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Word Fact: What’s the Difference Between Adverse and Averse?

chalkboard, averse, adverse

The adjectives adverse and averse are related both etymologically and semantically, each having opposition as a central sense. Both come from the Latin root vert- meaning “to turn.” In Latin the word adversus meant “turned toward” and “hostile” and is a direct root of adverse. Averse, on the other hand, emerges from the Latin word aversus, which meant “turned away.”

Today adverse is rarely used to describe people but rather of effects or events, and it usually conveys a sense of hostility or harmfulness: adverse reviews; adverse winds; adverse trends in the economy.

Averse describes people and means “feeling opposed or disinclined.” It often occurs idiomatically with a negative to convey the opposite meaning “willing or agreeable,” and is not interchangeable with adverse in these contexts: We are not averse to holding another meeting. Averse is usually followed by to, and in older use occasionally by from. The related noun is aversion: He has an aversion to pickles.

According to Google’s nGram, the use of averse has been falling consistently since the early 1800s, while adverse has generally risen. Which do you use more often?

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18 Comments

  1. Susan -  January 3, 2015 - 7:06 pm

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    Reply
    • jamlech -  February 9, 2015 - 11:23 pm

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      Reply
  2. gth -  December 8, 2014 - 6:13 pm

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    Reply
  3. ahakim -  December 7, 2014 - 4:08 pm

    helpful in knowing how to use them

    Reply
  4. Mongezi -  December 5, 2014 - 4:09 am

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    Reply
  5. Jeneil Marice -  December 4, 2014 - 9:00 pm

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  6. wanzala -  December 3, 2014 - 9:07 am

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    Reply
  7. Mr. Magdy -  December 3, 2014 - 1:27 am

    To be averse to something is to have feelings against it, to be disinclined or opposed towards it. Averse can take the preposition to as well as from and usually describes an attitude. To be adverse to something (the only preposition it takes) is to be turned in an opposite direction to that thing or acting against it. Adverse also means ‘opposing or detrimental to one’s interests’ and usually refers to things, not people. A good way to remember the difference is that the prefix of averse is ab, or away and the prefix of adverse is ad, meaning towards. Examples of each are: I am averse to watching a lot of television. / We are dealing with adverse circumstances.

    Reply
    • Berita Otieno -  January 13, 2015 - 3:13 pm

      (Y)

      Reply
    • AWAnderson -  February 10, 2015 - 5:17 am

      Adverse may not often be used when referring to people, but its noun form, adversary, is.

      Reply
  8. Hamzah -  December 1, 2014 - 2:46 am

    More than Useful & helpful.

    Reply
  9. Adejobi Mascot -  November 29, 2014 - 8:28 pm

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    Reply
  10. Curvin Khaneni -  November 29, 2014 - 8:19 pm

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  12. Hemachandra -  November 27, 2014 - 9:00 pm

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    Reply
  13. Oni -  November 21, 2014 - 7:02 am

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    Reply
    • Winnie -  November 24, 2014 - 7:47 am

      Have learnt alot. Thanks.

      Reply

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