeling. Mood is the most inclusive: "I was in no mood to laugh and talk with strangers" (Mary Shelley).
Humor often implies a state of mind resulting from one's characteristic disposition or temperament: "All which had been done . . . was the effect not of humor, but of system" (Edmund Burke).
Temper most often refers to irritability or intense anger: "The nation was in such a temper that the smallest spark might raise a flame" (Thomas Macaulay).


Synonyms: moral, ethical, virtuous, righteous
These adjectives mean in accord with right or good conduct. Moral applies to personal character and behavior, especially sexual conduct: "Our moral sense dictates a clearcut preference for these societies which share with us an abiding respect for individual human rights" (Jimmy Carter).
Ethical stresses idealistic standards of right and wrong: "Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants" (Omar N. Bradley).
Virtuous implies moral excellence and loftiness of character: "The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous" (Frederick Douglass).
Righteous emphasizes moral uprightness; when it is applied to actions, reactions, or impulses, it often implies justifiable outrage: "He was . . . stirred by righteous wrath" (John Galsworthy).


Synonyms: morale, esprit, esprit de corps
These nouns denote a spirit, as of dedication to a common goal, that unites a group: the high morale of the troops; the esprit of an orchestra; the esprit de corps of the swim team.


Synonyms: moving, stirring, poignant, touching, affecting
These adjectives mean arousing or capable of arousing deep, usually somber emotion. Moving is the least specific: "A ... widow ... has laid her case of destitution before him in a very moving letter" (Nathaniel Hawthorne).
Something stirring excites strong, turbulent, but not unpleasant feelings: a stirring speech about patriotism.
Poignant suggests the evocation of keen, painful emotion: "Poignant grief cannot endure forever" (W.H. Hudson).
Touching emphasizes sympathy or tenderness: a touching eulogy.
Affecting applies especially to what is heart-rending or bittersweet: an affecting photo of the hostages' release.


Synonyms: multitude, host2, legion, army
These nouns all denote a very great number of people or things. Multitude is the most general term: a multitude of reasons.
Host and legion both stress impressively, sometimes countlessly large numbers: a host of ideas; a legion of complaints.
Army emphasizes order and often purposeful association: an army of ants.


Synonyms: muscular, athletic, brawny, burly, sinewy
These adjectives mean strong and powerfully built: a muscular build; an athletic swimmer; brawny arms; a burly stevedore; a lean and sinewy frame.


Synonyms: mysterious, esoteric, arcane, occult, inscrutable
These adjectives mean beyond human power to explain or understand. Something mysterious arouses wonder and inquisitiveness: "The sea lies all about us.... In its mysterious past it encompasses all the dim origins of life" (Rachel Carson).
What is esoteric is mysterious because only a select group knows and understands it: a compilation of esoteric philosophical essays.
Arcane applies to what is hidden from general knowledge: arcane economic theories.
Occult suggests knowledge reputedly gained only by secret, magical, or supernatural means: an occult rite.
Something that is inscrutable cannot be fathomed by means of investigation or scrutiny: "It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence" (Earl of Birkenhead).


Synonyms: naive, simple, ingenuous, unsophisticated, natural, unaffected, guileless, artless
These adjectives mean free from guile, cunning, or sham. Naive sometimes connotes a credulity that impedes effective functioning in a practical world: "this naive simple creature, with his straightforward and friendly eyes so eager to believe appearances" (Arnold Bennett).
Simple stresses absence of complexity, artifice, pretentiousness, or dissimulation: "Those of highest worth and breeding are most simple in manner and attire" (Francis Parkman). "Among simple people she had the reputation of being a prodigy of information" (Harriet Beecher Stowe).
Ingenuous denotes childlike directness, simplicity, and innocence; it connotes an inability to mask one's feelings: an ingenuous admission of responsibility.
Unsophisticated indicates absence of worldliness: the astonishment of unsophisticated tourists at the tall buildings.
Natural stresses spontaneity that is the result of freedom from self-consciousness or inhibitions: "When Kavanagh was present, Alice was happy, but embarrassed; Cecelia, joyous and natural" (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow).
Unaffected implies sincerity and lack of affectation: "With men he can be rational and unaffected, but when he has ladies to please, every feature works" (Jane Austen).
Guileless signifies absence of insidious or treacherous cunning: a guileless, disarming look.
Artless stresses absence of plan or purpose and suggests unconcern for or lack of awareness of the reaction produced in others: a child of artless grace and simple goodness.


Synonyms: native, indigenous, endemic, autochthonous, aboriginal
These adjectives mean of, belonging to, or connected with a specific place or country by virtue of birth or origin. Native implies birth or origin in the specified place: a native New Yorker; the native North American sugar maple.
Indigenous specifies that something or someone is native rather than coming or being brought in from elsewhere: an indigenous crop; the Ainu, a people indigenous to the northernmost islands of Japan.
Something endemic is prevalent in or peculiar to a particular locality or people: endemic disease.
Autochthonous applies to what is native and unchanged by outside sources: autochthonous folk melodies.
Aboriginal describes what has existed from the beginning; it is often applied to the earliest known inhabitants of a place: the aboriginal population; aboriginal nature. See Also Synonyms at crude.


Synonyms: nautical, marine, maritime, naval
These adjectives mean of or relating to the sea, ships, shipping, sailors, or navigation: nautical charts; marine insurance; maritime law; a naval officer.


Synonyms: neat1, tidy, trim, shipshape, spick-and-span
These adjectives mean clean and in good order. Neat is the most general: a neat room; neat hair.
Tidy emphasizes precise arrangement and order: "When she saw me come in tidy and well dressed, she even smiled" (Charlotte Bront).
Trim stresses especially smart appearance: "A trim little sailboat was dancing out at her moorings" (Herman Melville).
Shipshape evokes meticulous order: "We'll try to make this barn a little more shipshape" (Rudyard Kipling).
Spick-and-span suggests the immaculate freshness of something new: "young men in spick-and-span uniforms" (Edith Wharton).


Synonyms: negligent, derelict, lax, neglectful, remiss, slack1
These adjectives mean guilty of a lack of due care or concern: an accident caused by a negligent driver; was derelict in his civic responsibilities; lax in attending classes; neglectful of her own financial security; remiss of you not to pay your bill; slack in maintaining discipline.


Synonyms: new, fresh, novel2, newfangled, original
These adjectives describe what has existed for only a short time, has only lately come into use, or has only recently arrived at a state or position, as of prominence: New is the most general: a new movie; a new friend. "It is time for a new generation of leadership, to cope with new problems and new opportunities" (John F. Kennedy).
Something fresh has qualities of newness such as briskness, brightness, or purity: fresh footprints in the snow; fresh hope of discovering a vaccine.
Novel applies to the new and strikingly unusual: "His sermons were considered bold in thought and novel in language" (Edith Wharton).
Newfangled suggests that something is needlessly novel: "the newfangled doctrine of utility" (John Galt).
Something that is original is novel and the first of its kind: "The science of pure mathematics, in its modern development, may claim to be the most original creation of the human spirit" (Alfred North Whitehead).


Synonyms: news, advice, intelligence, tidings, word
These nouns denote information about hitherto unknown events and happenings: just heard the good news; sent advice that the loan was approved; a source of intelligence about the war; tidings of victory; received word of his death.


Synonyms: noise, din, racket2, uproar, pandemonium, hullabaloo, hubbub, clamor, babel
These nouns refer to loud, confused, or disagreeable sound or sounds. Noise is the least specific: deafened by the noise in the subway.
A din is a jumble of loud, usually discordant sounds: the din of the factory.
Racket is loud, distressing noise: the racket made by trucks rolling along cobblestone streets.
Uproar, pandemonium, and hullabaloo imply disorderly tumult together with loud, bewildering sound: "The evening uproar of the howling monkeys burst out" "a pandemonium of dancing and whooping, drumming and feasting" a tremendous hullabaloo in the agitated crowd.
Hubbub emphasizes turbulent activity and concomitant din: the hubbub of bettors, speculators, tipsters, and touts.
Clamor is loud, usually sustained noise, as of a public outcry of dissatisfaction: "not in the clamor of the crowded street" ; a debate that was interrupted by a clamor of opposition.
Babel stresses confusion of vocal sounds arising from simultaneous utterance and random mixture of languages: guests chattering in a babel of tongues at the diplomatic reception.
Word History: Those who find that too much noise makes them ill will not be surprised that the word noise can possibly be traced back to the Latin word nausea, "seasickness, feeling of sickness." Our words nausea and noise are doublets, that is, words borrowed in different forms from the same word. Nausea, first recorded probably before 1425, was borrowed directly from Latin. Noise, first recorded around the beginning of the 13th century, came to us through Old French, which explains its change in form. Old French nois probably also came from Latin nausea, if, as seems possible, there was a change of sense during the Vulgar Latin period, whereby the meaning "seasickness" changed to a more general sense of "discomfort." Word meanings can sometimes change for the better, and nowadays, of course, a noise does not have to be something unpleasant, as in the sentence "The only noise was the wind in the pines."


Synonyms: noted, celebrated, eminent, famed, famous, illustrious, notable, preeminent, renowned
These adjectives mean widely known and esteemed: a noted author; a celebrated musician; an eminent scholar; a famed scientist; a famous actor; an illustrious judge; a notable historian; a preeminent archaeologist; a renowned painter.
Antonym: obscure


Synonyms: noticeable, observable, marked, conspicuous, prominent, outstanding, salient, remarkable, arresting, striking
These adjectives mean attracting notice. Noticeable and observable both refer to something that can be readily noticed or observed: "His long, feminine eyelashes were very noticeable" (Joseph Conrad). The prowler's movements were observable from the window.
What is marked is emphatically evident: a marked limp; a marked success.
Conspicuous applies to what is immediately apparent and noteworthy: a conspicuous stain. "Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure" (Thorstein Veblen).
Prominent and outstanding connote a standing out, especially among others of a kind: the most prominent mountain in the range; the century's outstanding figures.
What is salient is so prominent and consequential that it seems to leap out and claim the attention: "Defenders of the pit bull always seem to miss the salient point that it is the ferocity of the bite, not the number of bites, that has made the dog so feared today" (Sports Illustrated).
Remarkable describes what elicits comment because it is unusual or extraordinary: "This story of Mongolian conquests is surely the most remarkable in all history" (H.G. Wells).
Arresting applies to what attracts and holds the attention: one of Ellington's most arresting compositions.
Striking describes something that seizes the attention and produces a vivid impression on the sight or the mind: The child bears a striking resemblance to his uncle. See Also Synonyms at perceptible.


Synonyms: nuance, gradation, shade
These nouns denote a slight variation or differentiation between nearly identical entities: sensitive to delicate nuances of style; gradations of feeling from infatuation to deep affection; subtle shades of meaning.


Synonyms: nurture, cultivate, foster, nurse
These verbs mean to promote and sustain the growth and development of: nurturing hopes; cultivating tolerance; foster friendly relations; nursed the fledgling business.


Synonyms: object, protest, demur, remonstrate, expostulate
These verbs mean to express opposition to something, usually by presenting arguments against it. Object implies the expression of disapproval or distaste: "Freedom of the press in Britain is freedom to print such of the proprietor's prejudices as the advertisers don't object to" (Hannen Swaffer).
Protest suggests strong opposition, usually forthrightly expressed: The citizens protested against the tax hike.
To demur is to raise an objection that may delay decision or action: We proposed a revote, but the president demurred.
Remonstrate implies the presentation of objections, complaints, or reproof: "The people of Connecticut . . . remonstrated against the bill" (George Bancroft).
To expostulate is to express objection in the form of earnest reasoning: The teacher expostulated with them on the foolhardiness of their behavior. See Also Synonyms at intention.


Synonyms: oblige, accommodate, favor
These verbs mean to perform a service or a courteous act for: obliged me by keeping the matter quiet; accommodating her by lending her money; favor an audience with an encore. See Also Synonyms at force.
Antonym: disoblige


Synonyms: observe, keep, celebrate, commemorate, solemnize
These verbs mean to give proper heed to or show proper reverence for something, such as a rule, custom, or holiday. Observe stresses compliance or respectful adherence to that which is prescribed: observe the speed limit; observe the Sabbath.
Keep implies actions such as the discharge of a duty or the fulfillment of a promise: keep one's word; keep personal commitments.
Celebrate emphasizes observance in the form of rejoicing or festivity: a surprise party to celebrate her birthday.
To commemorate is to honor the memory of a past event: a ceremony that commemorated the career of a physician. Solemnize implies dignity and gravity in the celebration of an occasion: solemnized the funeral with a 21-gun salute. See Also Synonyms at see1.


Synonyms: obstacle, obstruction, bar1, barrier, block, hindrance, impediment, snag
All of these nouns refer to something that prevents action or slows progress. Obstacle applies to something that stands in the way: "We combat obstacles in order to get repose" (Henry Adams).
An obstruction makes passage or progress difficult: A sandbar is an obstruction to navigation.
Bar and barrier suggest an obstruction that confines or prevents exit or entry: "Tyranny may always enter—there is no charm, no bar against it—the only bar against it is a large resolute breed of men" (Walt Whitman). "Literature is my Utopia.... No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourse of my book friends" (Helen Keller).
Block suggests obstruction that effectively prevents all passage: I had a mental block and couldn't remember the date.
Hindrance and impediment are applied to something that interferes with or delays passage or progress: "an attachment that would be a hindrance to him in any honorable career" (Thomas Hardy). Overcrowded classrooms are an impediment to learning.
A snag is an unforeseen or hidden, often transitory obstacle: Due to a snag in plans, the project was delayed.


Synonyms: obstinate, stubborn, headstrong, stiff-necked, bullheaded, pigheaded, mulish, dogged, pertinacious
These adjectives mean tenaciously unwilling to yield. Obstinate implies unreasonable rigidity: "Mr. Quincy labored hard with the governor to obtain his assent, but he was obstinate" (Benjamin Franklin).
Stubborn pertains to innate, often perverse resoluteness or unyieldingness: "She was very stubborn when her mind was made up" (Samuel Butler).
One who is headstrong is stubbornly, often recklessly willful: The headstrong teenager ignored school policy.
Stiff-necked implies stubbornness combined with arrogance or aloofness: The stiff-necked customer irked the cashier.
Bullheaded suggests foolish or irrational obstinacy, and pigheaded, stupid obstinacy: Don't be bullheaded; see a doctor. "It's a pity pious folks are so apt to be pigheaded" (Harriet Beecher Stowe).
Mulish implies the obstinacy and intractability associated with a mule: "Obstinate is no word for it, for she is mulish" (Ouida).
Dogged emphasizes stubborn perseverance: dogged persistence; "two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder" (W.E.B. Du Bois).
Pertinacious stresses a tenacity of purpose, opinion, or course of action that is sometimes viewed as vexatious: The tax bill's vocal and pertinacious critics led to its defeat.


Synonyms: occurrence, happening, event, incident, episode, circumstance
These nouns refer to something that takes place or comes to pass. Occurrence and happening are the most general: an everyday occurrence; a happening of no great importance.
Event usually signifies a notable occurrence: major world events reported on the evening news. "events make me quiet and calm; it is only trifles that irritate my nerves" (Victoria).
Incident may apply to a minor occurrence: a small incident blown out of proportion.
The term may also refer to a distinct event of sharp identity and significance: a succession of exciting incidents.
An episode is an incident in the course of a progression or within a larger sequence: "Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain" (Thomas Hardy).
Circumstance denotes a particular incident or occurrence: "Billy had found Alice, thus bringing about the odd circumstance of their renewing their acquaintanceship" (Eleanor H. Porter).


