Mar 1, 2010

WORD OF THE WEEK: Assume vs. Presume

Summary: Some words are so close in spelling and meaning that it's hard to differentiate when to use which. Today's Word of the Week example teaches you how to distinguish between assume and presume properly.

I assume you know the subtle difference between the two words assume and presume. So, don't presume I'm going to tell you that difference in today's Word of the Week post. ... Oh, okay. Just this once ....

If you figured out that one takes the basis of (probable) facts into consideration, while the other is based on blind guesswork, you're right! But which is which?

Here are their definitions and etymologies:

Assume (Eh - SOOM) - (verb) To suppose; to take for granted as true; also to take on or receive, as in to assume another's debts; to feign or pretend, as in to assume an air of confidence. Assume comes from two Latin words, ad and sumere, as in to consume. It entered the Middle English language at some point in the 15th century.

Presume (preh - ZOOM) - (verb) To take for granted or imply; to expect or assume with confidence; also to go beyond what is right or proper. It comes from the Anglo-French word presumer, which is derived from the Latin words prae and sumere, meaning to take. Presume entered into English in the 14th century.

Yes, the definitions are incredibly similar. But it's presume that supposes on some basis of fact or logic—even if that logic is distorted or just plain wrong. You'd be right to presume that I'll be teaching you more vocabulary concepts every Monday in these blog posts. But if you presume the posts will compare and contrast words regularly, I'll be sorry to disappoint you. And if you assume I'll teach words alphabetically from this point forward, you're just going to make an a-s-s out of u and me. (I presumed you were waiting for that one!)

Want more tips on understanding language differences or special word usages? A great source is

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