'Predominately' Makes Purists 'Ant'sy

Rob Kyff on

Q: Why do some people use the adverb "predominately" instead of "predominantly"? Is this an accepted usage? I saw "predominately" used in an academic journal article that I was reading just today. -- Ronnie Stutes, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

A: Cancel your subscription! Just kidding.

"Predominately" is what linguists call a "needless variant" -- a word that starts out as a misrendering of another word yet soon gains common usage.

The correct word is "predominantly," but some folks mistakenly attach "ly" to the verb "predominate" to form "predominately." It doesn't help matters that "predominantly" and "predominately" sound so similar when spoken.

Even respected publications occasionally slip. The New York Times recently reported that President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines delivered "a speech that focused his ire on the Roman Catholic Church -- a powerful political foil in this predominately Catholic country."

Some usage guides will tell you that "predominately" is an acceptable alternative to "predominantly." Ignore them. Using "predominately," while understandable and forgivable, smacks of carelessness and imprecision.

Q. Can you please explain the difference between "uninterested" and "disinterested"? I think there is a distinction. To wit, I am "uninterested" in the cricket scores from Queensland (I don't care about and do not follow cricket); however, if I were a judge, I would be "disinterested" in the cases before the bench (in the sense of unbiased, neutral). -- David Anson, Bradenton, Florida


A. Not interested in Australian cricket scores!? My stars! Then I won't even bother to share the exciting news that the Tasmanian Tigers defeated the Queensland Bulls by six wickets in a recent playoff game.

As for "uninterested" and "disinterested," you're completely right. An uninterested observer of a cricket match would take no interest in the match (unless, of course, a kangaroo bounded across the pitch), while a disinterested observer might take great interest in the match but would be neutral or impartial about its outcome.

As usage expert Bryan Garner points out, this distinct meaning of "disinterested" is worth preserving because it conveys a nuance expressed by no other word. "A disinterested observer," he explains, "is not merely 'impartial,' but has nothing to gain from taking a stand on the issue in question."

So a judge should indeed be both interested and disinterested -- unless, of course, it's a kangaroo court.


Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Connecticut, invites your language sightings. Send your reports of misuse and abuse, as well as examples of good writing, via email to or by regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Copyright 2019 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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