Synonyms: offend, insult, affront, outrage
These verbs mean to cause resentment, humiliation, or hurt. To offend is to cause displeasure, wounded feelings, or repugnance in another: "He often offended men who might have been useful friends" (John Lothrop Motley).
Insult implies gross insensitivity, insolence, or contemptuous rudeness: "I . . . refused to stay any longer in the room with him, because he had insulted me" (Anthony Trollope).
To affront is to insult openly, usually intentionally: "He continued to belabor the poor woman in a studied effort to affront his hated chieftain" (Edgar Rice Burroughs).
Outrage implies the flagrant violation of a person's integrity, pride, or sense of right and decency: "Agnes . . . was outraged by what seemed to her Rose's callousness" (Mrs. Humphry Ward).


Synonyms: offensive, disgusting, loathsome, nasty, repellent, repulsive, revolting, vile
These adjectives mean extremely unpleasant to the senses or feelings: an offensive remark; disgusting language; a loathsome disease; a nasty smell; a repellent demand; repulsive behavior; revolting food; vile thoughts. See Also Synonyms at hateful.


Synonyms: offer, proffer, tender2, present2
These verbs mean to put before another for acceptance or rejection. Offer is the basic general term in this group: offered us some tea; a store that offered sizable discounts.
Proffer implies voluntary action motivated especially by courtesy or generosity: "Mr. van der Luyden . . . proffered to Newland low-voiced congratulations" (Edith Wharton).
To tender is to offer formally: tendered her respects; tendered my resignation.
Present suggests formality and often a measure of ceremony: "A footman entered, and presented . . . some mail on a silver tray" (Winston Churchill).


Synonyms: old, ancient1, archaic, antediluvian, antique, antiquated
These adjectives describe what belongs to or dates from an earlier time or period. Old is the most general term: old lace; an old saying.
Ancient pertains to the distant past: "the hills,/Rock-ribbed, and ancient as the sun" (William Cullen Bryant).
Archaic implies a very remote, often primitive period: an archaic Greek bronze of the seventh century
Antediluvian applies to what is extremely outdated: "a branch of one of your antediluvian families" (William Congreve).
Antique is applied to what is especially appreciated or valued because of its age: antique furniture; an antique vase.
Antiquated describes what is out of date, no longer fashionable, or discredited: "No idea is so antiquated that it was not once modern. No idea is so modern that it will not someday be antiquated" (Ellen Glasgow).


Synonyms: opinion, view, sentiment, feeling, belief, conviction, persuasion
These nouns signify something a person believes or accepts as being sound or true. Opinion is applicable to a judgment based on grounds insufficient to rule out the possibility of dispute: "A little group of willful men, representing no opinion but their own, have rendered the great Government of the United States helpless and contemptible" (Woodrow Wilson).
View stresses individuality of outlook: "My view is . . . that freedom of speech means that you shall not do something to people either for the views they have or the views they express" (Hugo L. Black).
Sentiment and especially feeling stress the role of emotion as a determinant: "If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences . . . reason is of no use to us" (George Washington). "There needs protection . . . against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling" (John Stuart Mill).
A belief is a conclusion to which one subscribes strongly: "Our belief in any particular natural law cannot have a safer basis than our unsuccessful critical attempts to refute it" (Karl Popper).
Conviction is belief that excludes doubt: "the editor's own conviction of what, whether interesting or only important, is in the public interest" (Walter Lippmann).
Persuasion applies to a confidently held opinion: "He had a strong persuasion that Likeman was wrong" (H.G. Wells).


Synonyms: opportunity, occasion, opening, chance, break
These nouns refer to a favorable or advantageous circumstance or combination of circumstances. Opportunity is an auspicious state of affairs or a suitable time: "If you prepare yourself . . . you will be able to grasp opportunity for broader experience when it appears" (Eleanor Roosevelt).
Occasion suggests the proper time for action: an auspicious occasion; an occasion for celebration.
An opening is an opportunity affording a good possibility of success: waited patiently for her opening, then exposed the report's inconsistency.
Chance often implies an opportunity that arises through luck or accident: a chance for us to chat; no chance of losing.
A break is an often sudden piece of luck, especially good luck: got his first big break in Hollywood.


Synonyms: oppose, fight, combat, resist, withstand, contest
These verbs mean to set someone or something in opposition to another: Oppose has the widest application: opposed the building of a nuclear power plant. "The idea is inconsistent with our constitutional theory and has been stubbornly opposed ... since the early days of the Republic" (E.B. White).
Fight and combat suggest vigor and aggressiveness: "All my life I have fought against prejudice and intolerance" (Harry S. Truman). "We are not afraid ... to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it" (Thomas Jefferson).
To resist is to strive to fend off or offset the actions, effects, or force of: "Pardon was freely extended to all who had resisted the invasion" (John R. Green).
Withstand often implies successful resistance: "Neither the southern provinces, nor Sicily, could have withstood his power" (Henry Hallam).
To contest is to call something into question and take an active stand against it: contested her neighbor's claims to her property in court.


Synonyms: opposite, contrary, antithetical, contradictory
These adjectives mean marked by a natural or innate and irreconcilable opposition. Two things that are altogether different are opposite: Antonyms are words of opposite meaning. "It is said that opposite characters make a union happiest" (Charles Reade).
Contrary stresses extreme divergence: Democrats and Republicans often hold contrary opinions.
Antithetical emphasizes diametrical opposition: engaged in practices entirely antithetical to their professed beliefs.
Contradictory implies denial or inconsistency: "contradictory attributes of unjust justice and loving vindictiveness" (John Morley).


Synonyms: orderly, methodical, systematic
These adjectives mean proceeding in or observant of a prescribed pattern or arrangement. Orderly especially implies correct or customary procedure or proper or harmonious arrangement: an orderly evacuation of the burning building; orderly and symmetrical rows.
Methodical stresses adherence to a logically and carefully planned succession of steps: methodical instructions for assembly.
Systematic emphasizes observance of a coordinated and orderly set of procedures constituting part of a complex but unitary whole: systematic research into antigens to combat immune disorders.


Synonyms: origin, inception, source, root1
These nouns signify the point at which something originates. Origin is the point at which something comes into existence: The origins of some words are unknown.
When origin refers to people, it means parentage or ancestry: "He came . . . of mixed French and Scottish origin" (Charlotte Bront).
Inception is the beginning, as of an action or process: The researcher was involved in the project from its inception.
Source signifies the point at which something springs into being or from which it derives or is obtained: "The mysterious . . . is the source of all true art and science" (Albert Einstein).
Root often denotes what is considered the fundamental cause of or basic reason for something: "Lack of money is the root of all evil" (George Bernard Shaw).


Synonyms: outline, contour, profile, silhouette
These nouns refer to a line that defines the boundary and shape of an object, mass, or figure: the outline of the mountains against the sunset; saw the island's contour from the airplane; a monarch's profile on an ancient coin; saw the dark silhouette of the family waving farewell.


Synonyms: overthrow, overturn, subvert, topple, upset
These verbs mean to cause the downfall, destruction, abolition, or undoing of: overthrow an empire; overturn existing institutions; subverting civil order; toppled the government; upset all our plans.


Synonyms: pacify, mollify, conciliate, appease, placate
These verbs refer to allaying another's anger, belligerence, discontent, or agitation. To pacify is to restore calm to or establish peace in: "The explanation . . . was merely an invention framed to pacify his guests" (Charlotte Bront). An army was required in order to pacify the islands.
Mollify stresses the soothing of hostile feelings: The therapist mollified the angry teenager by speaking gently.
Conciliate implies winning over, often by reasoning and with mutual concessions: "A wise government knows how to enforce with temper or to conciliate with dignity" (George Grenville).
Appease and placate suggest satisfying claims or demands or tempering antagonism, often by granting concessions: I appeased my friend's anger with a compliment. A sincere apology placated the indignant customer.


Synonyms: pain, ache, pang, smart, stitch, throe, twinge
These nouns denote a sensation of severe physical discomfort: abdominal pain; aches in my leg; the pangs of a cramped muscle; aspirin that alleviated the smart; a stitch in my side; the throes of dying; a twinge of arthritis.


Synonyms: palliate, extenuate, gloss1, gloze, whitewash
These verbs mean to cause a fault or offense to seem less grave or less reprehensible: palliate a crime; couldn't extenuate the malfeasance; glossing over an unethical transaction; glozing sins and iniquities; whitewashed official complicity in political extortion. See Also Synonyms at relieve.


Synonyms: pamper, indulge, humor, spoil, coddle, mollycoddle, baby
These verbs all mean to cater excessively to someone or to his or her desires or feelings. To pamper is to gratify appetites, tastes, or desires: "He was pampering the poor girl's lust for singularity and self-glorification" (Charles Kingsley).
Indulge suggests a kindly or excessive lenience in yielding especially to wishes or impulses better left unfulfilled: "You musn't think because I indulge you in some things that you can keep everyone waiting" (Theodore Dreiser).
Humor implies compliance with or accommodation to another's mood or idiosyncrasies: "Human life is . . . but like a froward child, that must be played with and humored a little to keep it quiet till it falls asleep" (William Temple).
Spoil implies excessive indulgence that adversely affects the character, nature, or attitude: "He seems to be in no danger of being spoilt by good fortune" (George Gissing).
Coddle and mollycoddle point to tender, overprotective care that often leads to weakening of character: "I would notthe child" (Samuel Johnson). Stop mollycoddling me; I'm a grown person.
Baby suggests the indulgence and attention one might give to an infant: "I should like to be made much of, and tended—yes, babied" (Adeline D.T. Whitney).


Synonyms: partner, colleague, ally, confederate
These nouns all denote one who is united or associated with another, as in a venture or relationship. A partner participates in a relationship in which each member has equal status: a partner in a law firm.
A colleague is an associate in an occupation or a profession: a colleague and fellow professor.
An ally is one who associates with another, at least temporarily, in a common cause: countries that were allies in World War II.
A confederate is a member of a confederacy, a league, or an alliance or sometimes a collaborator in a suspicious venture: confederates in a scheme to oust the chairman.


Synonyms: passion, fervor, fire, zeal, ardor
These nouns denote powerful, intense emotion. Passion is a deep, overwhelming emotion: "There is not a passion so strongly rooted in the human heart as envy" (Richard Brinsley Sheridan).
The term may signify sexual desire or anger: "He flew into a violent passion and abused me mercilessly" (H.G. Wells).
Fervor is great warmth and intensity of feeling: "The union of the mathematician with the poet, fervor with measure, passion with correctness, this surely is the ideal" (William James).
Fire is burning passion: "In our youth our hearts were touched with fire" (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.)
Zeal is strong, enthusiastic devotion to a cause, ideal, or goal and tireless diligence in its furtherance: "Laurie, with a glow of philanthropic zeal, to found and endow an institution for ... women with artistic tendencies" (Louisa May Alcott).
Ardor is fiery intensity of feeling: "the furious ardor of my zeal repressed" (Charles Churchill). See Also Synonyms at feeling.


Synonyms: pathetic, pitiful, pitiable, piteous, lamentable
These adjectives describe what inspires or deserves pity. Something pathetic elicits sympathetic sadness and compassion: "a most earnest . . . entreaty, addressed to you in the most pathetic tones of the voice so dear to you" (Charles Dickens).
Both pitiful and pitiable apply to what is touchingly sad: "She told a most pitiful story" (Samuel Butler). "The emperor had been in a state of pitiable vacillation" (William Hickling Prescott).
Sometimes these three terms connote contemptuous pity, as for what is hopelessly inept or inadequate: a school with pathetic academic standards. "To be guided by second-hand conjecture is pitiful" (Jane Austen). "That cold accretion called the world, which, so terrible in the mass, is so unformidable, even pitiable, in its units" (Thomas Hardy).
Piteous applies to what cries out for pity: "They . . . made piteous lamentation to us to save them" (Daniel Defoe).
Lamentable suggests the evocation of pity mixed with sorrow: "Tell thou the lamentable tale of me,/And send the hearers weeping to their beds" (Shakespeare).


Synonyms: patience, long-suffering, resignation, forbearance
These nouns denote the capacity to endure hardship, difficulty, or inconvenience without complaint. Patience emphasizes calmness, self-control, and the willingness or ability to tolerate delay: Our patience will achieve more than our force (Edmund Burke).
Long-suffering is long and patient endurance, as of wrong or provocation: The general, a man not known for docility and long-suffering, flew into a rage.
Resignation implies acceptance of or submission to something trying, as out of despair or necessity: I undertook the job with an air of resignation.
Forbearance denotes restraint, as in retaliating, demanding what is due, or voicing disapproval: "It is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other" (Patrick Henry).


Synonyms: pause, intermission, recess, respite, suspension
These nouns denote a temporary stop, as in activity: a short pause in the conversation; a concert with a 15-minute intermission; the legislature's summer recess; toiling without respite; a suspension of work.


Synonyms: pedantic, academic, bookish, donnish, scholastic
These adjectives mean marked by a narrow, often tiresome focus on or display of learning and especially its trivial aspects: a pedantic writing style; an academic insistence on precision; a bookish vocabulary; donnish refinement of speech; scholastic and excessively subtle reasoning.


Synonyms: penitence, compunction, contrition, remorse, repentance
These nouns denote a feeling of regret for one's sins or misdeeds: showed no penitence; ended the relationship without compunction; pangs of contrition; tears of remorse; sincere repentance.


Synonyms: pensive, contemplative, reflective, meditative, thoughtful
These adjectives mean characterized by or disposed to thought, especially serious or deep thought. Pensive often connotes a wistful, dreamy, or sad quality: "while pensive poets painful vigils keep" (Alexander Pope).
Contemplative implies slow directed consideration, often with conscious intent of achieving better understanding or spiritual or aesthetic enrichment: "The Contemplative Atheist is rare ... And yet they seem to be more than they are" (Francis Bacon).
Reflective suggests careful analytical deliberation, as in reappraising past experience: "Cromwell was of the active, not the reflective temper" (John Morley).
Meditative implies earnest sustained thought: The scholar was reticent, aloof, and meditative.
Thoughtful can refer to absorption in thought or to the habit of reflection and circumspection: Thoughtful voters carefully considered the candidates.


Synonyms: perceptible, palpable, appreciable, noticeable, discernible
These adjectives apply to what is capable of being apprehended as being real by the mind or through the senses. Perceptible is the least specific: a perceptible pause in the flow of his speech.
Palpable applies both to what is perceptible by means of the sense of touch and to what is readily perceived by the mind: "The advantages Mr. Falkland possessed . . . are palpable" (William Godwin).
What is appreciable is capable of being estimated or measured: dumping appreciable amounts of noxious waste into the harbor.
Noticeable means easily observed: noticeable shadows under your eyes.
Discernible means distinguishable, especially by the faculty of vision or the intellect: no discernible progress in the contract negotiations.


Synonyms: perfect, consummate, faultless, flawless, impeccable
These adjectives mean being wholly without flaw: a perfect diamond; a consummate performer; faultless logic; a flawless instrumental technique; speaks impeccable French.


Synonyms: perform, execute, accomplish, achieve, effect, fulfill, discharge
These verbs signify to carry through to completion. To perform is to carry out an action, undertaking, or procedure, often with great skill or care. The ship's captain performed the wedding ceremony. Laser experiments are performed regularly in the laboratory.
Execute implies performing a task or putting something into effect in accordance with a plan or design: "To execute laws is a royal office; to execute orders is not to be a king" (Edmund Burke).
Accomplish connotes the successful completion of something, often of something that requires tenacity or talent: "Make one brave push and see what can be accomplished in a week" (Robert Louis Stevenson).
To achieve is to accomplish something, often something significant, especially despite difficulty: "Some are born great . . . Some achieve greatness . . . And some have greatness thrust upon them" (Shakespeare).
Effect suggests the power of an agent to bring about a desired result: The prescribed antibiotics didn't effect a complete cure.
To fulfill is to live up to expectations or satisfy demands, wishes, or requirements: All their desires could not be fulfilled.
To discharge an obligation or duty is to perform all the steps necessary for its fulfillment: "I have found it impossible . . . to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do" (Edward VIII).


