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5 comments on this post.
  1. donna:

    Even E.B. White, after reciting the standard “rule” about nauseous/nauseated in Strunk & White’s revered Elements of Style (1979), lapsed into using “nauseating” rather than “nauseous” elsewhere in his own book.

    What’s wrong with using “nauseating” instead of “nasueous”? I thought the beef was between “naseous” and “nauseated”.

  2. seamstress:

    donna wrote:
    What’s wrong with using “nauseating” instead of “nauseous”?

    Nothing. If you are not proclaiming that “nauseous” is the word to use when meaning “causing nausea”, that is…

  3. Mary Elliott:

    Nauseous had two accepted meanings early on, causing nausea, and later, experiencing nausea. Then writers decided to disambiguate nauseous, seemingly creating nauseated for the latter definition of nauseous and using nauseous exclusively with its first definition. Therefore when there was no need for nauseous to continue to mean “affected with nausea” the intention was the have its second definition erased in time thru common usage and then no longer carry the meaning at all. By enforcing this usage rule it should have happened. However, people still used it by its second definition and its second definition did not become obsolete. The problem comes when the ones that had been taught by those strict rules suck with them, as though nauseous had never had its second definition. So sadly it didn’t stop teachers from preferring the disambiguating method of using the two word separately and not allowing nauseous to hold its second meaning. They taught that it had no second meaning so that’s what many people believe today. It’s the same reason we improperly, yet acceptably, say “aren’t I?” and longer have a proper negative conjugation for am. (It was ain’t, by the way. Formed this way so as not to create another unwanted vowel sound that would be produce from the two bilabials(“m” and “n”) preceding the “t”.) Here are the words and their definitions with dates (and reference cites) to confirm the basis of it.

    1604, “inclined to nausea, easily made queasy,” from nausea (q.v.). Sense of “causing nausea or squeamishness” is attested from 1612. (

    [of nauseous] The Oxford English Dictionary lists the meaning “inclined to sickness or nausea; squeamish” in 1613 (your cite, and several others I can’t seem to find which cite it was now, of course!)

    And the point…
    1640, “to feel sick, to become affected with nausea,” from pp. stem of L. nauseare, see nausea. In its early life it also had transitive senses of “to reject (food, etc.) with a feeling of nausea” (1646) and “to create a loathing in” (1654). Careful writers use nauseated for “sick at the stomach” and reserve nauseous (q.v.) for “sickening to contemplate.” (

  4. pamela:

    thank you for the essay on the usage of nauseating versus nauseous.

  5. John Murray:

    Thank you for your nauseating (or is nauseous?) essay on the usage of nauseating versus nauseous. It left me completely nauseated. Exasperated too!

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