Make Your Editor Cry: Incredible vs. Incredulous

Make Your Editor Cry: Incredible vs. Incredulous

Incredible describes something you can’t believe because it’s so right, like an incredible double rainbow. Incredulous describes how you feel when you can’t believe something because it’s so wrong, like when someone tells you there is no God.

If it’s hard to believe and hard to wrap your head around, it just might be incredible. A hurricane in Kansas would certainly be incredible, but the kids making their own beds every day for a month counts too. If you believe clever advertising, we live in an incredible world: Your local team had an incredible comeback. The latest movie is an incredible adventure. Wash your hair with this new shampoo and get an incredible shine.

It’s enough to make you incredulous, or skeptical.

Incredible isn’t just an empty modifier for some new product. The adjective means what it describes is hard to believe. People use it to mean it’s so awesome you can’t even believe it. It’s usually something good, but bad stuff, like destructive floods or wildfires, can be hard to believe, too.

Incredulous describes people, and their reactions to things they can’t believe. If you are incredulous that means you can’t or won’t believe something. If you tell people about those outer space aliens you met the other night, they’ll probably give you an incredulous look. Incredulous describes someone unable to believe something, usually because that someone is super skeptical. Put your fists on your hips and say “no way!”when you’re incredulous. It comes from the Latin incredulous, meaning not believing.

Something incredible is not credible; it’s unbelievable but true. People, rainbows, and other things like mouthwash can be described as incredible, but only people can feel incredulous, or unbelieving and maybe a little irked.

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