Commonly Confused Words: Adverse, Averse

February 27, 2017

Some people fail to realize adverse and averse are separate words. The pair sound so similar that people hear one and assume there isn’t another word with a different meaning. While the words share a similar sort of connotation, their usages are quite distinct.

 Their Meanings

Adverse: unfortunate, in opposition to, preventing success, harmful. Adverse refers to things or effects. Generally, harmful could be swapped out with adverse.

Averse: feeling a strong dislike or opposition to something. Averse refers to how people feel about something.

Their Usage And Some Examples

Adverse:

✔  The adverse weather prevented us from completing construction on the bridge on time.
—Harmful weather is preventing success, so adverse is right.

𝗫  I am adverse to dancing in the rain.
—This usage is wrong because the speaker is trying to describe how they feel about an activity.

Averse:

✔  I am averse to waiting in long lines at the airport.
—This usage is right because averse describes how someone feels about waiting in long lines at the airport.

𝗫  The averse effects of the study proved that the new medicine should not be used.
—This usage is wrong because averse is referring to a thing (effects) and not how someone feels.

Their Pasts

The etymology behind this pair of commonly confused words is somewhat boring. Essentially, their original meanings have undergone very, very little change.

Adverse: The meaning is more or less the same. It used to mean “contrary, opposing.”
Averse: Again, the original meaning is very similar to the modern meaning. The idea of “turning away from” was the main meaning of averse.

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