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What is the relation and difference between the nouns consistence and consistency?

For example, which one should be used in the following sentence?

Although he has passed the exam, he is suggested to take the next one, because they would like to test his consistence/consistency.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

According to the OED, both consistence and consistency are valid nouns. Consistence originally had many meanings, which include:

  • Standing or remaining still, quiescence; state of rest. Obs.
  • Continuance, endurance; continuing state
  • A settled condition of affairs. Obs.
  • concr. Matter dense enough to cohere. Obs. or poet.
  • The degree of firmness with which the particles of a substance cohere; degree of density. (Usually of more or less viscous liquids.)
  • consistency

As you can see, many of its definitions (of which there are 8 listed) are now obsolete. The last recorded use of consistence to mean consistency was in 1878. Consistency has now taken over many of these meanings, and is used far more often than consistence. Using consistence would not be incorrect, but it is an archaic form of a word that many people would not recognize today.

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One property of concrete is described in accordance with Eurocodes (BS EN 1992-1-1:2004) in terms of consistence. Under previous British Stadards the word workability was used. Consistence is measured by tests such as the slump test which indicate the way in which the material holds together and flows under its own weight. It is a technical term and in no way incorrect or obsolete.

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Unless you want to be a couple of centuries out of date, use consistency, like everyone else.

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I don't want, but the dictionary I looked up in did not tell me that. Before I looked it up in a dictionary, I thought a word ending in -y is most likely not a noun but an adjective. I wonder if it is true? –  Tim Sep 3 '11 at 15:19
    
most dictionaries are pretty bad at telling you the current state of a language. they lag behind reality at least 10 years at best, 50-100 on average. –  user12549 Sep 3 '11 at 15:27
    
@myqlarson: Thanks! Is it true that a word ending in -y is most likely an adjective than a noun? –  Tim Sep 3 '11 at 15:42
1  
dunno. let's see: english.stackexchange.com/questions/40572/… –  user12549 Sep 3 '11 at 15:59

Consistence isn't a word anymore. It died. Use consistency.

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