Make Your Editor Cry: Abhorrent vs. Aberrant

Make Your Editor Cry:  Abhorrent vs. Aberrant

Wearing a pink feather boa and sequined purple top hat to a funeral? Aberrant. Stealing the corpse? Abhorrent.

Abhorrent means disgusting, horrible, or detestable . When you abhor something, you loathe it. Its Latin root means, “to shudder, recoil,” which is what you do when faced with something abhorrent like a film featuring Jude Law, or someone abhorrent like a serial killer, many of our elected officials, or someone who talks in theaters.

If you can remember that the err in aberrant indicates an error and that something horrific is abhorrent, your word choice will be neither aberrant nor abhorrent.

Aberrant (no “h” and “e/a” instead of “o”/e) means unusual, strange, or straying from a defined path. It’s not necessarily nasty. It’s from the Latin, aberrantem, “wandering away.” It’s related to err, a mistake, through Old French and Latin. If a behavior is aberrant, it’s just not normal.

Examples:

Incorrect:

The other party-goers viewed his avoidance of alcohol as abhorrent behavior.

I found her blatant bigotry aberrant.

Correct:

The other party-goers viewed his avoidance of alcohol as aberrant behavior.

I found her blatant bigotry abhorrent.

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