Synonyms: period, epoch, era, age, term
These nouns refer to a portion or length of time. Period is the most general: a short waiting period; a difficult period of my life; the Romantic period in music.
Epoch refers to a period regarded as being remarkable or memorable: "We enter on an epoch of constitutional retrogression" (John R. Green).
An era is a period of time notable because of new or different aspects or events: "How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book" (Henry David Thoreau).
An age is usually a period marked by a distinctive characteristic: the age of Newton; the Iron Age.
A term is a period of time to which limits have been set: Senators are elected for a term of six years.
Word History: Many may have wondered why the word period has the sense "punctuation mark ( . )" as well as several senses having to do with time. The answer to this question lies in one of the senses of the Greek word periodos from which our word is descended. Periodos, made up of peri-, "around," and hodos, "way," in addition to meaning such things as "going around, way around, going around in a circle, circuit," and with regard to time, "cycle or period of time," referred in rhetoric to "a group of words organically related in grammar and sense." The Greek word was adopted into Latin as perihodos, which in the Medieval Latin period acquired a new sense related to its use in rhetoric, "a punctuation mark used at the end of a rhetorical period." This sense is not recorded in English until 1609, but the word had already entered English as a borrowing from Old French in the sense "a cycle of recurrence of a disease," first being recorded in a work written around 1425.


Synonyms: periodic, sporadic, intermittent, occasional, fitful
These adjectives all mean recurring or reappearing now and then. Something periodic occurs at regular or at least generally predictable intervals: periodic feelings of anxiety.
Sporadic implies scattered, irregular, unpredictable, or isolated instances: sporadic bombing raids.
Intermittent describes something that stops and starts at intervals: intermittent rain showers.
What is occasional happens at random and irregularly: occasional outbursts of temper.
Something fitful occurs in spells and often abruptly: fitful bursts of energy.


Synonyms: permission, authorization, consent, leave2, license, sanction
These nouns denote approval for a course of action that is granted by one in authority: was refused permission to smoke; seeking authorization to begin construction; gave their consent to the marriage; will ask leave to respond to the speaker; was given license to depart; gave sanction to the project.
Antonym: prohibition


Synonyms: persuade, induce, prevail, convince
These verbs mean to succeed in causing a person to do or consent to something. Persuade means to win someone over, as by reasoning or personal forcefulness: Nothing could persuade her to change her mind.
To induce is to lead, as to a course of action, by means of influence or persuasion: "Pray what could induce him to commit so rash an action?" (Oliver Goldsmith).
One prevails on somebody who resists: "He had prevailed upon the king to spare them" (Daniel Defoe).
To convince is to persuade by the use of argument or evidence: The sales clerk convinced me that the car was worth the price.


Synonyms: phase, aspect, facet, angle2, side
These nouns refer to a particular or possible way of viewing something, such as an object or a process: Phase refers to a stage or period of change or development: "A phase of my life was closing tonight, a new one opening tomorrow" (Charlotte Bront).
Aspect is the way something appears at a specific vantage point: considered all aspects of the project.
A facet is one of numerous aspects: studying the many facets of the intricate problem.
Angle suggests a limitation of perspective, frequently with emphasis on the observer's own point of view: the reporter's angle on the story.
Side refers to something having two or more parts or aspects: "Much might be said on both sides" (Joseph Addison).


Synonyms: pity, compassion, commiseration, sympathy, condolence, empathy
These nouns signify kindly concern aroused by the misfortune, affliction, or suffering of another. Pity often implies a feeling of sorrow that inclines one to help or to show mercy: felt pity for the outcast.
Compassion denotes deep awareness of the suffering of another and the wish to relieve it: "Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism" (Hubert H. Humphrey).
Commiseration signifies the expression of pity or sorrow: expressed their commiseration over the failure of the experiment.
Sympathy denotes the act of or capacity for sharing in the sorrows or troubles of another: "They had little sympathy to spare for their unfortunate enemies" (William Hickling Prescott).
Condolence is a formal, conventional expression of pity, usually to relatives upon a death: extending condolences to the bereaved family.
Empathy is an identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives: Having changed schools several times as a child, I feel empathy for the transfer students.


Synonyms: plain, modest, simple, unostentatious, unpretentious
These adjectives mean not ornate, ostentatious, or showy: a plain hairstyle; a modest cottage; a simple dark suit; an unostentatious office; an unpretentious country church.
Antonym: ornate


Synonyms: plan, blueprint, design, project, scheme, strategy
These nouns denote a method or program in accordance with which something is to be done or accomplished: has no vacation plans; a blueprint for reorganizing the company; social conventions of human design; an urban-renewal project; a new scheme for conservation; a strategy for survival.


Synonyms: plausible, believable, colorable, credible
These adjectives mean appearing to merit belief or acceptance: a plausible pretext; a believable excuse; a colorable explanation; a credible assertion.


Synonyms: please, delight, gladden, gratify, tickle
These verbs mean to give pleasure to: was pleased by their success; a gift that would delight any child; praise that gladdens the spirit; progress that gratified all concerned; compliments that tickle their vanity.
Antonym: displease


Synonyms: plentiful, abundant, ample, copious, plenteous
These adjectives mean being fully as much as one needs or desires: a plentiful supply; the artist's abundant talent; ample space; copious provisions; a plenteous crop of wheat.
Antonym: scant


Synonyms: poisonous, mephitic, pestilent, pestilential, toxic, venomous, virulent
These adjectives mean having the destructive or fatal effect of a poison: a poisonous snake; a mephitic vapor; a pestilent agitator; pestilential jungle mists; toxic fumes; venomous jealousy; a virulent form of cancer.


Synonyms: polite, mannerly, civil, courteous, genteel
These adjectives mean mindful of, conforming to, or marked by good manners. Polite and mannerly imply consideration for others and the adherence to conventional social standards of good behavior: "It costs nothing to be polite" (Winston S. Churchill). The child was scolded by his grandmother for not being more mannerly.
Civil suggests only the barest observance of accepted social usages; it often means merely neither polite nor rude: If you can't be friendly, at least be civil.
Courteous implies courtliness and dignity: "If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world" (Francis Bacon).
Genteel, which originally meant well-bred, now usually suggests excessive and affected refinement: "A man, indeed, is not genteel when he gets drunk" (James Boswell).


Synonyms: poor, indigent, needy, impecunious, penniless, impoverished, poverty-stricken, destitute
These adjectives mean lacking the money or the means for an adequate or comfortable life. Poor is the most general: "Resolve not to be poor: whatever you have, spend less. Poverty is a great enemy to human happiness" (Samuel Johnson).
Indigent and needy refer to one in need or want: indigent people living on the street; distributed food to needy families.
Impecunious and penniless mean having little or no money: "Certainly an impecunious Subaltern was not a catch" (Rudyard Kipling). He made poor investments which left him penniless.
One who is impoverished has been reduced to poverty: an impoverished, third-world country.
Poverty-stricken means suffering from poverty and miserably poor: refugees living in poverty-stricken camps.
Destitute means lacking any means of subsistence: tenants left destitute by the fire.


Synonyms: possible, workable, practicable, feasible, viable
These adjectives mean capable of occurring or being done. Possible indicates that something may happen, exist, be true, or be realizable: "I made out a list of questions and possible answers" (Mary Roberts Rinehart).
Workable is used of something that can be put into effective operation: If the scheme is workable, how will you implement it?
Something that is practicable is capable of being effected, done, or put into practice: "As soon as it was practicable, he would conclude his business" (George Eliot).
Feasible refers to what can be accomplished, brought about, or carried out: Making cars by hand is possible but not economically feasible.
Viable implies having the capacity for continuing effectiveness or success: "How viable are the ancient legends as vehicles for modern literary themes?" (Richard Kain).


Synonyms: posture, attitude, carriage, pose1, stance
These nouns denote a position of the body and limbs: erect posture; an attitude of prayer; dignified carriage; a defiant pose; an athlete's alert stance.


Synonyms: practice, exercise, rehearse
These verbs mean to do repeatedly to acquire or maintain proficiency: practice the shot put; exercising one's wits; rehearsed the play for 14 days. See Also Synonyms at habit.


Synonyms: praise, acclaim, commend, extol, laud
These verbs mean to express approval or admiration. To praise is to voice approbation, commendation, or esteem: "She was enthusiastically praising the beauties of Gothic architecture" (Francis Marion Crawford).
Acclaim usually implies hearty approbation warmly and publicly expressed: The film was highly acclaimed by many critics.
Commend suggests moderate or restrained approval, as that accorded by a superior: The judge commended the jury for their hard work.
Extol suggests exaltation or glorification: "that sign of old age, extolling the past at the expense of the present" (Sydney Smith).
Laud connotes respectful or lofty, often inordinate praise: "aspirations which are lauded up to the skies" (Charles Kingsley).


Synonyms: predicament, plight1, quandary, jam1, fix, pickle
These nouns refer to a situation from which it is difficult to free oneself. A predicament is a problematic situation about which one does not know what to do: "Werner finds himself suddenly in a most awkward predicament" (Thomas Carlyle).
A plight is a bad or unfortunate situation: The report examined the plight of homeless people.
A quandary is a state of perplexity, especially about what course of action to take: "Having captured our men, we were in a quandary how to keep them" (Theodore Roosevelt).
Jam and fix are less formal terms that refer to predicaments from which it is difficult to escape: kids who were in a jam with the authorities; "If we get left on this wreck we are in a fix" (Mark Twain).
An informal term, a pickle is a disagreeable, embarrassing, or troublesome predicament: "I could see no way out of the pickle I was in" (Robert Louis Stevenson).


Synonyms: predict, call, forecast, foretell, prognosticate
These verbs mean to tell about something in advance of its occurrence by means of special knowledge or inference: predict an eclipse; couldn't call the outcome of the game; forecasting the weather; foretold events that would happen; prognosticating a rebellion.


Synonyms: predilection, bias, leaning, partiality, penchant, prejudice, proclivity, propensity
These nouns denote a predisposition to favor someone or something particular: a predilection for classical composers; a pro-American bias; conservative leanings; a partiality for liberal-minded friends; a penchant for exotic foods; a prejudice in favor of the underprivileged; a proclivity for self-assertiveness; a propensity for exaggeration.


Synonyms: preliminary, introductory, prefatory, preparatory
These adjectives mean going before and preparing the way for something else: a preliminary investigation; introductory remarks; an author's prefatory notes; preparatory steps.


Synonyms: presume, presuppose, postulate, posit, assume
These verbs signify to take something for granted or as being a fact. To presume is to suppose that something is reasonable or possible in the absence of proof to the contrary: "I presume you're tired after the long ride" (Edith Wharton).
Presuppose can mean to believe or suppose in advance: It is unrealistic to presuppose a sophisticated knowledge of harmony in a beginning music student.
Postulate and posit denote the assertion of the existence, reality, necessity, or truth of something as the basis for reasoning or argument: "We can see individuals, but we can't see providence; we have to postulate it" (Aldous Huxley).
To assume is to accept something as existing or being true without proof or on inconclusive grounds: "We must never assume that which is incapable of proof" (G.H. Lewes).


Synonyms: prevailing, prevalent, current
These adjectives denote what exists or is encountered generally at a particular time. Prevailing applies to what is most frequent or common at a certain time or in a certain place: took a poll to find the prevailing opinion.
Prevalent suggests widespread existence or occurrence but does not imply predominance: a belief that was prevalent in the Middle Ages.
Current often stresses the present time and is frequently applied to what is subject to frequent change: current psychoanalytic theories.


Synonyms: prevent, preclude, avert, obviate, forestall
These verbs mean to stop or hinder something from happening, especially by advance planning or action. Prevent implies anticipatory counteraction: "The surest way to prevent war is not to fear it" (John Randolph).
To preclude is to exclude the possibility of an event or action: "a tranquillity which . . . his wife's presence would have precluded" (John Henry Newman).
To avert is to ward off something about to happen: The pilot's quick thinking averted an accident.
Obviate implies that something, such as a difficulty, has been anticipated and disposed of effectively: "the objections . . . having . . . been obviated in the preceding chapter" (Joseph Butler).
Forestall usually suggests anticipatory measures taken to counteract, neutralize, or nullify the effects of something: We installed an alarm system to forestall break-ins.


Synonyms: produce, bear1, yield
These verbs mean to bring forth as a product: a mine that produces gold; a seed that finally bore fruit; a plant that yields a medicinal oil.


Synonyms: proficient, adept, skilled, skillful, expert
These adjectives mean having or showing knowledge, ability, or skill, as in a profession or field of study. Proficient implies an advanced degree of competence acquired through training: is proficient in Greek and Latin.
Adept suggests a natural aptitude improved by practice: became adept at cutting the fabric without using a pattern.
Skilled implies sound, thorough competence and often mastery, as in an art, craft, or trade: a skilled gymnast who won an Olympic medal.
Skillful adds to skilled the idea of natural dexterity in performance or achievement: is skillful in the use of the hand loom.
Expert applies to one with consummate skill and command: an expert violinist who played the sonata flawlessly.


Synonyms: profuse, exuberant, lavish, lush1, luxuriant, prodigal, riotous
These adjectives mean marked by unrestrained abundance: profuse apologies; an exuberant growth of moss; lavish praise; lush vegetation; luxuriant hair; a prodigal party giver; an artist's riotous use of color.
Antonym: spare


Synonyms: promise, pledge, swear, vow1
These verbs mean to declare solemnly that one will follow a particular course of action: promises to write soon; pledged to uphold the law; swore to get revenge; vowed to fight to the finish.


Synonyms: proportion, harmony, symmetry, balance
These nouns mean aesthetic arrangement marked by proper distribution of elements. Proportion is the agreeable relation of parts within a whole: a house with rooms of gracious proportion.
Harmony is the pleasing interaction or appropriate combination of elements: the harmony of your facial features.
Symmetry and balance both imply an arrangement of parts on either side of a dividing line, but symmetry frequently emphasizes mirror-image correspondence of parts, while balance often suggests dissimilar parts that offset each other harmoniously: flowers planted in perfect symmetry around the pool. "In all perfectly beautiful objects, there is found the opposition of one part to another, and a reciprocal balance" (John Ruskin).


Synonyms: propose, pose1, propound, submit
These verbs mean to present something for consideration or discussion: proposes a solution; posed many questions; propound a theory; submits a plan.


Synonyms: proud, arrogant, haughty, disdainful, supercilious
These adjectives mean characterized by an inflated ego and disdain for what one considers inferior: Proud can suggest justifiable self-satisfaction but often implies conceit: "There is such a thing as a man being too proud to fight" (Woodrow Wilson).
One who is arrogant is overbearingly proud and demands excessive power or consideration: an arrogant and pompous professor, unpopular with students and colleagues alike.
Haughty suggests proud superiority, as by reason of high status: "Her laugh was satirical, and so was the habitual expression of her arched and haughty lip" (Charlotte Bront).
Disdainful emphasizes scorn or contempt: "Norgrandeur hear with a disdainful smile,/The short and simple annals of the poor" (Thomas Gray).
Supercilious implies haughty disdain and aloofness: "His mother eyed me in silence with a supercilious air" (Tobias Smollett).


