usage vs use


[yoo-sij, -zij]  Show IPA



a customary way of doing something; a custom or practice:the usages of the last 50 years.

the customary manner in which a language or a form of alanguage is spoken or written: English usage; agrammar based on usage rather than on arbitrary notions ofcorrectness.

a particular instance of this: a usage borrowed from french.
Word Origin & History


c.1300, “established practice, custom,” from Anglo-Fr. and O.Fr.usage  “custom, habit, experience,” from us,  from L. usus  “use,custom” (see use).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Legal Dictionary

Main Entry: us·age 
Pronunciation: 'yü-sij, -zij 
Function: noun 
 an habitual or uniform practice esp. in an area or trade —compareCUSTOM

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law, © 1996 Merriam-Webster, Inc.


[v. yooz or, for past tense form of 9, yoost; n. yoos]  Show IPAverb, used, us·ing, noun

–verb (used with object)


to employ for some purpose; put into service; make use of:to use a knife.

to avail oneself of; apply to one’s own purposes: to usethe facilities.

to expend or consume in use: We have used themoney provided.
Word Origin & History


mid-13c., from O.Fr. user  “use, employ, practice,” from V.L. *usare “use,” frequentative form of pp. stem of L. uti  “to use,” in Old L.oeti  “use, employ, exercise, perform,” of unknown origin. ReplacedO.E. brucan  (see brook (v.)). Used  “second-hand” is recorded from1590s. User  is recorded from 1935 in the narcotics sense, 1967 inthe computer sense. User-friendly  (1977) is said in some sourcesto have been coined by software designer Harlan Crowder as earlyas 1972. Verbal phrase used to  “formerly did or was” (as in I usedto love her ) represents a construction attested from c.1300, andcommon from c.1400, but now surviving only in past tense form.The pronunciation is affected by the t-  of to .

early 13c., from O.Fr. us , from L. usus  “use, custom, skill, habit,”from pp. stem of uti  (see use (v.)). Useful  is recorded from 1590s;useless  is first attested 1590s.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

September 26, 2001


Bob Hemus wrote:

When and why did usage replace use? Is there a difference between the definitions?

The nouns usage and use are related in origin and overlap to some extent in their definitions.

Usage generally refers to �a habit, habitual use, established practice, or custom’: “Laws,..corrected, altered, and amended by acts of parliament and common usage” (Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1768). And usage has a more specialized meaning when it refers to �the customary manner in which a language or form of a language is spoken or written’. Random House Webster’s dictionaries record new usages and give clear guidance on many usage issues. (However, we can talk about language use as distinct from language usage: A dictionary illustrates the correct use of words, shows new uses of existing words, and records when a word first came into use.)

Use generally means �the act of using something, or the fact of being used’: “the use of testimony in court.” It can also mean �a way of using or of being used’, or �a purpose for which something is used’: “He showed us the proper use of the tool; The tool has many different uses.” The word use also has the specific sense of �a distinctive form of religious ritual or liturgical observance’: “the use of the Catholic Church; ecclesiastical uses.”

Sometimes use is substituted for usage in the meaning of �a habit or custom; established practice’: “Long use and experience hath found out many things commodious for man’s life” (Sir Thomas More, Utopia).

More often, usage is substituted for use, probably because it sounds more impressive. In these cases it commonly means �a way of using or being used’: “The packages were damaged because of rough usage during transit.” But it can also mean �the act of using or fact of being used’. Here’s an example from Tennyson’s Ancient Sage: “Nor thou be rageful, like a handled bee, And lose thy life by usage of thy sting.” Wilson Follett, teacher, writer, and editor, had this opinion in the 1960’s: “Substituting �usage’ for �use’ when the meaning is usefulness, wear, or employment shows the speaker’s dubious liking for unnecessary syllables. Phrases like �a graph of subway usage’ and �a course in computer usage’ are stately to no purpose.” Despite Follett’s opinion, this use ofusage has become accepted usage through long and continued use!


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