English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Which of the two is more correct?

contributory capacity or contributive capacity

(referred to the capacity of a province in ancient Mesopotamia to contribute to state demand for foodstuffs)

share|improve this question

If we're going to use NGram to make the case here, it would be wise to check specifically for usages with "capacity". .

It's only my personal opinion, but I suspect that given contributory is a far more common word in general, it may be some usages here are erroneous for that very reason. I thought the correct form was contributive capacity before seeing the NGram, which seems to confirm my guess.

share|improve this answer
+1: Good call; I'm glad you caught me out there! – Daniel Jul 27 '11 at 0:00
@drm65: I dithered, actually. I really wanted to just silently edit your chart, but I thought that might be a bit cheeky! Anyway, it's just another case in the long sorry saga of how we all get caught out by NGrams! – FumbleFingers Jul 27 '11 at 0:07
I am only the better for it! – Daniel Jul 27 '11 at 0:18
Thank you all for your suggestions. So better contributive capacity rather than contributory. – Alexandra Jul 27 '11 at 11:51

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.