Synonyms: provoke, incite, excite, stimulate, arouse, rouse, stir1
These verbs mean to move a person to action or feeling or to summon something into being by so moving a person. Provoke often merely states the consequences produced: "Let my presumption not provoke thy wrath" (Shakespeare). "A situation which in the country would have provoked meetings" (John Galsworthy).
To incite is to provoke and urge on: Members of the opposition incited the insurrection.
Excite implies a strong or emotional reaction: The movie will fail; the plot excites little interest or curiosity.
Stimulate suggests renewed vigor of action as if by spurring or goading: "Our vigilance was stimulated by our finding traces of a large ... encampment" (Francis Parkman).
To arouse means to awaken, as from inactivity or apathy; rouse means the same, but more strongly implies vigorous or emotional excitement: "In a democratic society like ours, relief must come through an aroused popular conscience that sears the conscience of the people's representatives" (Felix Frankfurter). "The oceangoing steamers ... roused in him wild and painful longings" (Arnold Bennett).
To stir is to cause activity, strong but usually agreeable feelings, trouble, or commotion: "It was him as stirred up th' young woman to preach last night" (George Eliot). "I have seldom been so ... stirred by any piece of writing" (Mark Twain). See Also Synonyms at annoy.


Synonyms: prudence, discretion, foresight, forethought, circumspection
These nouns refer to the exercise of good judgment, common sense, and even caution, especially in the conduct of practical matters. Prudence is the most comprehensive: "She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older" (Jane Austen).
Discretion suggests wise self-restraint, as in resisting a rash impulse: "The better part of valor is discretion" (Shakespeare).
Foresight implies the ability to foresee and make provision for what may happen: She had the foresight to make backups of her computer files.
Forethought suggests advance consideration of future eventualities: The empty refrigerator indicated a lack of forethought.
Circumspection implies discretion, as out of concern for moral or social repercussions: "The necessity of the times, more than ever, calls for our utmost circumspection" (Samuel Adams).


Synonyms: pull, drag, draw, haul, tow1, tug
These verbs mean to cause something to move toward the source of an applied force: pull a sled up a hill; drag furniture across the floor; drew up a chair; hauls wood from the forest; a car that tows a trailer; tugged at the oars.
Antonym: push


Synonyms: punish, correct, chastise, discipline, castigate, penalize
These verbs mean to subject a person to something negative for an offense, sin, or fault. Punish is the least specific: The principal punished the students who were caught cheating.
To correct is to punish so that the offender will mend his or her ways: Regulations formerly permitted prison wardens to correct unruly inmates.
Chastise implies either corporal punishment or a verbal rebuke, as a means of effecting improvement in behavior: I chastised the bully by giving him a thrashing. The sarcastic child was roundly chastised for insolence.
Discipline stresses punishment inflicted by an authority in order to control or to eliminate unacceptable conduct: The worker was disciplined for insubordination.
Castigate means to censure or criticize severely, often in public: The judge castigated the attorney for badgering the witness.
Penalize usually implies the forfeiture of money or of a privilege or gain because rules or regulations have been broken: Those who file their income-tax returns late will be penalized.


Synonyms: pure, absolute, sheer2, simple, unadulterated
These adjectives mean free of extraneous elements: pure gold; absolute oxygen; sheer alcohol; a simple substance; unadulterated coffee.


Synonyms: push, propel, shove, thrust
These verbs mean to press against something in order to move it forward or aside: push a baby carriage; wind propelling a sailboat; shove a tray across a table; thrust the package into her hand. See Also Synonyms at campaign.
Antonym: pull


Synonyms: puzzle, perplex, mystify, bewilder, confound
These verbs mean to cause bafflement or confusion. Puzzle suggests difficulty in solving or interpreting something: "The poor creature puzzled me once . . . by a question merely natural and innocent" (Daniel Defoe).
Perplex stresses uncertainty or anxiety, as over reaching an understanding or finding a solution: a dilemma that perplexed the committee.
Mystify implies defying comprehension by obscuring facts: symbolism that mystifies me.
Bewilder emphasizes extreme mental confusion: "The old know what they want; the young are sad and bewildered" (Logan Pearsall Smith).
To confound is to confuse and astonish: God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise (I Corinthians 1:27).


Synonyms: quality, property, attribute, character, trait
These nouns signify a feature that distinguishes or identifies someone or something: explained the qualities of noble gases; tested the resilient property of rubber; knew the attributes of a fine wine; liked the rural character of the ranch; had positive traits such as kindness and generosity.


Synonyms: qualm, scruple, compunction, misgiving
These nouns denote a feeling of uncertainty about the fitness or correctness of an action. Qualm is a disturbing feeling of uneasiness and self-doubt: "an ignorant ruffianly gaucho, who . . . would . . . fight, steal, and do other naughty things without a qualm" (W.H. Hudson).
Scruple is an uneasy feeling arising from conscience or principle about a course of action: "My father's old-fashioned notions boggled a little at first to this arrangement . . . but his scruples were in the end overruled" (John Galt).
Compunction implies a prick or twinge of conscience aroused by wrongdoing or the prospect of wrongdoing: stole the money without compunction.
Misgiving suggests often sudden apprehension: had misgivings about quitting his job.


Synonyms: quibble, carp1, cavil, niggle, nitpick, pettifog
These verbs mean to raise petty or frivolous objections or complaints: quibbling about minor details; a critic who constantly carped; caviling about the price of coffee; an editor who niggled about commas; tried to stop nitpicking all the time; pettifogging about trivialities.


Synonyms: range, ambit, compass, orbit, purview, reach, scope, sweep
These nouns denote an area within which something acts, operates, or has power or control: the range of a nuclear missile; the ambit of municipal legislation; information within the compass of the article; countries within the political orbit of a world power; regulations under the government's purview; outside the reach of the law; issues within the scope of an investigation; outside the sweep of federal authority. See Also Synonyms at wander.


Synonyms: reach, achieve, attain, gain1, compass
These verbs mean to succeed in arriving at a goal or objective. Reach is the least specific: reached home before dark; reach an understanding.
Achieve suggests the application of skill or initiative: achieved national recognition.
Attain implies the impelling force of ambition, principle, or ideals: trying to attain self-confidence.
Gain connotes considerable effort in surmounting obstacles: gained the workers' trust.
Compass implies succeeding by circumventing impediments: will compass the task. See Also Synonyms at range.


Synonyms: real1, actual, true, existent
These adjectives mean not being imaginary but having verifiable existence. Real implies authenticity, genuineness, or factuality: Don't lose the bracelet; it's made of real gold. She showed real sympathy for my predicament.
Actual means existing and not merely potential or possible: "rocks, trees ... theworld" (Henry David Thoreau).
True implies consistency with fact, reality, or actuality: "It is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true" (Bertrand Russell).
Existent applies to what has life or being: Much of the beluga caviar existent in the world is found near the Caspian Sea. See Also Synonyms at authentic.


Synonyms: reap, garner, gather, glean, harvest
These verbs mean to collect: reap grain; garner compliments; gathering mushrooms; glean information; harvested rich rewards.


Synonyms: reason, intuition, understanding, judgment
These nouns refer to the intellectual faculty by which humans seek or attain knowledge or truth. Reason is the power to think rationally and logically and to draw inferences: "Mere reason is insufficient to convince us of its veracity" (David Hume).
Intuition is perception or comprehension, as of truths or facts, without the use of the rational process: I trust my intuitions when it comes to assessing someone's character.
Understanding is the faculty by which one understands, often together with the resulting comprehension: "The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding" (Louis D. Brandeis).
Judgment is the ability to assess situations or circumstances and draw sound conclusions: "At twenty years of age, the will reigns; at thirty, the wit; and at forty, the judgment" (Benjamin Franklin). See Also Synonyms at cause, mind, think.


Synonyms: recede1, ebb, retract, retreat, retrograde
These verbs mean to move backward: a hairline that had receded; waters that ebb at low tide; a turtle that retracted into its shell; an army that retreated to avoid defeat; academic standards that have retrograded.
Antonym: advance


Synonyms: reciprocate, requite, return
These verbs mean to give, take, or feel reciprocally: doesn't reciprocate favors; consideration requited with disregard; return a compliment.


Synonyms: reckless, rash1, precipitate, foolhardy, temerarious
These adjectives mean given to or marked by unthinking boldness. Reckless suggests wild carelessness and disregard for consequences: "conceiving measures to protect the fur-bearing animals from reckless slaughter" (Getrude Atherton).
Rash implies haste, impetuousness, and insufficient consideration: "Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash" (George S. Patton).
Precipitate connotes headlong haste without due deliberation: "destroyed in a precipitate burning of his papers a few days before his death" (James Boswell).
Foolhardy implies injudicious or imprudent boldness: a foolhardy attempt to wrest the gun from the mugger.
Temerarious suggests reckless presumption: "this temerarious foeman who dared intervene between himself and his intended victim" (Edgar Rice Burroughs).


Synonyms: recover, regain, recoup, retrieve
These verbs mean to get back something lost or taken away. Recover is the least specific: The police recovered the stolen car. "In a few days Mr. Barnstaple had recovered strength of body and mind" (H.G. Wells).
Regain suggests success in recovering something that has been taken from one: "hopeful to regain/Thy Love" (John Milton).
To recoup is to get back the equivalent of something lost: earned enough profit to recoup her expenses.
Retrieve pertains to the effortful recovery of something (retrieved the ball) or to the making good of something gone awry: "By a brilliant coup he has retrieved . . . a rather serious loss" (Samuel Butler).


Synonyms: refer, advert1, mention
These verbs mean to call or direct attention to something: referred to my indiscretion; adverting to childhood experiences; often mentions his old friend. See Also Synonyms at attribute, resort.


Synonyms: refrain1, abstain, forbear1
These verbs mean to keep or prevent oneself from doing or saying something: refrained from commenting; abstained from smoking; can't forbear criticizing them.


Synonyms: refuse1, decline, reject, spurn, rebuff
These verbs all mean to be unwilling to accept, consider, or receive someone or something. Refuse usually implies determination and often brusqueness: "The commander . . . refused to discuss questions of right" (George Bancroft). "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse" (Mario Puzo).
To decline is to refuse courteously: "I declined election to the National Institute of Arts and Letters . . . and now I must decline the Pulitzer Prize" (Sinclair Lewis).
Reject suggests the discarding of someone or something as defective or useless; it implies categoric refusal: "He again offered himself for enlistment and was again rejected" (Arthur S.M. Hutchinson).
To spurn is to reject scornfully or contemptuously: "The more she spurns my love,/The more it grows" ( Shakespeare).
Rebuff pertains to blunt, often disdainful rejection: "He had . . . gone too far in his advances, and had been rebuffed" (Robert Louis Stevenson).


Synonyms: regard, esteem, admiration, respect
These nouns refer to a feeling based on perception of and approval for the worth of a person or thing. Regard is the most general: "I once thought you had a kind of regard for her" (George Borrow).
Esteem connotes considered appraisal and positive regard: "The near-unanimity of esteem he enjoyed during his lifetime has by no means been sustained since" (Will Crutchfield).
Admiration is a feeling of keen approbation: "Greatness is a spiritual condition worthy to excite love, interest, and admiration" (Matthew Arnold).
Respect implies appreciative, often deferential regard resulting from careful assessment: "I have a great respect for any man who makes his own way in life" (Winston Churchill). See Also Synonyms at consider.


Synonyms: regret, sorrow, grief, anguish, woe, heartache, heartbreak
These nouns denote mental distress. Regret has the broadest range, from mere disappointment to a painful sense of dissatisfaction or self-reproach, as over something lost or done: She looked back with regret on the pain she had caused her family.
Sorrow connotes sadness caused by misfortune, affliction, or loss; it can also imply contrition: "sorrow for his ... children, who needed his protection, and whom he could not protect" (James Baldwin).
Grief is deep, acute personal sorrow, as that arising from irreplaceable loss: "Grief fills the room up of my absent child,/Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me" (Shakespeare).
Anguish implies agonizing, excruciating mental pain: "I pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement" (Abraham Lincoln).
Woe is intense, often prolonged wretchedness or misery: "the deep, unutterable woe/Which none save exiles feel" (W.E. Aytoun).
Heartache most often applies to sustained private sorrow: The child's difficulties are a source of heartache to the parents.
Heartbreak is overwhelming grief: "Better a little chiding than a great deal of heartbreak" (Shakespeare).


Synonyms: relevant, pertinent, germane, material, apposite, apropos
These adjectives describe what relates to and has a direct bearing on the matter at hand. Something relevant is connected with a subject or issue: performed experiments relevant to her research.
Pertinent suggests a logical, precise relevance: assigned pertinent articles for the class to read.
Germane implies close kinship and appropriateness: "He asks questions that are germane and central to the issue" (Marlin Fitzwater).
Something material is not only relevant but also crucial to a matter: reiterated the material facts of the lawsuit.
Apposite implies a striking appropriateness and pertinence: used apposite verbal images in the paper.
Something apropos is both to the point and opportune: an apropos comment that concisely answered my question.


Synonyms: reliable, dependable, responsible, trustworthy, trusty
These adjectives mean worthy of reliance or trust: a reliable source of information; a dependable worker; a responsible babysitter; a trustworthy report; a trusty alarm.


Synonyms: relieve, allay, alleviate, assuage, lighten2, mitigate, palliate
These verbs mean to make something less severe or more bearable. To relieve is to make more endurable something causing discomfort or distress: "that misery which he strives in vain to relieve" (Henry David Thoreau).
Allay suggests at least temporary relief from what is burdensome or painful: "This music crept by me upon the waters,/Allaying both their fury and my passion/With its sweet air" (Shakespeare).
Alleviate connotes temporary lessening of distress without removal of its cause: "No arguments shall be wanting on my part that can alleviate so severe a misfortune" (Jane Austen).
To assuage is to soothe or make milder: assuaged his guilt by confessing to the crime.
Lighten signifies to make less heavy or oppressive: legislation that would lighten the taxpayer's burden.
Mitigate and palliate connote moderating the force or intensity of something that causes suffering: "I ... prayed to the Lord to mitigate a calamity" (John Galt). "Men turn to him in the hour of distress, as of all statesmen the most fitted to palliate it" (William E.H. Lecky).


Synonyms: religious, devout, pious
These adjectives mean having or showing a belief in and veneration for God or a divine power, especially as it is reflected in the practice of religion. Religious implies adherence to religion in both belief and practice: The cathedral at Chartres is an expression of the religious fervor of the Middle Ages.
Devout connotes ardent faith and sincere devotion: Devout Muslims observe Ramadan punctiliously.
Pious stresses dutiful, reverential discharge of religious duties: a pious woman who attends Mass every morning.


Synonyms: relinquish, yield, resign, abandon, surrender, cede, waive, renounce
These verbs mean letting something go or giving something up. Relinquish, the least specific, may connote regret: can't relinquish the idea.
Yield implies giving way, as to pressure, often in the hope that such action will be temporary: had to yield ground.
Resign suggests formal relinquishing (resigned their claim to my land) or acquiescence arising from hopelessness (resigned himself to forgoing his vacation). Abandon and surrender both imply no expectation of recovering what is given up; surrender also implies the operation of compulsion or force: abandoned all hope for a resolution; surrendered control of the company.
Cede connotes formal transfer, as of territory: ceded the province to the victorious nation.
Waive implies a voluntary decision to dispense with something, such as a right: waived all privileges.
To renounce is to relinquish formally and usually as a matter of principle: renounced worldly goods.


Synonyms: rely, trust, depend, reckon
These verbs share the meaning to place or have faith or confidence in someone or something. Rely implies complete confidence: "You are the only woman I can rely on to be interested in her" (John Galsworthy).
Trust stresses confidence arising from belief that is often based on inconclusive evidence: "We must try to trust one another. Stay and cooperate" (Jomo Kenyatta).
Depend implies confidence in the help or support of another: depends on friends for emotional support.
Reckon implies a sense of confident expectancy: "He reckons on finding a woman as big a fool as himself" (George Meredith).


