Verbage vs. Verbiage: What’s The Difference?

Learning languages can be a really exciting way to learn about a different culture, its country, and its people.  However, language can also pose several challenges due to the fact that languages often do not follow their own rules.  Anyone who has ever studied a second or even third language can attest to the fact that grammatical rules can be the most difficult part to learn.  From complicated verb tenses to noun declensions that cover both singular, plural, gender, and case, to the lists of pronouns that older languages like Latin supply…in short, grammar is difficult.

English is widely considered to be one of the most difficult languages to learn just based on the fact that it tends to struggle with following most of its own rules.  Part of the reason for this is that English borrows (or just completely steals) most of its grammar from other languages.  English is an etymological mashup of several different languages which causes several common grammar mistakes and misspellings.

One thing that makes English especially difficult to learn is the fact that English often employs homonyms, which are words that sound the same but have different meanings.  Also, different parts of speech, like nouns, adjectives, and adverbs, are often derived from one another, making the process of learning English very complicated.

Part of what contributes to English being such a difficult language to learn is that words can have different meanings and be the exact same word, or sometimes words that sound the same have completely different meanings, thus making learning English a very complicated process.

Let’s explore the words verbage and verbiage, learn their correct spellings, what they mean, and how to use them in their proper context.

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Definitions of Verbage and Verbiage

The first step to learning any word for the first time before you try to incorporate it into your vocabulary is to actually understand what the word means.  Learning the definitions of certain words is an excellent way to begin to use them yourself.  According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the word verbage is actually not listed, nor is it the proper spelling of any word in English.  However, it is used sometimes infrequently in a sort of colloquial or slang context.  The word verbage, at its root, is a combination of the words verbiage and garbage, and is used to describe when someone’s style of writing or talking is garbage and involves an excess of words. Other forms of the word include verbosity and verbose. 

On the other hand, the correct word verbiage is in fact listed in the Merriam Webster, and the first definition is as follows: “an overabundance of wordage usually of little or obscure content”, the second definition is “the manner of expressing oneself in words”.  Essentially, the word is a description of the way someone talks, writes, or otherwise communicates verbally. The use of verbiage may have a negative connotation if it involves an excess or words or redundancy, but it’s not necessarily negative according to Dictionary.com.

According to a Thesaurus, synonyms include floridity, long-windedness, and prolixity. Antonyms include conciseness. For example, there is a concise military verbiage that you have to use in that field rather than an abundance of words. 

Is It Just a Spelling Error?

So any time you see a word that is not listed in the dictionary, your first thought may be to write it off as a spelling error.  In this case, that might be your best bet.  The word verbage does not seem to have any real widespread use or meaning, and that is due in part to the fact that it is slightly insulting in nature.  Referring to someone’s method of communication and preferred diction as garbage is really not something that most people have to stoop to in everyday conversation, and as such, the word is not widely recognized.

However, that does not completely invalidate the word verbage altogether, and that is due to the fact that language is entirely driven by culture.  Any word that becomes popular enough, sees widespread use, and has an acceptable and widespread spelling will eventually become “acceptable” and worthy of being included in the dictionary.  Take the word selfie for example: one hundred years ago, the word selfie would have never even crossed anyone’s mind, but now it is in dictionaries all over the globe.

What Part of Speech Is Verbiage?

Another good step to take when trying to learn a new word is to figure out what part of speech it is.  Ask yourself where the word would fit into a sentence.  In English, the primary parts of speech are nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, and prepositions.  Learning these well opens lots of doors in terms of what you can actually handle when it comes to learning new words.

The word verbiage is listed as a noun in almost every dictionary.  Even though it is a descriptive noun that describes a very specific concept like someone’s method of communication, it is not an adjective because it can exist on its own with a verb.  

Etymology and History: Where Did Verbage and Verbiage Come From?

Learning a word’s history can be like opening a window into the past.  The etymology of most words in English actually reveals why things are so complicated in this language, and that is because most of English has actually been derived from a plethora of other languages.  The majority of words in modern English have gotten their roots in Western European languages by way of more ancient languages such as Latin and Greek.  

This word is no exception.  According to EtymOnline, the word verbiage comes from the French word “verbiage”, meaning wordiness, which in turn was derived from the ancient Latin word “verbum”, meaning word.  French and Latin share a lot of common grammatical concepts, but that still does somewhat explain why the word itself causes so much confusion even today.  

Example Sentences in Context: Verbage and Verbiage

Here are some brief examples with the correct spelling and use of words in context:

  • His verbiage was quite confusing, and I do not think he is a very good communicator.
  • I understood him quite clearly, because his verbiage and diction were so well enunciated.

In Summary

At the end of the day, your audience is the most important factor in all communication in the English language.  Once you can read an audience, you will never pick the wrong words ever again.  Good luck with this word of the day!

Sources:

  1. https://thewordcounter.com/blog-common-grammar-mistakes/
  2. https://thewordcounter.com/is-vs-are/ 
  3. https://www.grammarly.com/blog/what-is-verbiage/
  4. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/verbiage 
  5. https://thewordcounter.com/midnight-and-noon/  
  6. https://www.etymonline.com/word/verbiage#etymonline_v_4716