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

I was rooting about in the OED and one definition is "The fact, condition, or position of being near or close by in space; nearness." Then in the citations for that definition they had: 1872 H. I. Jenkinson Guide Eng. Lake Distr. (1879) 286 Owing to the close proximity to the sea.

share|improve this question
The opposite, "long distance" would then also be redundant? No, I would say proximity can occur in various degrees, just as distance can. – GEdgar Aug 21 '11 at 1:25
"Nothing propinks like propinquity." — Ian Fleming – Robusto Aug 21 '11 at 1:36
The "distance" analogy strikes me as flawed. Given the OED definition of: "The extent of space lying between any two objects; the space to be passed over before reaching an object." There is no qualifier implied for nearness. A distance can be far, near, long or short. Since the definition of proximity has "close by in space" I don't see how you can have a long proximity. – Tod Aug 22 '11 at 18:04
@Tod - you can't have a "long proximity", but it is still a quantity which can have a range of size -- perhaps only from "very very close" to "only moderately close", but still a range -- and so surely it can take a magnitude modifier. – AAT Aug 26 '11 at 23:53
I agree that by the first definition you couldn't have a "long proximity". But the second definition, "nearness", doesn't necessarily mean something is near; it means an expression or measurement of how near something is, ie a distance. The nearness of something can be "near" or "not near" or "50ft". Same as proximity. – callum Mar 22 '12 at 23:24
up vote 1 down vote accepted

"In close proximity" is redundant in one direction, but not in the other. Semantically, "close" adds something to "proximity," but "proximity" adds nothing to "close," but it does provide a convenient noun form to tack onto "close" when one's mouth is in gear before getting the words straight. (It also adds a dash of formality and a few extra syllables for city councilors and police chiefs at press conferences.) The cognates of "proximity" carry a sense of figurative nearness, as in Aristotle's "proximate genus" and "approximate." These do not involve spatial nearness, and "proximate" is most frequently encountered in theoretical contexts. "Close" is more primarily a spatial concept. "Close" also describes a space that feels tight and cramped. "Proximity" signifies a vague kind of nearness: abstract, spatial, and not as tied to the scale of ordinary human sense-experience as "close." Even when restricted to its spatial sense, "proximity" suggests in a matter-of-fact way that the the distance involved is relatively small, while "close" suggests additionally a humanly-felt nearness. It's in the connotations that "close" adds a bit of emphasis to "proximity," though "in close proximity to" can be replaced by "close to" with no loss of meaning.

share|improve this answer

Given that a third of all NGram instances of proximity over the last century occur as close proximity, I think one can reasonably say it's a common idiom (at least, common relative to the word proximity itself). You can't just reject an idiom on the grounds of "illogical" tautology. enter image description here When assessing this chart, bear in mind proximity instances include close proximity, so the relevant ratio is what's under the red line compared to what's over it.

share|improve this answer
It seems as though "close proximity" is becoming less common in percentage terms over time; but I think what is really happening is that other uses for the word "proximity" are being discovered/created where it is used by itself. A google search for proximity turns up uses as a trademark, as the name of a video game, in the term proximity sensor, proximity effect (a term with meaning primarily in relatively new sciences) etc. - none of which would have appeared in the early 20th century as the relevant technology was not widespread, if it existed at all. – Karl Knechtel Aug 21 '11 at 0:56
@Karl Knechtel: Absolutely. You can't read too much into NGram results, but I think you're right that it's proximity being used more in other contexts, rather than close proximity becoming less popular as such. – FumbleFingers Aug 21 '11 at 12:47
I liked the comment that you can't reject and idiom based solely on it being tautological. Can you reject the ungrammatical ones like the ubiquitous "exact same"? – Tod Aug 22 '11 at 18:10
@Tod: Purely my opinion, but I think you can't really "reject" an idiom on any grounds apart from it being hopelessly archaic. If that doesn't apply, it doesn't have to adhere to any rules of grammar or logic. My definition of an "idiom" includes the fact that it's widely-understood by native speakers, but is often nonsensical, ungrammatical, or otherwise not amenable to standard semantic and lexical analysis. – FumbleFingers Aug 22 '11 at 18:18
I don't think it's possible for something to be both an idiom and ungrammatical. Being idiomatic is a strict subset of being grammatical. – nohat Mar 23 '12 at 0:49

'A close proximity' is redundant, a pleonasm.

The definition of 'proximity' is 'the state of being near, next, or close'. 'Distance' or 'remoteness' are antonyms of 'proximity'.

Using 'close', while redundant, is reinforcing the rarer word. Just because people do it often doesn't mean it makes sense; those people 'could care less'.

share|improve this answer
... or couldn't care less, some of them. – fortunate1 Mar 23 '12 at 15:24
If I have three items, all proximate to a 4th, and I say one is in close proximity (or closer proximity) am I being redundant or does close add information? – horatio Mar 23 '12 at 18:33
It's in -closer- proximity. – Mitch Mar 23 '12 at 18:36

Proximity implies being close, but it is also used in the sense of being a measure of how close. In the same way that heat is typically used in reference to things which are hot, but it can also be used as a near equivalent to temperature.

Therefore close proximity is idiomatic and redundant, but can also be taken to mean very proximate, in contrast to just proximity meaning a measure of just how close two things are.

share|improve this answer

protected by Jason Bourne Jan 19 '13 at 19:21

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

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