Synonyms: remember, recall, recollect
These verbs mean to bring an image or a thought back to the mind: can't remember his name; recalling her kindness; recollected the events leading to the accident.
Antonym: forget


Synonyms: reparation, redress, amends, restitution, indemnity
These nouns refer to something given in compensation for loss, suffering, or damage. Reparation implies recompense given to one who has suffered at the hands of another: "reparation for our rights at home, and security against the like future violations" (William Pitt).
Redress involves setting an injustice right; the term may imply retaliation or punishment: "There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law" (Abraham Lincoln).
Amends usually implies the giving of satisfaction for a minor grievance or lesser injury: How can I make amends for losing my temper?
Restitution is the restoration of something taken illegally: "He attempted to enforce the restitution of the Roman lands and cities" (George P.R. James).
Indemnity implies repayment or reimbursement: Homeowners demanded indemnity for the damages caused by the riot.


Synonyms: repeat, iterate, reiterate, restate
These verbs mean to state again: repeated the warning; iterate a demand; reiterated the question; restated the obvious.


Synonyms: replace, supplant, supersede
These verbs mean to turn someone or something out and place another in his, her, or its stead. To replace is to be or to furnish an equivalent or substitute, especially for one that has been lost, depleted, worn out, or discharged: "A conspiracy was carefully engineered to replace the Directory by three Consuls" (H.G. Wells).
Supplant often suggests the use of intrigue or underhanded tactics to take another's place: "The rivaling poor Jones, and supplanting him in her affections, added another spur to his pursuit" (Henry Fielding).
To supersede is to replace one person or thing by another held to be more valuable or useful, or less antiquated: "In our island the Latin appears never to have superseded the old Gaelic speech" (Thomas Macaulay).


Synonyms: represent, delineate, depict, limn, picture, portray
These verbs mean to render or present a realistic image or likeness of: a statue representing a king; cave paintings that delineate hunters; a cartoon depicting a sea monster; the personality of a great leader limned in words; a landscape pictured in soft colors; a book portraying life in the Middle Ages.


Synonyms: resort, apply, go1, refer, turn
These verbs mean to repair to or fall back on someone or something in time of need: resorted to corporal punishment; apply to a bank for a loan; goes to her friends for comfort; referred to his notes to refresh his memory; turns to his parents for support. See Also Synonyms at makeshift.


Synonyms: responsible, answerable, liable, accountable, amenable
These adjectives share the meaning obliged to answer, as for one's actions, to an authority that may impose a penalty for failure. Responsible often implies the satisfactory performance of duties or the trustworthy care for or disposition of possessions: "I am responsible for the ship's safety" (Robert Louis Stevenson).
Answerable suggests a moral or legal responsibility subject to review by a higher authority: The court held the parents answerable for their minor child's acts of vandalism.
Liable may refer to a legal obligation, as to pay damages or to perform jury duty: Wage earners are liable to income tax.
Accountable especially emphasizes giving an account of one's discharge of a responsibility: "The liberal philosophy holds that enduring governments must be accountable to someone beside themselves" (Walter Lippmann).
Amenable implies being subject to the control of an authority and therefore the absence of complete autonomy: "There is no constitutional tribunal to which is amenable" (Alexander Hamilton). See Also Synonyms at reliable.


Synonyms: restrain, curb, check, bridle, inhibit
These verbs mean to hold back or keep under control. Restrain implies restriction or limitation, as on one's freedom of action: "a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another" (Thomas Jefferson).
To curb is to restrain as if with reins: "You might curb your magnanimity" (John Keats).
Check implies arresting or stopping, often suddenly or forcibly: "a light to guide, a rod/To check the erring" (William Wordsworth).
To bridle is often to hold in or govern one's emotions or passions: I tried with all my might to bridle my resentment.
Inhibit usually connotes a check on one's actions, thoughts, or emotions: A fear of strangers inhibited his ability to travel.


Synonyms: revere1, worship, venerate, adore, idolize
These verbs mean to regard with the deepest respect, deference, and esteem. Revere suggests awe coupled with profound honor: "At least one third of the population ... reveres every sort of holy man" (Rudyard Kipling).
Worship implies reverent love and homage rendered to God or a god: The ancient Egyptians worshiped a number of gods.
In a more general sense worship connotes an often uncritical devotion: "She had worshiped intellect" (Charles Kingsley).
Venerate connotes reverence accorded by virtue, especially of dignity or age: "I venerate the memory of my grandfather" (Horace Walpole).
To adore is to worship with deep, often rapturous love: The students adored their caring teacher.
Idolize implies worship like that accorded an object of religious devotion: He idolizes his wife.


Synonyms: reverse, invert, transpose
These verbs mean to change to the opposite position, direction, or course. Reverse implies a complete turning about to a contrary position: reversed the placement of the sofa and chairs.
To invert is basically to turn something upside down or inside out, but the term may imply placing something in a reverse order: inverted the glass; invert subject and verb to form an interrogative.
Transpose applies to altering position in a sequence by reversing or changing the order: often misspellsby transposing theand the


Synonyms: revive, restore, resuscitate, revivify
These verbs mean to give renewed well-being, vitality, or strength to: rains that revive lawns; an invalid restored by fresh air; resuscitating old hopes; a celebration that revivified our spirits.


Synonyms: rich, affluent, flush1, loaded, moneyed, wealthy
These adjectives mean having an abundant supply of money, property, or possessions of value: a rich executive; an affluent banker; a speculator flush with cash; not merely rich but loaded; moneyed heirs; wealthy corporations.
Antonym: poor


Synonyms: ridicule, mock, taunt1, twit, deride
These verbs refer to making another the butt of amusement or mirth. Ridicule implies purposeful disparagement: "My father discouraged me by ridiculing my performances" (Benjamin Franklin).
To mock is to poke fun at someone, often by mimicking and caricaturing speech or actions: "Seldom he smiles, and smiles in such a sort/As if he mock'd himself, and scorn'd his spirit" (Shakespeare).
Taunt suggests mocking, insulting, or scornful reproach: "taunting him with want of courage to leap into the great pit" (Daniel Defoe).
To twit is to taunt by calling attention to something embarrassing: "The schoolmaster was twitted about the lady who threw him over" (J.M. Barrie).
Deride implies scorn and contempt: "Was all the world in a conspiracy to deride his failure?" (Edith Wharton).


Synonyms: right, privilege, prerogative, perquisite, birthright
These nouns apply to something, such as a power or possession, to which one has an established claim. Right refers to a legally, morally, or traditionally just claim: "I'm a champion for the Rights of Woman" (Maria Edgeworth). "An unconditional right to say what one pleases about public affairs is what I consider to be the minimum guarantee of the First Amendment" (Hugo L. Black).
Privilege usually suggests a right not enjoyed by everyone: Use of the company jet was a privilege reserved for the top executives.
Prerogative denotes an exclusive right or privilege, as one based on custom, law, or office: It is my prerogative to change my mind.
A perquisite is a privilege or advantage accorded to one by virtue of one's position or the needs of one's employment: "The wardrobe of her niece was the perquisite of her " (Tobias Smollett).
A birthright is a right to which one is entitled by birth: Many view gainful employment as a birthright.


Synonyms: rise, ascend, climb, soar, tower, mount1
These verbs mean to move upward from a lower to a higher position. Rise has the widest range of application: We rose at dawn. The sun rises early in the summer. Prices rise and fall.
Ascend frequently suggests a gradual step-by-step rise: The plane took off and ascended steadily until it was out of sight.
Climb connotes steady, often effortful progress, as against gravity: "You climb up through the little grades and then get to the top" (John Updike).
Soar implies effortless ascent to a great height: A lone condor soared above the Andean peaks.
To tower is to attain a height or prominence exceeding one's surroundings: "the tall Lombardy poplar ... towering high above all other trees" (W.H. Hudson).
Mount connotes a progressive climb to a higher level: Our expenses mounted fearfully. See Also Synonyms at beginning, stem1.


Synonyms: rival, compete, vie
These verbs mean to seek to equal or surpass another. Rival is the most general: "His ambition led him to rival the career of Edmund Burke" (Henry Adams).
To compete is to contend with another or others to attain a goal, as a victory in a contest: Local hardware stores can't compete with discount outlets.
Vie, often interchangeable with compete, sometimes stresses the challenge implicit in rivalry: The top three students vied for the title of valedictorian.


Synonyms: room, elbowroom, latitude, leeway, margin, play, scope
These nouns denote adequate space or opportunity for freedom of movement or action: room for improvement; needed elbowroom to negotiate effectively; no latitude allowed in conduct; allowed the chef leeway in choosing the menu; no margin for error; imagination given full play; permitting their talents free scope.


Synonyms: rough, harsh, jagged, rugged, scabrous, uneven
These adjectives apply to what is not smooth but has a coarse, irregular surface. Rough describes something that to the sight or touch has inequalities, as projections or ridges: rough bark; rough, chapped hands.
Something harsh is unpleasantly rough, discordant, or grating: harsh burlap; a harsh voice.
Jagged refers to an edge or surface with irregular projections and indentations: a jagged piece of glass.
Rugged can apply to land surfaces characterized by irregular, often steep rises and slopes: rugged countryside.
Scabrous means rough and scaly to the touch: granular, scabrous skin.
Uneven describes lines or surfaces of which some parts are not level with others: uneven ground; uneven handwriting. See Also Synonyms at rude.


Synonyms: rude, crude, primitive, raw, rough
These adjectives mean marked by a lack of skill and finish: a rude hut; a crude drawing; primitive kitchen facilities; a raw wooden canoe; a rough sketch.


Synonyms: ruin, raze, demolish, destroy, wreck
These verbs mean to injure and deprive something—or, less often, someone—of usefulness, soundness, or value. Ruin usually implies irretrievable harm but not necessarily total destruction: "You will ruin no more lives as you ruined mine" (Arthur Conan Doyle).
Raze, demolish, and destroy can all imply reduction to ruins or even complete obliteration: "raze what was left of the city from the surface of the earth" (John Lothrop Motley). The prosecutor demolished the opposition's argument. "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness" (Allen Ginsberg).
To wreck is to ruin in or as if in a violent collision: "The Boers had just wrecked a British military train" (Arnold Bennett).
When wreck is used in referring to the ruination of a person or his or her hopes or reputation, it implies irreparable shattering: "Coleridge, poet and philosopher wrecked in a mist of opium" (Matthew Arnold).


Synonyms: rural, bucolic, rustic, pastoral
These adjectives all mean of or typical of the country as distinguished from the city. Rural applies to sparsely settled or agricultural country: "I do love quiet, rural England" (George Meredith).
Bucolic is often used pejoratively or facetiously of country people or their manners: "The keenest of bucolic minds felt a whispering awe at the sight of the gentry" (George Eliot).
Rustic frequently suggests a lack of sophistication or elegance, but it may also connote artless and pleasing simplicity: "some rustic phrases which I had learned at the farmer's house" (Jonathan Swift). The hiker slept in a charming, rustic cottage.
Pastoral, which evokes the image of shepherds, sheep, and verdant countryside, suggests serenity: The train passed through pastoral landscapes.


Synonyms: sad, melancholy, sorrowful, doleful, woebegone, desolate
These adjectives mean affected with or marked by unhappiness, as that caused by affliction. Sad is the most general: "Better by far you should forget and smile/Than that you should remember and be sad" (Christina Rossetti).
Melancholy can refer to lingering or habitual somberness or sadness: a melancholy poet's gloomy introspection.
Sorrowful applies to emotional pain as that resulting from loss: sorrowful mourners at the funeral.
Doleful describes what is mournful or morose: the doleful expression of a reprimanded child.
Woebegone suggests grief or wretchedness, especially as reflected in a person's appearance: "His sorrow . . . made him look . . . haggard and . . . woebegone" (George du Maurier).
Desolate applies to one that is beyond consolation: "No one is so accursed by fate,/No one so utterly desolate,/But some heart, though unknown,/Responds unto his own" (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow).


Synonyms: sarcastic, ironic, caustic, satirical, sardonic
These adjectives mean having or marked by a feeling of bitterness and a biting or cutting quality. Sarcastic suggests sharp taunting and ridicule that wounds: "a deserved reputation for sarcastic, acerbic and uninhibited polemics" (Burke Marshall).
Ironic implies a subtler form of mockery in which an intended meaning is conveyed obliquely: "a man of eccentric charm, ironic humor, and—above all—profound literary genius" (Jonathan Kirsch).
Caustic means corrosive and bitingly trenchant: "The caustic jokes ... deal with such diverse matters as political assassination, talk-show hosts, medical ethics" (Frank Rich).
Satirical implies exposure, especially of vice or folly, to ridicule: "on the surface a satirical look at commercial radio, but also a study of the misuse of telecommunications" (Richard Harrington).
Sardonic is associated with scorn, derision, mockery, and often cynicism: "He was proud, sardonic, harsh to inferiority of every description" (Charlotte Bront).


Synonyms: satisfy, answer, fill, fulfill, meet1
These verbs mean to supply fully or completely: satisfied all requirements; answered our needs; fills a purpose; fulfilled their aspirations; met her obligations.


Synonyms: save1, rescue, reclaim, redeem, deliver
These verbs mean freeing a person or thing from danger, evil, confinement, or servitude. Save is the most general: The smallpox vaccine has saved many lives. A police officer saved the tourist from being cheated.
Rescue usually implies saving from immediate harm or danger by direct action: rescue a rare manuscript from a fire.
Reclaim can mean to bring a person back, as from error to virtue or to right or proper conduct: "To reclaim me from this course of life was the sole cause of his journey to London" (Henry Fielding).
To redeem is to free someone from captivity or the consequences of sin or error; the term can imply the expenditure of money or effort: The price for redeeming the hostages was extortionate.
Deliver applies to liberating people from something such as misery, peril, error, or evil: "consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them" (George Washington).


Synonyms: saying, maxim, adage, saw2, motto, epigram, proverb, aphorism
These nouns refer to concise verbal expressions setting forth wisdom or a truth. A saying is an often repeated and familiar expression: a collection of philosophical sayings.
Maxim denotes particularly an expression of a general truth or a rule of conduct: "For a wise man, he seemed to me ... to be governed too much by general maxims" (Edmund Burke).
Adage applies to a saying that has gained credit through long use: a gift that gave no credence to the adage, "Good things come in small packages."
Saw often refers to a familiar saying that has become trite through frequent repetition: old saws that gave little comfort to the losing team.
A motto expresses the aims, character, or guiding principles of a person, group, or institution: "Exuberance over taste" is my motto.
An epigram is a witty expression, often paradoxical or satirical and neatly or brilliantly phrased: In his epigram Samuel Johnson called remarriage a "triumph of hope over experience."
Proverb refers to an old and popular saying that illustrates something such as a basic truth or a practical precept: "Slow and steady wins the race" is a proverb to live by.
Aphorism, denoting a concise expression of a truth or principle, implies depth of content and stylistic distinction: Few writers have coined more aphorisms than Benjamin Franklin.


Synonyms: scatter, disperse, dissipate, dispel
These verbs mean to cause a mass or aggregate to separate and go in different directions. Scatter refers to loose or haphazard distribution of components: "the scattered driftwood, bleached and dry" (Celia Laighton Thaxter).
Disperse implies the complete breaking up of the mass or aggregate: "only a few industrious Scots perhaps, who indeed are dispersed over the face of the whole earth" (George Chapman).
Dissipate suggests a reduction to nothing: "The main of life is composed ... of meteorous pleasures which dance before us and are dissipated" (Samuel Johnson).
Dispel suggests driving away or off by or as if by scattering: "But he ... with high words ... gently raised/Their fainting courage, and dispelled their fears" (John Milton).


