Peruse: it may not mean what you think!


This week's word is: Peruse and it may not mean what you think it does.  I was surfing the net last week and found a few articles on the meaning of this word which suggested that it doesn't mean what most poeple think it does.  Most people use the term to mean glancing through something quickly without paying much attention to detail, but according these articles and to Dictionary.com, peruse means "to read with thoroughness or care, examine in detail."
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I decided to look it up and what I found both confused and explained the issue.  Here's what I mean.  Merriam Webster defines peruse as:
"1a: to examine or consider with attention and in detail : study b: to look over or through in a casual or cursory manner   2: read; especially: to read over in an attentive or leisurely manner"
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Hold on there!  Did you catch that?  Merriam seems to contradict herself, doesn't she?  Merriam Webster, herself, defines cursory as "rapidly and often superficially performed or produced : hasty. "  While hasty suggests rushing through something such that you don't get all of the details,  casual and leisurely suggests that you take your time.  Clear as mud, right?  So which is it, Merriam?
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Now that you know, how should you use the word?
1. You may continue to use it the way most people understand it to mean (to gloss over, glance at).
2. You may enlighten others with your vast knowledge of vocabulary and come off sounding like a know it all.
Either way, you may never be sure what others mean or how they will take your meaning.  I suggest you use another word and avoid the confusion.  What do you think?  Share your thoughts here.
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6 comments


  • Beth

    Well, Merriam does confuse the issue! I thought “peruse” meant to look something over carefully and that’s how I use it. I think I’ll delete the word from my vocabulary. lol


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  • Laura

    It took me time to read all the tips, but I clearly loved the post. It proved to be very helpful to me and I’m certain to all of the commenters here!


  • JoJo

    Yes, but the others are usually also correct. This one doesn’t make any kind of sense. It’s the exact opposite of what they just said it means. It’s no wonder we use it this way! lol


  • Carla

    The first definition is always the main and more correct usage. I’ve always known about that “attention and detail” stuff. However, I think the second definition is provided to cover the way it’s more commonly used. When I peruse something, I give it more than a casual and leisurely look-see. :) I just think they are covering their bases, but it IS confusing to have two contradictory definitions, one following the other!


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