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We had an interesting discussion yesterday about the use of administer and administrate.

I feel that there is a case for both usages -- sometimes you might administer something, and other times you might administrate something -- but I couldn't convince my fellow co-worker who thought that administrate was some kind of neo-abomination. This was mainly because I couldn't cite a convincing example.

So then, is administrate an acceptable verb, and what usages exist that differentiate it from administer?

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I think you would have to come up with the use case first. Once a use case has been found, then we can ask if we need the word. Until then, I'll choose to regard "administrate" as shoddy jargon. So there. –  Malvolio Mar 1 '11 at 2:34
    
Even cursory research shows that administrate is a well-established word; and a bit more reading confirms that in modern usage, it’s not just a redundant synonym of administer. –  PLL Oct 13 '11 at 20:48
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@PLL - irregardless is well established too. Still a crappy word. What is "administrate" supposed to mean? –  Malvolio Oct 13 '11 at 23:57
    
@Malvolio: It seems to be shoddy jargon in use at least since the 1640s, and on both sides of the Atlantic. –  hippietrail Mar 4 at 19:49
    
@hippietrail -- so what? –  Malvolio Mar 4 at 20:03
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5 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Off the top of my head, the only thing that springs to mind is that "administer" is maybe more common in the senes of "give (out)". So if you want to avoid connotation with that meaning, "administrate" could serve this purpose (though you could also "manage", "organise", "steer"...).

Just possibly "administrate" suggests more closer being an "administrator" in the sense of it being one's job title/function (as opposed to just administering something on an ad-hoc basis).

So apart from that, it may just depend on whether you like the sound of verbs ending in -ate...

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I use administer for both, but I actually think this is how these different words are used. You'd never hear of doctors administrating drugs, they always administer them. But when people are groping for the word for what administrators do, administrate is what gets used. –  gpr Mar 1 '11 at 3:46
    
+1. Searching various newspapers as a guide to well-edited modern usage (the Guardian, Telegraph, NY Times, and LA Times) confirms this distinction: you usually administer a drug, but administrate a business. The exception is in the NY Times, which seems to comprehensively shun administrate — I guess it must be vetoed somewhere in their style guide as, if not a neologism, then perhaps awkward or ugly. –  PLL Oct 13 '11 at 20:56
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"Administrate" appears to have a history going back almost 400 years (rather to my surprise), and is an exact synonym for administer.

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+1, just because I assumed it was some irritating back-formation and now stand corrected :) –  gpr Mar 1 '11 at 3:44
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The NOAD reports that administrate is a less common term for administer, when it is used to mean "manage and be responsible for the running of a business, organization, etc."

Administrate has been first used in the sixtenth century, and it derives from the Latin administrat (administrated), from the verb administrare.
Administer has been first used in Middle English, and it derives from the Old French word that comes from the Latin administrare.

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The word, "administrate" is indeed listed in Merriam-Webster as a verb. However, I would use “administer,” which is the more common/usual word. In the business world, “administrate” often has the connotation of work handled by a secretary, not a professional.

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I've found that in the tech world they favor administrate. If you have admin. Privileges on a server, file directory, forums etc. you tend to administrate rather than administer.

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