Open main menu

Reverent and reverentialEdit

(Responding to a request on my talk page to look into the difference.) The two words seem to be mostly synonymous. Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage claims there is a difference in that reverent is always positive whereas reverential can also apply to reverence that is artificial ("mock" or "unctuous") or that is being mocked; Fowler claims that reverential collocates more often with tone, whisper, biography etc and that this is suggestive of that distinction, but he seems to be mistaken, because reverent tone is actually slightly more common at Ngrams, and reverent whisper is far more common despite Fowler saying it doesn't occur at all. It's possible to look at citations of "reverent tone" and "reverential tone" and imagine the difference in meaning Fowler describes, but I don't know that it's really there. Merriam-Webster gives reverential a second sense it doesn't give reverent, of "inspiring reverence", but I haven't thought of any examples ("reverential god", for example, turns up only chaff). implies a difference when it says "pilgrimage is a reverential act, performed by reverent people", but reverent act is also attested, equally commonly (although reverent people is indeed markedly more common than reverential people). Century has several additional senses for both words, which however either don't seem distinct or don't seem attested (e.g. Century says reverent means "strong, undiluted" in reference to liquors). - -sche (discuss) 22:30, 14 October 2018 (UTC)

Return to "reverent" page.