‘Peruse’ Doesn’t Mean What Many People Think

Daven Hiskey 10
Look CloselyToday I found out ‘peruse’ doesn’t mean what many people think it means.

It turns out, “peruse” does not mean “to skim” or “to glance through” or “read quickly” or the like, as it is often used.  It actually means quite the opposite of that, meaning “to read thoroughly or carefully” or “examine carefully at great length”.

This meaning comes from the commonly accepted origin of “peruse”, which was from the combination of the words “per” and “use”; this literally translates from the compounded Latin and French words to “use thoroughly”.  This then eventually morphed to meaning more like “survey thoroughly” and today more meaning “survey text thoroughly”.

Bonus Fact:

  • An alternate theory to the origins of peruse was presented by Webster.  He suggested that peruse came from the misreading of the old word “pervise” as “peruise”.  However, there is no direct evidence that this is the case and the more commonly accepted origin is the “per” + “use” combination as stated above.

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10 Comments »

  1. Daniel July 28, 2010 at 10:39 am - Reply

    This is EXACTLY the reason I spend time looking up words I already ( think I ) know.

    quick tip:

    major search engines have a shortcut for looking up words. Try doing a search for:

    define peruse

  2. Degree Education On Line July 29, 2010 at 1:27 am - Reply

    This is EXACTLY the reason I spend time looking up words I already ( think I ) know.
    +1

  3. James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil October 14, 2010 at 8:37 am - Reply

    Personally, I never have thought that Peruse meant to skim lightly. Nor do I know anyone that does. Perhaps there is a difference in educational experiences?

  4. rod October 16, 2010 at 3:22 am - Reply

    i also never thought that it meant what you thought i thought it meant. maybe not so many people as you think thought this word meant what it doesn’t mean.

    • Daven Hiskey
      Daven October 19, 2010 at 9:15 pm - Reply

      @rod: Depends on where you are from. I notice you are from Australia and the previous commenter was from Brazil. That would explain the difference. Might just be an American-English thing.

  5. Maerk November 1, 2010 at 10:53 am - Reply

    Meh. Just a question of people not bothering to find out what words mean and how to use them properly more like…

    Ranks right up there with educated people spelling NUCLEAR correctly but still pronouncing it NUKULAR. Way to go, America!

  6. Doug Rosbury December 1, 2010 at 3:23 pm - Reply

    the language people use is their way of “using”as in “controlling”language
    to suit their desire to seem intelligent or to control others The language one uses is an outer admission of their character To peruse ones character
    is to listen to how one uses the language.——Doug Rosbury

  7. sarah grace November 22, 2012 at 4:24 am - Reply

    I’m American, and I already knew the correct definition of peruse.

  8. Dave Parkes June 29, 2014 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    Just asked my educated girlfriend and she is on the same page as this site.

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