Synonyms: scold, upbraid, berate, revile, vituperate, rail3
These verbs mean to reprimand or criticize angrily or vehemently. Scold implies reproof: parents who scolded their child for being rude.
Upbraid generally suggests a well-founded reproach, as one leveled by an authority: upbraided by the supervisor for habitual tardiness.
Berate suggests scolding or rebuking at length: an angry customer who berated the clerk.
Revile and vituperate especially stress the use of disparaging or abusive language: critics who reviled the novel as unsophisticated pulp. "The incensed priests . . . continued to raise their voices, vituperating each other in bad Latin" (Sir Walter Scott).
Rail suggests bitter, harsh, or denunciatory language: "Why rail at fate? The mischief is your own" (John Greenleaf Whittier).
Word History: A scold is not usually a poet and a scolding rarely sounds like poetry to the one being scolded, but it seems that the word scold has a poetic background. It is probable that scold, first recorded in Middle English in a work probably composed around 1150, has a Scandinavian source related to the Old Icelandic word skāld, "poet." Middle English scolde may in fact mean "a minstrel," but of that we are not sure. However, its Middle English meanings, "a ribald abusive person" and "a shrewish chiding woman," may be related to skāld, as shown by the senses of some of the Old Icelandic words derived from skāld. Old Icelandic skāldskapr, for example, meant "poetry" in a good sense but also "a libel in verse," while skāld-stng meant "a pole with imprecations or charms scratched on it." It would seem that libelous cursing verse was a noted part of at least some poets' productions and that this association with poets passed firmly along with the Scandinavian borrowing into English.


Synonyms: secret, stealthy, covert, clandestine, furtive, surreptitious, underhand
These adjectives mean deliberately hidden from view or knowledge. Secret is the most general: a desk with a secret compartment; secret negotiations.
Stealthy suggests quiet, cautious deceptiveness intended to escape notice: heard stealthy footsteps on the stairs.
Covert describes something that is concealed or disguised: protested covert actions undertaken by the CIA.
Clandestine implies stealth and secrecy for the concealment of an often illegal or improper purpose: clandestine intelligence operations.
Furtive suggests the slyness, shiftiness, and evasiveness of a thief: a menacing and furtive look to his eye.
Something surreptitious is stealthy, furtive, and often unseemly or unethical: the surreptitious mobilization of troops preparing for a sneak attack.
Underhand implies unfairness, deceit, or slyness as well as secrecy: achieved success by underhand methods.


Synonyms: see1, behold, note, notice, remark, espy, descry, observe, contemplate, survey, view, perceive, discern
These verbs refer to being or becoming visually or mentally aware of something. See, the most general, can mean merely to use the faculty of sight but more often implies recognition, understanding, or appreciation: "If I have seen further (than ... Descartes) it is by standing upon the shoulders of Giants" (Isaac Newton).
Behold implies gazing at or looking intently upon what is seen: "My heart leaps up when I behold/A rainbow in the sky" (William Wordsworth).
Note, notice, and remark suggest close, detailed observation, and note in particular implies making a careful, systematic mental recording: Be careful to note that we turn left at the church. I notice that you're out of sorts. "Their assemblies afforded me daily opportunities of remarking characters and manners" (Samuel Johnson).
Espy and descry both stress acuteness of sight that permits the detection of something distant or obscure: "espied the misspelled Latin word inletter" (Los Angeles Times). "the lighthouse, which can be descried from a distance" (Michael Strauss).
Observe emphasizes careful, closely directed attention: "I saw the pots ... and observed that they did not crack at all" (Daniel Defoe).
Contemplate implies looking attentively and thoughtfully: "It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants" (Charles Darwin).
Survey stresses comprehensive examination: "Strickland looked away and idly surveyed the ceiling" (W. Somerset Maugham).
View usually suggests examination with a particular purpose in mind or in a special way: The medical examiner viewed the victim's body.
Perceive and discern both imply not only visual recognition but also mental comprehension; perceive is especially associated with insight, and discern, with the ability to distinguish, discriminate, and make judgments: "I plainly perceivesome objections remain" (Edmund Burke). "Your sense of humor would discern the hollowness beneath all the pomp and ceremony" (Edna Ferber).


Synonyms: seem, appear, look
These verbs mean to present the appearance of being: seems angry; appears skeptical; looks happy.


Synonyms: send1, dispatch, forward, route, ship, transmit
These verbs mean to cause to go or be taken to a destination: sent the package by parcel post; dispatched a union representative to the factory; forwards the mail to their new address; routed the soldiers through New York; shipped his books to his dormitory; transmits money by cable.


Synonyms: sensuous, sensual, luxurious, voluptuous
These adjectives mean of, given to, or furnishing satisfaction of the senses. Sensuous usually applies to the senses involved in aesthetic enjoyment, as of art or music: "The sensuous joy from all things fair/His strenuous bent of soul repressed" (John Greenleaf Whittier).
Sensual more often applies to the physical senses or appetites, particularly those associated with sexual pleasure: "Of music Dr. Johnson used to say that it was the only sensual pleasure without vice" (William Seward).
Luxurious suggests a surrender to physical comfort leading to a delightful feeling of well-being: stayed in a luxurious, flower-filled suite with a crystal chandelier and thick oriental rugs.
Voluptuous principally implies abandoning oneself to pleasures, especially sensual pleasures: "Lucullus . . . returned to Rome to lounge away the remainder of his days in voluptuous magnificence" (J.A. Froude).


Synonyms: sentimental, bathetic, maudlin, mawkish, mushy, romantic, schmaltzy
These adjectives mean overly or insincerely emotional: a sentimental card; a bathetic novel; maudlin words of sympathy; mawkish sentiment; mushy effusiveness; a romantic adolescent; a schmaltzy song.


Synonyms: separate, divide, part, sever, sunder, divorce
These verbs mean to become or cause to become parted, disconnected, or disunited. Separate applies both to putting apart and to keeping apart: "In the darkness and confusion, the bands of these commanders became separated from each other" (Washington Irving).
Divide implies separation by or as if by cutting or splitting into parts or shares; the term often refers to separation into opposing or hostile groups: We divided the orange into segments. "'A house divided against itself cannot stand.' I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free" (Abraham Lincoln).
Part refers most often to the separation of closely associated persons or things: "Because ... nothing that God or Satan could inflict would have parted us" (Emily Bront).
Sever usually implies abruptness and force: "His head was nearly severed from his body" (H.G. Wells).
Sunder stresses violent tearing or wrenching apart: The country was sundered by civil war.
Divorce implies complete separation: "a priest and a soldier, two classes of men circumstantially divorced from the kind and homely ties of life" (Robert Louis Stevenson). See Also Synonyms at distinct.


Synonyms: series, succession, progression, sequence, chain, train, string
These nouns denote a number of things placed or occurring one after the other. Series refers to like, related, or identical things arranged or occurring in order: a series of days; a series of facts.
In a succession the elements follow each other, generally in order of time and without interruption: a succession of failures.
A progression reveals a definite pattern of advance: a geometric progression.
In a sequence elements are ordered in a way that indicates a causal, temporal, numerical, or logical relationship or a recurrent pattern: a natural sequence of ideas.
In a chain the elements are closely linked or connected: the chain of command; a chain of proof.
Train can apply to a procession or to a sequence of ideas or events: a train of mourners; my train of thought.
A string consists of similar or uniform elements likened to objects threaded on a long cord: a string of islands; a string of questions.


Synonyms: serious, sober, grave2, solemn, earnest1, sedate1, staid
These adjectives refer to manner, appearance, disposition, or acts marked by absorption in thought, pressing concerns, or significant work. Serious implies a concern with responsibility and work as opposed to play: serious students of music.
Sober emphasizes circumspection and self-restraint: "My sober mind was no longer intoxicated by the fumes of politics" (Edward Gibbon).
Grave suggests the dignity and somberness associated with weighty matters: "a quiet, grave man, busied in charts, exact in sums, master of the art of tactics" (Walter Bagehot).
Solemn often adds to grave the suggestion of impressiveness: the judge's solemn tone as she handed down her decision.
Earnest implies sincerity and intensity of purpose: disputants who showed an earnest desire to reach an equitable solution.
Sedate implies a composed, dignified manner: "One of those calm, quiet, sedate natures, to whom the temptations of turbulent nerves or vehement passions are things utterly incomprehensible" (Harriet Beecher Stowe).
Staid emphasizes dignity and an often strait-laced observance of propriety: "a grave and staid God-fearing man" (Tennyson).


Synonyms: severe, stern1, austere, ascetic, strict
These adjectives mean unsparing and exacting with respect to discipline or control. Severe implies adherence to rigorous standards or high principles and often suggests harshness: "Praise or blame has but a momentary effect on the man whose love of beauty in the abstract makes him a severe critic on his own works" (John Keats).
Stern suggests unyielding disposition, uncompromising resolution, or forbidding appearance or nature: "a man fatally stern and implacable" (George Meredith).
Austere connotes aloofness or lack of feeling or sympathy, and often rigid morality: Austere officers demand meticulous conformity with military regulations.
Ascetic suggests self-discipline and often renunciation of worldly pleasures for spiritual improvement: "Be systematically ascetic ... do ... something for no other reason than that you would rather not do it" (William James).
Strict means requiring or showing stringent observance of obligations, rules, or standards: "He could not be severe nor even passably strict" (W.H. Hudson).


Synonyms: shade, penumbra, shadow, umbra, umbrage
These nouns denote an area of comparative darkness resulting from the blocking of light rays: sitting in the shade; Earth's penumbra; in the shadow of the curtains; the umbra beyond the footlights; in the umbrage of a forest. See Also Synonyms at nuance.


Synonyms: shake, tremble, quake, quiver1, shiver1, shudder
These verbs mean to manifest involuntary vibratory movement. Shake is the most general: The floor shook when I walked heavily across the room.
Tremble implies quick, rather slight movement, as from excitement, weakness, or anger: The speaker trembled as he denounced his opponents.
Quake refers to more violent movement, as that caused by shock or upheaval: I was so scared that my legs began to quake.
Quiver suggests a slight, rapid, tremulous movement: "Her lip quivered like that of a child about to cry" (Booth Tarkington).
Shiver involves rapid trembling, as of a person experiencing chill: "as I in hoary winter night stood shivering in the snow" (Robert Southwell).
Shudder applies chiefly to convulsive shaking caused by fear, horror, or revulsion: "She starts like one that spies an adder/ . . . The fear whereof doth make him shake and shudder" (Shakespeare). See Also Synonyms at agitate, dismay.


Synonyms: shameless, brazen, barefaced, brash1, impudent, unblushing
These adjectives apply to that which defies social or moral proprieties and is marked by a bold lack of shame. Shameless implies a lack of modesty, sense of decency, or regard for others' rights or feelings: a shameless liar; a shameless accusation.
Brazen suggests flagrant, insolent audacity: a brazen impostor; brazen arrogance.
Barefaced specifies undisguised brazenness: a barefaced hypocrite; a barefaced lie.
Brash stresses impetuousness, lack of tact, and often crass indifference to consequences or to considerations of decency: a brash newcomer; brash demands.
Impudent suggests offensive boldness or effrontery: an impudent student; an impudent misrepresentation.
Unblushing implies an inappropriate lack of shame or embarrassment: an unblushing apologist; unblushing obsequiousness.


Synonyms: shapeless, amorphous, formless, unformed, unshaped
These adjectives mean having no distinct shape: a mass of shapeless slag; an amorphous cloud; an aggregate of formless particles; an unformed lump of clay; unshaped dough.
Antonym: shapely


Synonyms: sharp, keen1, acute
These adjectives all apply literally to fine edges, points, or tips. Figuratively they indicate mental alertness and clarity of comprehension. Sharp suggests quickness and astuteness: "a young man of sharp and active intellect" (John Henry Newman).
Keen implies clear-headedness and acuity: a journalist with a keen mind and quick wits.
Acute suggests penetrating perception or discernment: an acute observer of national politics.


Synonyms: shelter, cover, retreat, refuge, asylum, sanctuary
These nouns refer to places affording protection, as from danger, or to the state of being protected. Shelter usually implies a covered or enclosed area that protects temporarily, as from injury or attack: built a shelter out of pine and hemlock boughs.
Cover suggests something that conceals: traveled under cover of darkness.
Retreat applies chiefly to a secluded place to which one retires for meditation, peace, or privacy: a rural cabin that served as a weekend retreat.
Refuge suggests a place of escape from pursuit or from difficulties that beset one: "The great advantage of a hotel is that it's a refuge from home life" (George Bernard Shaw).
Asylum adds to refuge the idea of legal protection or of immunity from arrest: "O! receive the fugitive and prepare in time an asylum for mankind" (Thomas Paine).
Sanctuary denotes a sacred or inviolable place of refuge: political refugees finding sanctuary in a monastery.


Synonyms: shorten, abbreviate, abridge, curtail, truncate
These verbs mean to diminish the length, duration, or extent of by or as if by cutting: vices that will shorten your life; abbreviated the speech; abridging the citizens' rights; curtailed their visit; truncated the conversation.
Antonym: lengthen


Synonyms: shout, bawl, bellow, holler1, howl, roar, whoop, yell
These verbs mean to say with or make a loud strong cry: fans shouting their approval; bawled out orders; bellows with rage; hollered a warning; howling with pain; a crowd roaring its disapproval; children whooping at play; troops yelling as they attacked.


Synonyms: show, display, expose, parade, exhibit, flaunt
These verbs mean to present something to view. Show is the most general: "She hated to show her feelings" (John Galsworthy).
Display often suggests an attempt to present something to best advantage: The dealer spread the rug out to display the pattern.
Expose usually involves uncovering something or bringing it out from concealment: The excavation exposed a staggering number of artifacts.
The term can often imply revelation of something better left concealed: Your comment exposes your insensitivity.
Parade usually suggests a pretentious or boastful presentation: "He early discovered that, by parading his unhappiness before the multitude, he produced an immense sensation" (Thomas Macaulay).
Exhibit implies open presentation that invites inspection: "The works of art, by being publicly exhibited and offered for sale, are becoming articles of trade" (Prince Albert).
Flaunt implies an unabashed, prideful, often arrogant display: "Every great hostelry flaunted the flag of some foreign potentate" (John Dos Passos). See Also Synonyms at appear.


Synonyms: showy, flamboyant, ostentatious, pretentious, splashy
These adjectives mean marked by a striking, often excessively conspicuous display: a showy rhinestone bracelet; an entertainer's flamboyant personality; an ostentatious sable coat; a pretentious scholarly edition; a splashy advertising campaign.


Synonyms: shrewd, sagacious, astute, perspicacious
These adjectives mean having or showing keen awareness, sound judgment, and often resourcefulness, especially in practical matters. Shrewd suggests a sharp intelligence, hardheadness, and often an intuitive grasp of practical considerations: "He was too shrewd to go along with them upon a road which could lead only to their overthrow" (J.A. Froude).
Sagacious connotes prudence, discernment, and farsightedness: "He was observant and thoughtful, and given to asking sagacious questions" (John Galt).
Astute suggests shrewdness, especially with regard to one's own interests: An astute tenant always reads the small print in a lease.
Perspicacious implies penetration and clear-sightedness: She is much too perspicacious to be taken in by such a spurious argument. See Also Synonyms at clever.


Synonyms: shy1, bashful, diffident, modest, coy, demure
These adjectives mean not forward but marked by a retiring nature, reticence, or a reserve of manner. One who is shy draws back from others, either because of a withdrawn nature or out of timidity: "The poor man was shy and hated society" (George Bernard Shaw).
Bashful suggests self-consciousness or awkwardness in the presence of others: "I never laughed, being bashful./Lowering my head, I looked at the wall" (Ezra Pound).
Diffident implies lack of self-confidence: He was too diffident to express his opinion.
Modest is associated with an unassertive nature and absence of vanity or pretension: Despite her fame she remained a modest, unassuming person.
Coy usually implies feigned, often flirtatious shyness: "yielded with coy submission" (John Milton).
Demure often denotes an affected shyness or modesty: Her assistant nodded in agreement, flashing a demure smile.


