I will answer this question after I face east

Lesson: orient versus orientate

 

Which word is correct, orient or orientate? The answer is actually simple. They’re both correct . . . technically.

 

Etymology

Orient and orientate both originated from the same French verb orienter (which came from the Latin word oriens, meaning “east”), Like the English words, orienter means “to position.” One definition literally means “to face east,” toward Asia. Similarly, disorient and disorientate come from the French word désorienter, which means “to lose one’s bearings” and literally “to turn from the east.”

Which word to use

Though both words are acceptable, I suggest using the shorter words: orient, oriented, disorient, disoriented. It’s a good rule of thumb that the shorter word is usually the best option. Otherwise, when you choose the longer option, it’s easy to fall into the trap of sounding pompous. We’re all familiar with business writing or term papers or cover letters where the writer tried to “smart up” the writing, and it just comes off as being convoluted.

Fun fact: We know orient is also a reference to the eastern part of the world. But, did you know there is a similar word for the western part of the world? It’s occident, which comes the Latin word occidens, which means “sunset” and “west.”

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2 thoughts on “I will answer this question after I face east

  1. I actually knew both words orient (east) and occident (west). In the Philippines, there areas such as Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental in the Visayas region (middle of the country). 🙂

    I tend to lean towards the shorter version of the word orient instead of orientate since that is how I learned it in school (interestingly enough in a place called Pearl of the Orient Seas).

  2. To me orientate belongs in the same category as conversate, which I’ve unfortunately heard several times in the past year or two. I think that the nouns orientation and conversation influence people to say orientate and conversate.

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