Writing for Business

Dec 3 2012   3:26PM GMT

Devote vs. devout

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore


Which is correct?
Ray Bradbury was a _______ Luddite but he allowed Fahrenheit 451 to be produced as an eBook — although it was only because his publishers refused to resign him without his consent to digital rights.
a. devout
b. devote

Answer: a.

This one popped up somewhere online the other day and I wondered, first, if it was just a typo. But when I started thinking about it, it occurred to me that this is a fairly tricky distinction. If you didn’t know better, “devote” could seem to be the correct word, a variation on “devoted.” It’s not, though — although one meaning of “devout” is “devoted.” So you could say you were a devoted Luddite and it would mean the same thing. You just can’t say you’re a devote Luddite.

I wondered how common “devote” was in the place of “devout,” and whether it might vary in terms of different religions or other things people can be devoted to.

Time for another Google poll:

devote Christian: 95,700; devout Christian: 1,730,000
devote Muslim: 42,900; devout Muslim: 691,000
devote Jew: 10,900; devout Jew: 378,000
devote atheist: 6,220; devout atheist: 75,000
devote Hindu: 5,900; devout Hindu: 124,000
devote Buddhist: 4,380; devout Buddhist: 94,800
devote Luddite: 9; devout Luddite: 607

Paul Torday discussed the late and lamented Ray Bradbury’s reluctant bow to the inevitability of digital formats.

Paul Brians covers devout vs. devote in his Common Errors in English Usage.

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

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