Synonyms: sign, symbol, emblem, badge, mark1, token, symptom, note
These nouns denote an outward indication of the existence or presence of something not immediately evident. Sign is the most general: "The exile of Gaveston was the sign of the barons' triumph" (John R. Green).
Symbol and emblem often refer to something associated with and standing for, representing, or identifying something else: "There was One whose suffering changed an instrument of torture, degradation and shame, into a symbol of glory, honor, and immortal life" (Harriet Beecher Stowe). "a bed of sweet-scented lillies, the emblem of France" (Amy Steedman).
Badge usually refers to something that is worn as an insignia of membership, is an emblem of achievement, or is a characteristic sign: a sheriff's badge. "Sweet mercy is nobility's true badge" (Shakespeare).
Mark can refer to a visible trace or impression (a laundry mark) or to an indication of a distinctive trait or characteristic: Intolerance is the mark of a bigot.
Token usually refers to evidence or proof of something intangible: sent flowers as a token of her affection.
Symptom suggests outward evidence of a process or condition, especially an adverse condition: bad weather that showed no symptoms of improving anytime soon.
Note applies to the sign of a particular quality or feature: "the eternal note of sadness" (Matthew Arnold). See Also Synonyms at gesture.


Synonyms: silent, reticent, reserved, taciturn, laconic, secretive, uncommunicative, tightlipped
These adjectives describe people who are sparing with speech. Silent often implies a habitual disinclination to speak or to speak out: "The coroner was a very silent man" (Mary Roberts Rinehart).
The term may also mean refraining from speech, as out of fear or confusion: "The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he has the right to remain silent" (Earl Warren).
Reticent suggests a reluctance to share one's thoughts and feelings: "She had been shy and reticent with me, and now . . . she was telling me aloud the secrets of her inmost heart" (W.H. Hudson).
Reserved suggests aloofness and reticence: "a reserved man, whose inner life was intense and sufficient to him" (Arnold Bennett).
Taciturn implies unsociableness and a tendency to speak only when it is absolutely necessary: "At the Council board he was taciturn; and in the House of Lords he never opened his lips" (Thomas Macaulay).
Laconic denotes terseness or conciseness in expression, but when applied to people it often implies an unwillingness to use words: "Mountain dwellers and mountain lovers are a laconic tribe. They know the futility of words" (Edna Ferber).
Secretive implies a lack of openness about or even concealment of matters that could in all conscience be discussed: was secretive about my vacation plans.
Uncommunicative suggests a disposition to withhold opinions, feelings, or knowledge from others: an uncommunicative witness.
Tightlipped strongly implies a steadfast unwillingness to divulge information being sought: remained tightlipped when asked about her personal life. See Also Synonyms at still1.


Synonyms: sinister, baleful, malign
These adjectives apply to what is indicative of or threatens great harm, disaster, or evil. Sinister usually implies impending or lurking danger that makes its presence felt by ominous signs or portents: We heard a sinister laugh from behind the door.
Baleful intensifies the sense of menace; it suggests a deadly, virulent, or poisonous quality: The guard's baleful glare frightened the children.
Malign applies to what manifests an evil disposition, nature, influence, or intent: "The Devil . . . with jealous leer malign/Eyed them askance" (John Milton).


Synonyms: slant, incline, lean1, slope, tilt1, tip2
These verbs mean to depart or cause to depart from true vertical or horizontal: rays of light slanting through the window; inclined her head toward the speaker; leaned against the railing; a driveway that slopes downhill; tilted his hat at a rakish angle; tipped her chair against the wall.


Synonyms: sleek, glossy, satiny, silken, silky, slick
These adjectives mean having a smooth gleaming surface: sleek black fur; glossy auburn hair; satiny gardenia petals; silken butterfly wings; silky skin; slick otters.


Synonyms: slide, slip1, glide, coast, skid, slither
These verbs mean to move smoothly and continuously over or as if over a slippery surface. Slide usually implies rapid easy movement without loss of contact with the surface: coal that slid down a chute to the cellar.
Slip is most often applied to accidental sliding resulting in loss of balance or foothold: slipped on a patch of ice.
Glide refers to smooth, free-flowing, seemingly effortless movement: "four snakes gliding up and down a hollow" (Ralph Waldo Emerson).
Coast applies especially to downward movement resulting from the effects of gravity or momentum: The driver let the truck coast down the incline.
Skid implies an uncontrolled, often sideways sliding caused by a lack of traction: The bus skidded on wet pavement.
Slither can mean to slip and slide, as on an uneven surface, often with friction and noise: "The detached crystals slithered down the rock face" (H.G. Wells).
The word can also suggest the sinuous gliding motion of a reptile: An iguana slithered across the path.


Synonyms: sloppy, slovenly, unkempt, slipshod
These adjectives mean marked by an absence of due or proper care or attention. Sloppy evokes the idea of careless spilling, spotting, or splashing; it suggests slackness, untidiness, or diffuseness: a sloppy kitchen; sloppy dress. "I do not see how the sloppiest reasoner can evade that" (H.G. Wells).
Slovenly implies habitual negligence and a lack of system or thoroughness: a slovenly appearance; slovenly inaccuracies.
Unkempt stresses dishevelment resulting from a neglectful lack of proper maintenance: "an unwashed brow, an unkempt head of hair" (Sir Walter Scott).
Slipshod suggests inattention to detail and a general absence of meticulousness: "the new owners' camp . . . a slipshod and slovenly affair, tent half stretched, dishes unwashed" (Jack London).


Synonyms: slow, dilatory, leisurely, laggard, deliberate
These adjectives mean taking more time than is usual or necessary. Slow is the least specific: a slow bus; a slow heartbeat; slow to anger.
Dilatory implies lack of promptness caused by delay, procrastination, or indifference: paid a late fee because I was dilatory in paying the bill.
Leisurely suggests a relaxed lack of haste: went for a leisurely walk by the river.
Laggard implies hanging back or falling behind: "the horses' laggard pace" (Rudyard Kipling).
Deliberate suggests a lack of hurry traceable especially to caution or careful consideration, as of consequences: worked in a systematic and deliberate manner.


Synonyms: small, diminutive, little, miniature, minuscule, minute2, petite, tiny, wee
These adjectives mean being notably below the average in size or magnitude: a small house; diminutive in stature; little hands; a miniature camera; a minuscule amount of rain; minute errors; a petite figure; tiny feet; a wee puppy.
Antonym: large


Synonyms: smell, aroma, odor, scent
These nouns denote a quality that can be perceived by the olfactory sense: the smell of gas; the aroma of frying onions; hospital odors; the scent of pine needles.


Synonyms: social, companionable, convivial, gregarious, sociable
These adjectives mean inclined to, marked by, or passed in friendly companionship with others: a friendly social gathering; a companionable pet; a cheery, convivial disposition; a gregarious person who avoids solitude; a sociable conversation.


Synonyms: solitude, isolation, seclusion, retirement
These nouns denote the state of being alone. Solitude implies the absence of all others: "The worst solitude is to be destitute of sincere friendship" (Francis Bacon). "I love tranquil solitude" (Percy Bysshe Shelley).
Isolation emphasizes total separation or detachment from others: "the isolation of Crusoe, depicted by Defoe's genius" (Winston Churchill).
Seclusion suggests removal, though not necessarily complete inaccessibility; the term often connotes a withdrawal from social contact: enjoyed my walk in the seclusion of the woods.
Retirement suggests a withdrawal or retreat from active life, as for serenity or privacy: "an elegant sufficiency, content,/Retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books" (James Thomson).


Synonyms: solve, decipher, resolve, unravel
These verbs mean to clear up or explain something puzzling or unintelligible: solve a riddle; can't decipher your handwriting; resolve a problem; unravel a mystery.


Synonyms: sour, acid, acidulous, dry, tart1
These adjectives mean having a taste like that produced by an acid: sour cider; acid, unripe grapes; an acidulous tomato; dry white wine; tart cherries.


Synonyms: spacious, ample, capacious, commodious, roomy
These adjectives mean having or affording a generous amount of space: a spacious apartment; an ample kitchen; a capacious purse; a commodious harbor; roomy pockets.


Synonyms: sparing, frugal, thrifty, economical
These adjectives mean exercising or reflecting care in the use of resources, such as money. Sparing stresses restraint, as in expenditure: a quiet librarian who was sparing of words.
Frugal implies self-denial and abstention from luxury: a frugal diet; a frugal monk.
Thrifty suggests industry, care, and diligence in conserving means: grew up during the Depression and learned to be thrifty.
Economical emphasizes prudence, skillful management, and the avoidance of waste: an economical shopper; an economical use of energy.


Synonyms: speak, talk, converse1, discourse
These verbs mean to express one's thoughts by uttering words. Speak and talk, often interchangeable, are the most general: He ate without once speaking to his companion. "On an occasion of this kind it becomes more than a moral duty to speak one's mind. It becomes a pleasure" (Oscar Wilde). I want to talk with you about vacation plans. "Let's talk sense to the American people" (Adlai E. Stevenson).
Converse stresses interchange of thoughts and ideas: "With thee conversing I forget all time" (John Milton).
Discourse usually refers to formal, extended speech: "striding through the city, stick in hand, discoursing spontaneously on the writings of Hazlitt" (Manchester Guardian Weekly).
Word History: Because English is a Germanic language, first-year German produces many moments of recognition for English speakers and several puzzles. For example, when we learn the verb sprechen, sprach, gesprochen, "to speak," and the noun Sprache, "speech, language," we wonder whether we lost the r or the Germans put one in. Sounds are more often lost than added in language change, and this is the case here. In Old English the verb was sprecan, the noun sprǣc, both with an r as in German (and in the other Germanic languages). The r-less forms began to appear in the south of England and became common in the 11th century; the forms with r disappeared completely by the middle of the 12th. A similar loss of r after a consonant and before a vowel occurred in the Middle English noun prang and its variant pronge, "severe pain, sharp pain." Pronge survives today as prong (of a pitchfork, for example). The plural of prang appears in a poem composed about 1400 as pangus, "sharp stabs of pain," and survives today as pang, "sharp, stabbing pain."


Synonyms: speed, hurry, hasten, quicken, accelerate, precipitate
These verbs mean to proceed or cause to proceed rapidly or more rapidly. Speed refers to swift motion or action: The train sped through the countryside. Postal workers labored overtime to speed delivery of the holiday mail.
Hurry implies a markedly faster rate than usual, often with concomitant confusion or commotion: Hurry, or you'll miss the plane! Don't let anyone hurry you into making a decision.
Hasten suggests urgency and often eager or rash swiftness: My doctor hastened to reassure me that the tests were negative. His off-color jokes only hastened his dismissal.
Quicken and especially accelerate refer to increase in rate of activity, growth, or progress: The skater's breathing quickened as he neared the end of his routine. The runner quickened her pace as she drew near the finish line. The economic expansion has continued but is no longer accelerating. Heat greatly accelerates the deterioration of perishable foods.
Precipitate implies causing something to happen abruptly or prematurely: Mention of the issue precipitated an angry outburst during the meeting. See Also Synonyms at haste.
Word History: We learn from the fable of the tortoise and the hare that the race is not always to the swift, but etymology teaches us that speed and success are closely related. The Old English word spēd, from which our word speed is descended, originally meant "prosperity, successful outcome, ability, or quickness." A corresponding verb, spēdan, in Modern English the verb speed, meant "to succeed, prosper, or achieve a goal"; and an adjective, spēdig, the ancestor of our word speedy, meant "wealthy, powerful." Except for archaic uses the words today relate only to the general sense of "velocity." The meaning "success" is retained chiefly in the compound Godspeed, a noun formed from the phrase meaning "May God cause you to prosper."


Synonyms: spend, disburse, expend
These verbs mean to pay or give out money or an equivalent: spent eight dollars for a movie ticket; disbursed funds from the account; expended all her energy teaching the class.
Antonym: save1


Synonyms: spontaneous, impulsive, instinctive, involuntary, automatic
These adjectives mean acting, reacting, or happening without apparent forethought or prompting. Spontaneous applies to what arises naturally rather than resulting from external constraint or stimulus: "The highest and best form of efficiency is the spontaneous cooperation of a free people" (Woodrow Wilson).
Impulsive refers to the operation of a sudden urge or feeling not governed by reason: Buying a car was an impulsive act that he immediately regretted.
Instinctive implies behavior that is a natural consequence of membership in a species. The term also applies to what reflects or comes about as a result of a natural inclination or innate impulse: Helping people in an emergency seems as instinctive as breathing.
Involuntary refers to what is not subject to the control of the will: "People drew in their breath with involuntary surprise and suspense" (Harriet Beecher Stowe).
Automatic implies an unvarying mechanical response or reaction: She accepted the subpoena with an automatic "thank you."


Synonyms: stain, blot1, brand, stigma, taint
These nouns denote a mark of discredit or disgrace, as on one's good name: a stain on his honor; the blot of treason; the brand of cowardice; the stigma of ignominious defeat; the taint of vice.


Synonyms: standard, benchmark, criterion, gauge, measure, touchstone, yardstick
These nouns denote a point of reference against which individuals are compared and evaluated: a book that is a standard of literary excellence; a painting that is a benchmark of quality; criteria for hiring an excellent teacher; behavior that is a gauge of self-control; donations from the public, a measure of the importance of the arts; the program's success, a touchstone of cooperation in the community; farm failures, a yardstick of federal banking policy. See Also Synonyms at ideal.


Synonyms: state, condition, situation, status
These nouns denote the mode of being or form of existence of a person or thing: an old factory in a state of disrepair; a jogger in healthy condition; a police officer responding to a dangerous situation; the uncertain status of the peace negotiations.


Synonyms: stay1, remain, wait, abide, tarry1, linger, sojourn
These verbs mean to continue to be in a given place. Stay is the least specific, though it can also suggest that the person involved is a guest or visitor: "Must you go? Can't you stay?" (Charles J. Vaughan).
Remain often implies continuing or being left after others have gone: I remained at the end of the meeting to talk to the speaker.
Wait suggests remaining in readiness, anticipation, or expectation: "Your father is waiting for me to take a walk with him" (Booth Tarkington).
Abide implies continuing for a lengthy period: "Abide with me" (Henry Francis Lyte).
Tarry and linger both imply a delayed departure, but linger more strongly suggests reluctance to leave: "She was not anxious but puzzled that her husband tarried" (Eden Phillpotts). "I alone sit lingering here" (Henry Vaughan).
To sojourn is to reside temporarily in a place: "He was sojourning athotel in Bond Street" (Anthony Trollope). See Also Synonyms at defer1.


Synonyms: steal, purloin, filch, snitch, pilfer, cop2, hook, swipe, lift, pinch
These verbs mean to take another's property wrongfully, often surreptitiously. Steal is the most general: stole a car; steals research from colleagues.
To purloin is to make off with something, often in a breach of trust: purloined the key to his cousin's safe-deposit box.
Filch and snitch often suggest that what is stolen is of little value, while pilfer sometimes connotes theft of or in small quantities: filched towels from the hotel; snitch a cookie; pilfered fruit from the farmer.
Cop, hook, and swipe frequently connote quick, furtive snatching or seizing: copped a necklace from the counter; planning to hook a fur coat; swiped a magazine from the rack.
To lift is to take something surreptitiously and keep it for oneself: a pickpocket who lifts wallets on the subway.
Pinch suggests stealing something by or as if by picking it up between the thumb and the fingers: pinched a dollar from his mother's purse.


