If you roll your eyes dramatically when you hear someone saying ‘irregardless,’ you aren’t alone. We’ve all been taught to never, ever let that word slip out of our mouths—the correct term would be ‘regardless.’ But we have some earth-shattering news for grammar nerds. Even though 74 percent of respondents in a Grammarly poll were convinced ‘irregardless’ is not a word, it actually does show up in the dictionary.
It’s easy to see why ‘irregardless’ became so cringe-worthy. If ‘ir-‘ means ‘not’ and ‘regardless’ means ‘of no regard,’ then shouldn’t it mean ‘not of no regard?’ That doesn’t make much sense, and it’s certainly not how people use it.
Well, time to put your grammar snobbery on hold, because the people subbing in ‘irregardless’ for ‘regardless’ were actually right—sort of. According to Merriam-Webster’s(and American Heritage and Oxford dictionaries), ‘irregardless’ is just a non-standard version of ‘regardless.’ No, it didn’t just enter the dictionary because too many people started quoting Mean Girls, either. Merriam-Webster dates its first known use back to 1795.
According to Merriam-Webster, the word was part of certain American dialects in the early 20th century, likely as a combination of ‘irrespective’ and ‘regardless’—not as the opposite of either. ‘The point of ‘irregardless’ is to shut down a conversation,’ Merriam-Webster lexicographer Kory Stamper tells Business Insider. ‘It has a specific use in particular dialects.’
Don’t just start sprinkling ‘irregardless’ into your conversations though. Oxford still says it’s considered incorrect in standard English, and Stamper agrees you’re better off sticking with ‘regardless.’ ‘If you use ‘irregardless,’ people will think you’re uneducated,’ she says. Wouldn’t want that!
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