Misuse of 'nauseous' makes me sick!

Misuse of 'nauseous' makes me sick!

Sometimes those of us who find words worth defending must admit that a word is being lost to us. I am sorry to admit that such a time has come for me, but I rise in defense of this marvelous word before we lose it completely.

The dying word is ‘nauseous.’ According to my faithful dictionary, the word nauseous means “causing nausea; specifically, a) sickening b) disgusting.”

So “feeling nauseous” isn’t feeling seasick or otherwise sick to your stomach — it’s feeling disgusting.

But we’re about to lose that distinction. The perfectly good word “nauseating” doesn’t get used enough for the sickness of the stomach, seasickness, disgust or loathing  (as the dictionary politely puts it) and “nauseous” gets used too often in its place.

The best way I was taught to remember the difference is that you get nauseated by something you ate.

Being a victim of the feeling isn’t the best time to remember the definitions, so it may take practice… but go ahead, defend a word! If you see a disgusting situation, try saying “That’s nauseous!”

But as Ogden Nash might have put it,

When you use nauseous, be cautious!

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Filed under: Words Worth Defending


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  • This article made me queasy--with delight. Love the title!

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    Thanks! I hope delight's the only cause.

  • Who knew? When you use a word incorrectly for most of your life, the proper usage sounds strange!

  • In reply to folkloric:

    That's right, folkoric! But isn't it great to get the usage right and save the idea?

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