Synonyms: steep1, abrupt, precipitous, sheer2
These adjectives mean so sharply inclined as to be almost perpendicular: steep cliffs; an abrupt drop-off; precipitous hills; a sheer descent.


Synonyms: stem1, arise, derive, emanate, flow, issue, originate, proceed, rise, spring
These verbs mean to come forth or come into being: customs that stem from the past; misery that arose from war; rights that derive from citizenship; disapproval that emanated from the teacher; happiness that flows from their friendship; prejudice that issues from fear; a proposal that originated in the Congress; a mistake that proceeded from carelessness; rebellion that rises in the provinces; new industries that spring up.


Synonyms: stench, fetor, malodor, reek, stink
These nouns denote a penetrating, objectionable odor: the stench of burning rubber; the fetor of polluted waters; the malodor of diesel fumes; the reek of stale sweat; a stink of decayed flesh.


Synonyms: stiff, rigid, inflexible, inelastic, tense1
These adjectives describe what is very firm and does not easily bend or give way. Stiff, the least specific, refers to what can be flexed only with difficulty (a brush with stiff bristles); with reference to persons it often suggests a lack of ease, cold formality, or fixity, as of purpose: "stiff in opinions" (John Dryden).
Rigid and inflexible apply to what cannot be bent without damage or deformation (a table of rigid plastic; an inflexible knife blade); figuratively they describe what does not relent or yield: "under the dictates of a rigid disciplinarian" (Thomas B. Aldrich). "In religion the law is written, and inflexible, never to do evil" (Oliver Goldsmith).
Inelastic refers largely to what will not stretch and spring back without marked physical change: inelastic construction materials.
Tense means stretched tight and figuratively applies to what is marked by tautness or strain: "that tense moment of expectation" (Arnold Bennett).


Synonyms: still1, quiet, silent, noiseless, soundless
These adjectives mean marked by or making no sound, noise, or movement. Still implies lack of motion or disturbance and often connotes rest or tranquillity: "But after tempest . . . /There came a day as still as heaven" (Tennyson).
Quiet suggests the absence of bustle, tumult, or agitation: "life being very short, and the quiet hours of it few" (John Ruskin).
Silent can suggest a profound hush: "I like the silent church before the service begins" (Ralph Waldo Emerson).
Noiseless and soundless imply the absence of disturbing sound: "th' inaudible and noiseless foot of time" (Shakespeare). "the soundless footsteps on the grass" (John Galsworthy).


Synonyms: stoop1, condescend, deign
These verbs mean to descend to a level considered inappropriate to one's dignity: stooped to contemptible methods to realize their ambitions; won't condescend to acknowledge his rival's greeting; didn't even deign to reply.


Synonyms: stop, cease, desist, discontinue, halt1, quit
These verbs mean to bring or come to an end: stop arguing; ceased crying; desist from complaining; discontinued the treatment; halting the convoy; quit laughing.
Antonym: start


Synonyms: strange, peculiar, odd, queer, quaint, outlandish, singular, eccentric, curious
These adjectives describe what deviates from the usual or customary. Strange refers especially to what is unfamiliar, unknown, or inexplicable: All summer I traveled through strange lands.
Peculiar particularly describes what is distinct from all others: Cloves have a peculiar aromatic odor.
Something that is odd or queer fails to accord with what is ordinary, usual, or expected; both terms can suggest strangeness or peculiarity: I find it odd that his name is never mentioned. "Now, my suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than wesuppose" (J.B.S. Haldane).
Quaint refers to pleasing or old-fashioned peculiarity: "the quaint streets of New Orleans, that most foreign of American cities" (Winston Churchill).
Outlandish suggests alien or bizarre strangeness: The partygoers wore outlandish costumes.
Singular describes what is unique or unparalleled; the term often suggests a quality that arouses curiosity or wonder: Such poise is singular in one so young.
Eccentric refers particularly to what is strange and departs strikingly from the conventional: His musical compositions were innovative but eccentric.
Curious suggests strangeness that excites interest: Americans living abroad often acquire a curious hybrid accent. See Also Synonyms at foreign.


Synonyms: streak, strain2, vein
These nouns denote an inherent, often unexpected quality, as in a person's character: a streak of humor; a strain of melancholy; a vein of stubbornness.


Synonyms: strength, power, might1, energy, force
These nouns denote the capacity to act or work effectively. Strength refers especially to physical, mental, or moral robustness or vigor: "enough work to do, and strength enough to do the work" (Rudyard Kipling).
Power is the ability to do something and especially to produce an effect: "I do not think the United States would come to an end if we lost our power to declare an Act of Congress void" (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.)
Might often implies abundant or extraordinary power: "He could defend the island against the whole might of the German Air Force" (Winston S. Churchill).
Energy refers especially to a latent source of power: "The same energy of character which renders a man a daring villain would have rendered him useful to society, had that society been well organized" (Mary Wollstonecraft).
Force is the application of power or strength: "the overthrow of our institutions by force and violence" (Charles Evans Hughes).


Synonyms: subject, matter, topic, theme
These nouns denote the principal idea or point of a speech, a piece of writing, or an artistic work. Subject is the most general: "Well, honor is the subject of my story" (Shakespeare).
Matter refers to the material that is the object of thought or discourse: "This distinction seems to me to go to the root of the matter" (William James).
A topic is a subject of discussion, argument, or conversation: "They would talk of . . . fashionable topics, such as pictures, taste, Shakespeare" (Oliver Goldsmith).
Theme refers especially to an idea, a point of view, or a perception that is developed and expanded on in a work of art: "To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme" (Herman Melville). See Also Synonyms at citizen, dependent.


Synonyms: substance, burden2, core, gist, pith, purport
These nouns denote the essential import or significance of something spoken or written: the substance of his complaint; the burden of the President's speech; the core of an article; the gist of her argument; the pith of an essay; the purport of a document.


Synonyms: sufficient, adequate, enough
These adjectives mean being what is needed without being in excess: has sufficient income to retire comfortably; bought an adequate supply of food; drew enough water to fill the tub.
Antonym: insufficient


Synonyms: suggest, imply, hint, intimate2, insinuate
These verbs mean to convey thoughts or ideas by indirection. Suggest refers to the calling of something to mind as the result of an association of ideas: "his erect and careless attitude suggesting assurance and power" (Joseph Conrad).
To imply is to suggest a thought or an idea by letting it be inferred from something else, such as a statement, that is more explicit: The effusive praise the professor heaped on one of the students seemed to imply disapproval of the rest.
Hint refers to an oblique or covert suggestion that often contains clues: My imagination supplied the explanation you only hinted at.
Intimate applies to indirect, subtle expression that often reflects discretion, tact, or reserve: She intimated that her neighbors were having marital problems.
To insinuate is to suggest something, usually something unpleasant, in a covert, sly, and underhanded manner: The columnist insinuated that the candidate raised money unethically.


Synonyms: summit, peak1, pinnacle, acme, apex, zenith, climax
These nouns all mean the highest point. Summit denotes the highest level attainable: "Thishad been the summit of Mr. Bertram's ambition" (Sir Walter Scott).
Peak usually refers to the uppermost point: "It was the peak of summer in the Berkshires" (Saul Bellow).
Pinnacle denotes a towering height, as of achievement: The articulation of the theory of relativity catapulted Einstein to the pinnacle of his profession.
Acme refers to an ultimate point, as of perfection: The artist's talents were at their acme when this work was created.
Apex is the culminating point: The military regime represented the apex of oppression and intimidation.
Zenith is the point of highest achievement, most complete development, or greatest power: "Chivalry was then in its zenith" (Henry Hallam).
Climax refers to the point of greatest strength, effect, or intensity that marks the endpoint of an ascending process: The government's collapse was the climax of a series of constitutional crises.


Synonyms: superfluous, excess, extra, spare, supernumerary, surplus
These adjectives mean being more than is needed, desired, required, or appropriate: delete superfluous words; trying to lose excess weight; found some extra change on the dresser; sleeping in the spare room; supernumerary ornamentation; distributed surplus food to the needy.


Synonyms: supervise, boss1, overlook, oversee, superintend
These verbs mean to have the direction and oversight of the performance of others: supervised a team of investigators; bossed a construction crew; overlooks farm hands; overseeing plumbers and electricians; superintend a household staff.


Synonyms: support, uphold, back1, advocate, champion
These verbs mean to give aid or encouragement to a person or cause. Support is the most general: "the policy of Cromwell, who supported the growing power of France against the declining power of Spain" (William E.H. Lecky).
To uphold is to maintain or affirm in the face of a challenge or strong opposition: "The Declaration of Right upheld the principle of hereditary monarchy" (Edmund Burke).
Back suggests material or moral support intended to contribute to or assure success: The important medical research was backed by the federal government.
Advocate implies verbal support, often in the form of pleading or arguing: Scientists advocate a reduction in saturated fats in the human diet.
To champion is to fight for one that is under attack or is unable to act in its own behalf: "championed the government and defended the system of taxation" (Samuel Chew).


Synonyms: supposed, conjectural, hypothetical, putative, reputed, suppositious, supposititious
These adjectives mean put forth or accepted as being true on inconclusive grounds: the supposed cause of inflation; conjectural criticism; the hypothetical site of a lost culture; a foundling's putative father; the reputed author of the article; suppositious reconstructions of dead languages; supposititious hypotheses.
Antonym: certain


Synonyms: sure, certain, confident, positive
These adjectives mean feeling or showing no doubt. Sure and certain are frequently used interchangeably; sure, however, is the more subjective term, whereas certain may imply belief based on experience or evidence: "Never teach a child anything of which you are not yourself sure" (John Ruskin). "In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes" (Benjamin Franklin).
Confident suggests assurance founded on faith or reliance in oneself or in others: The senator is confident of reelection.
Positive suggests full, emphatic certainty: The prosecutor had positive proof of the defendant's guilt. See Also Synonyms at certain.


Synonyms: surprise, astonish, amaze, astound, dumbfound, flabbergast
These verbs mean to affect a person strongly as being unexpected or unusual. To surprise is to fill with often sudden wonder or disbelief as being unanticipated or out of the ordinary: "Never tell peopleto do things. Tell themto do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity" (George S. Patton).
Astonish suggests overwhelming surprise: The sight of such an enormous crowd astonished us.
Amaze implies astonishment and often bewilderment: The violinist's virtuosity has amazed audiences all over the world.
Astound connotes shock, as from something unprecedented in one's experience: We were astounded at the beauty of the mountains.
Dumbfound adds to astound the suggestion of perplexity and often speechlessness: His question dumbfounded me, and I could not respond.
Flabbergast is used as a more colorful equivalent of astound, astonish, or amaze: "The aldermen ... were ... flabbergasted; they were speechless from bewilderment" (Benjamin Disraeli).


Synonyms: surrender, submission, capitulation
These nouns denote the act of giving up one's person, one's possessions, or people under one's command to the authority, power, or control of another. Surrender is the most general: "No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted" (Ulysses S. Grant).
Submission stresses the subordination of the side that has yielded: "Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission" (George Washington).
Capitulation implies surrender under specific prearranged conditions: Lack of food and ammunition forced the capitulation of the rebels. See Also Synonyms at relinquish.


Synonyms: surround, circle, compass, encircle, encompass, environ, gird1, girdle, ring1
These verbs mean to lie around and bound on all sides: Suburbs surround the city. A crown circled the king's head. Fog compassed the mountain peak. A belt encircled her waist. A lake encompassed the island. The desert environed the oases. A deep moat girds the castle. Flower gardens girdled the bird bath. Guests ringed the coffee table.


Synonyms: swerve, depart, deviate, digress, diverge, stray, veer1
These verbs mean to turn away from a straight or prescribed course: a gaze that never swerved; won't depart from family traditions; deviated from the original plan; digressed from the main topic; opinions that diverged; strays from the truth; a conversation that veered away from sensitive issues.


Synonyms: swing, oscillate, sway, rock2, vibrate, fluctuate, undulate, waver
These verbs mean to move back and forth, up and down, or to and fro: Swing usually applies to arclike movement of something attached at one extremity and free at the other: The ship's lanterns swung violently in the raging storm.
Oscillate literally refers to a steady back-and-forth motion, as that of a pendulum; figuratively, it denotes vacillation, as between conflicting purposes: "a king ... oscillating between fear of Rome and desire of independence" (Walter Besant).
Sway suggests the movement of something unsteady, light, or flexible: "thousands of the little yellow blossoms all swaying to the light wind" (W.H. Hudson).
To rock is to swing gently or rhythmically or sway or tilt violently: "The ruins of the ancient church seemed actually to rock and threaten to fall" (Sir Walter Scott).
Vibrate implies quick periodic oscillations; it can also suggest trembling, pulsating, or quivering: "Music, when soft voices die,/Vibrates in the memory" (Percy Bysshe Shelley).
Fluctuate implies fairly constant alternating change: "Prices fluctuated violently from the irregularity of the crops" (Lesley B. Simpson).
Undulate refers to smooth wavelike movement: "gleaming seaweed that curls and undulates with the tide" (Willa Cather).
Waver suggests unsteady, uncertain movement: A police officer stopped the driver who was wavering from lane to lane.


Synonyms: tact, address, diplomacy, savoir-faire
These nouns denote the ability to deal with others with skill, sensitivity, and finesse. Tact implies propriety and the ability to speak or act unoffensively: "He had . . . a tact that would preserve him from flagrant error in any society" (Francis Parkman).
Address suggests deftness and grace in social situations: "With the charms of beauty she combined the address of an accomplished intriguer" (Charles Merivale).
Diplomacy implies adroit management of difficult situations: Diffusing the confrontation required delicate diplomacy.
Savoir-faire involves knowing the right or graceful thing to say or do: The hosts set the shy visitor at ease with their savoir-faire.


Synonyms: tardy, behindhand, late, overdue
These adjectives mean not arriving, occurring, acting, or done at the scheduled, expected, or usual time: tardy in making a dental appointment; behindhand with her car payments; late for the plane; an overdue bus.
Antonym: prompt


Synonyms: task, job1, chore, stint1, assignment
These nouns denote a piece of work that one must do. A task is a well-defined responsibility that is usually imposed by another and that may be burdensome: I stayed at work late to finish the task at hand.
Job often suggests a specific short-term undertaking: "did little jobs about the house with skill" (W.H. Auden).
Chore generally denotes a minor, routine, or odd job: The farmer's morning chores included milking the cows.
Stint refers to a person's prescribed share of work: Her stint as a lifeguard usually consumes three hours a day.
Assignment generally denotes a task allotted by a person in authority: His homework assignment involved writing an essay.


Synonyms: taste, flavor, relish, savor, tang1
These nouns denote a quality that can be perceived by the taste buds on the tongue: the salty taste of anchovies; the pungent flavor of garlic; the zesty relish of the salsa; the savor of rich chocolate; the fresh tang of lemonade.


Synonyms: teach, instruct, educate, train, school1, discipline, drill1
These verbs mean to impart knowledge or skill. Teach is the most widely applicable: taught the child to draw; taught literature at the college.
Instruct usually suggests methodical teaching: instructed the undergraduates in music theory.
Educate often implies formal instruction but especially stresses the development of innate capacities: "We are educated by others ... and this cultivation, mingling with our innate disposition, is the soil in which our desires, passions, and motives grow" (Mary Shelley).
Train suggests concentration on particular skills intended to fit a person for a desired role: trained the vocational students to be computer technicians.
School often implies an arduous learning process: schooled the youngster to play the viola.
Discipline usually refers to the teaching of control, especially self-control: disciplined myself to exercise every day.
Drill implies rigorous instruction or training, often by repetition of a routine: drilled the students by having them recite the multiplication tables.