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My spellchecker insists on replacing "furthest" with "farthest". I was under the impression that farthest is strictly speaking in terms of distance, whereas furthest is more abstract.

A poster on this forum gives the following example:

The further [quantity] you walk, the farther [distance] you get.

What gives?

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Well, we know that spell checkers aren't very bright. latech.edu/tech/liberal-arts/geography/courses/spellchecker.htm –  mickeyf Apr 10 '11 at 2:06
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2 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

The NOAD reports the following note about those words.

Traditionally, farther and farthest were used in referring to physical distance: the falls were still two or three miles farther up the path. Further and furthest were restricted to figurative or abstract senses: we decided to consider the matter further. Although farther and farthest are still restricted to measurable distances, further and furthest are now common in both senses: put those plants the furthest from the window.

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For some active examples: I must investigate further before making any conclusions. vs. I have moved farther from the city because the environment is much nicer here.* –  Karl Apr 6 '11 at 12:44
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I totally agree with the answer above. I rarely hear "farther" or "farthest" anymore. Most people say "further" these days. I was just watching some Olympic coverage on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) and the commentators always used "further" when describing ski jumping distance. Most people seem to think "further" sounds better, and they'd rather not have to think about which word to choose, so they simply default to that.

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protected by tchrist Apr 9 at 20:21

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