Regardless Versus Irregardless

Irregardless first appeared in print in 1912 as an item in the American Dialectal Dictionary and later in the 1923 Literacy Digest article "Is There Such a Word as Irregardless in the English Language?"

The Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage felt so strongly about lawyers using the correct term that the editor listed regardless and irregardless. The dictionary clearly explains the correct usage for both of these words. Regardless (=without regard to) should not be used for despite (=in spite of). E.g., "The appellants voted to reject the plan, reiterating the grounds for their suit against Martin; regardless of [read "despite’] the appellants vote, the plan was approved by two-thirds of the creditors voting for the plan." Irregardless is a "semiliterate word formed from irrespective and regardless that should long ago have been stamped out." Irregardless is common enough in speech in the U.S. that it has found its way into judicial opinions. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Chief Justice William Rehnquist "upbraided a lawyer who used irregardless, saying: "I feel bound to inform you there is no word irregardless in the English language. The word is regardless. Linguistic Fastidiousness is no less important in oral than written argument."

The American English Usage Dictionary based on Fowler’s Modern English Usage briefly chastens the word irregardless. Nicholson says the word seldom gets in print, but is "occasionally heard in speech from people who should know better." She strongly suggests that the readers use the word regardless in its place.

The Encyclopedic Dictionary of English Usage states that irregardless is an "incorrect form of regardless." The correct form, regardless, is an adjective and should be used with the word "of".

The Concise Dictionary of American Grammar and Usage compactly states that irregardless is a "faulty mixed construction made from irrespective and regardless."

The Reader’s Digest Success With Words: A Guide to the American Language defines irregardless as a "nonstandard or humorous usage." Another Reader’s Digest word book Write Better, Speaker Better, states categorically, "There is no such word as irregardless . . . The usage writer offers judgments and recommendations, and behind statements that such words as irregardless, normalcy, or hopefully ‘don’t exist,’ you must always understand an implication that in the writer’s opinion they should not exist because they are bad English." Mr. Davies recommendation is: "Don’t say or write irregardless unless you don’t care what your audience may think."

The third edition of the American Heritage Dictionary lists both regardless and irregardless. It states that regardless is an adverb that means "in spite of everything, anyway: continues to work regardless. As an adjective, it means "heedless; unmindful." Regardless of is a preposition that means in spite of, with no heed to: freedom for all, regardless of race or creed. Irregardless is listed as a Non-Standard adverb and gives one of American Heritage Dictionary’s famous USAGE NOTES:

The label Non-Standard does only approximate justice to the status of IRREGARDLESS. More precisely, it is a form that many people mistakenly believe to be a correct usage in formal style but that in fact has no legitimate antecedents in either standard or nonstandard varieties. (The word was likely coined from a blend of irrespective and regardless.) Perhaps this is why critics have sometimes insisted that there is "no such word" as irregardless, a charge they would not level at a bona fide non-standard word such as ain’t, which has an ancient genealogy.

Irregardless is one of those words that is either used naturally without a person realizing he has used or heard it. Or–When the word irregardless is used in speech or is used in writing, the hearer or reader wants to gouge out the tongue of the user. Even Windows 97 highlights irregardless as a usage problem and suggests regardless instead. The consensus is do not use irregardless unless you do not care about what others think about you. If you do care what others think about you, use regardless in your speech and writing. However, the status of irregardless may be changing. This word is less that 100 years old, but seems to be gaining popularity, even among the educated. Irregardless is appearing in speech and print more frequently. Maybe this is one of those words that some of us will just have to get used to hearing, IRREGARDLESS of how we feel about it.

compiled by Janis McKinney








Works Cited

A Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary. Vol. II. Burchfield: Oxford. 1976.

P.371. (for history of irregardless)

American Heritage Dictionary. 3rd ed. Boston: Houghton. 1992. P. 953, 1519.

Concise Dictionary of American Grammar and Usage. New York: Philosophical

Library. 1955. P. 122.

Davies, Peter. Success With Words: A Guide to the American Language New

York: Reader’s Digest. 1983. P.326.

Garner, Bryan A. A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage. New York: Oxford. 1987.

P. 313-14, 469.

Mager, M. Encyclopedic Dictionary of English Usage. New Jersey: Prentice. 1974.

Nicholson, Margaret. American-English Usage. New York: Oxford. 1957. P. 290-1.