I’m confused to find opposite definitions in the same word, ‘peruse’ in Readers English Japanese Dictionary published by a leading foreign language dictionary publisher in Japan. It defines ‘peruse’ as:
Read carefully and attentively. Examine carefully.
Read cursorily, quickly.
As I thought ‘read carefully’ and ‘read cursorily’ are contradicting definition, I checked OALED. It defines ‘peruse’ singly as:
vt. to read sth. especially in a careful way.
Oxford Online English Dictionary single-mindedly defines ‘peruse’ as:
- read (something), typically in a thorough or careful way:
- examine carefully or at length:
with a specific note:
Note that peruse means ‘read’, typically with an implication of thoroughness and care. It does not mean ‘read through quickly; glance over’, as in documents will be perused rather than analyzed thoroughly.
Cambridge Online English Dictionary similarly define ‘peruse’ as:
to read through something, especially in order to find the part you are interested in:
However, Merriam-Webster English Dictionary comes with dual meanings of ‘attentive reading’ and ‘cursory reading, or skimming.’
a: to examine or consider with attention and in detail.
b: to look over or through in a casual or cursory manner.
Obviously, both Oxford (including OAELD) and Cambridge English Dictionary give a single meaning of ‘attentive reading,’ and both Merriam-Webster and Readers Dictionary give dual meanings of “attentive and casual reading.”
What is the absolute interpretation of the meaning of ‘peruse’? If it has a single meaning - only attentive reading -, there’s no problem. But if it has dual meanings as seen in Merriam-Webster and Readers Dictionary, how can I find which way the word is used in mutually conflicting meanings of ‘deep-reading’ and ‘quick-reading’ in the context?
In other word, how can I tell whether the sender wants me to make a thorough and meticulous study of his writing, or to have just a quick run-through when he sends it to me with a note, “for your perusal?”
I checked American English dictionaries at hand, which again come in both a single and dual definition(s).
Oxford American English Dictionary (1980) defines ‘peruse’ singly as to read or examine printed material, especially with great care.
Webster’s New World Basic Dictionary of American English (1998) defines the word separately as; 1. to read through carefully as in peruse report on employment.
2 to read in a casual way as in peruse the Sunday paper.
In net, four English dictionaries provide a single definition purporting ‘attentive reading,’ and three other dictionaries provide dual meanings of ‘attentive’ and ‘cursory’ reading. However, all three Oxford brand dictionaries adopt uniformly a single ‘attentive reading’ interpretation.