Should I always use 'despite' instead of 'despite of'?
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However, despite of is not incorrect per se; it's just a bit dated. Look no further than at the works of William Shakespeare:
What's more, that quirky fella didn't stop at that. Just look at this horrible English:
I (well, he) could go on, but you get the idea.
Now let's head over to the States and look at what the Corpus of Historical American English has to offer:
That's not much, but not exactly nothing, either. The most interesting part is the distribution by year. A picture is worth a thousand words:
(X axis: year, Y axis: incidences per million words)
Now, before you forget where I started, I will add that the Corpus also has a whopping 24305 cites for just "despite", and 20802 cites for "in spite of". So a more accurate picture would be this:
Note how this also tells an interesting story about despite vs. in spite of.
Back to the UK, the British National Corpus has 2695 cites for "in spite of", 14356 cites for "despite", but only 3 cites for "(in) despite of".
So the bottom line is this: by all means do use despite (or in spite of). However, if you accidentally use despite of or even in despite of and someone corrects you, you can now at least pretend that you were emulating Shakespeare.
Edit: Interestingly enough, Merriam-Webster simply says that in despite of is a synonym for in spite of and leaves it at that. I also totally forgot to look it up in the most obvious place: Etymonline. Here's what it has to say:
Yes, you should use despite. The word despite is a preposition which takes a noun as its object, and doesn't require of. Despite of is incorrect, and sounds distinctly non-native.
(You're probably getting confused by the similar phrase in spite of. In spite of means basically the same thing as despite.)
When you say "despite of", it sounds like you are conflating "despite" and "in spite of". "Despite of" is not a phrase, but these other two are. Their meanings are basically the same.
'Despite' as a preposition, a noun, and a verb
The three answers from 2010 pay little or no attention to the fact that despite can function as either a preposition or a noun—although RegDwigнt does cite Etymonline as observing that "The preposition [despite] (early 15c.) is short for in despite of (late 13c.)" In the phrase "in despite of," despite is a noun.
In Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003), the entry for despite as a preposition is quite brief:
The entry for despite as a noun is much longer and more interesting:
The quotation from Churchill in the Eleventh Collegiate's entry for despite as a noun appears in the context of a comment by Churchill about the Soviet Union, seemingly delivered soon after the famous 1945 Yalta conference involving Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt:
Anyway, the striking thing about the Eleventh Collegiate's coverage of despite as a noun is that it doesn't include any labels indicating that despite is little used as a noun in modern English. Contrast that with the way the same dictionary handles the entry for despite as a verb:
From this difference in treatment between the verb despite and the noun despite, it seems clear that Merriam-Webster considers despite as a noun to be neither archaic nor obsolete, as of 2003.
Merriam-Webster had some grounds for reaching this conclusion. Less than a century before, The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia (1906) had taken the position that despite as a preposition was merely a short form of the phrase "in despite of," meaning "notwithstanding." The Century Dictionary devotes this paragraph to "in despite of" under its entry for despite as a noun:
Notably, the Century Dictionary doesn't say that "in despite of" can correctly be shortened to "despite of." The reason it doesn't, I think, is that without the leading preposition in, the despite in "despite of" becomes a preposition—and when despite functions as a preposition, it normally doesn't take in before it or of after it.
'Despite of' and 'in despite of' in Google Books search results
A search for the phrases "despite of" (blue line), "in despite of" (red line) and "in his despite" (green line) across the period 1650–2008 shows the extent to which matches for "despite of" are also matches for "in despite of":
As the chart indicates, until about 1825, the match between the two forms is such that vast majority of instances of "despite of" are also matches for "in despite of"; instances of "despite of" without in immediately preceding it are sufficiently rare that the blue line emerges as a kind of blue snow cap on some of the summits of a red mountain range. If we move the start of the chart to 1687, to avoid the spike from 1684 that dwarfs the rest of the chart, we get this view of the Google Books results for 1687–2008:
The snowcapping phenomenon is evident until about 1825, when searches find enough matches for "despite of" that aren't also matches for "in despite of" to establish significant separation between the two terms' line graphs. The individual Google Books search results for "despite of" for the years 1827–1837 continue to show most matches as involving instances of "in despite of"—but they also show some that don't—including this example from Letter XIII of Walter Scott, Paul's Letters to His Kinfolk (1816), reproduced in The Miscellaneous Prose Works of Sir Walter Scott (1827, 1829, 1833, 1834):
Still, instances of "despite of" without a leading in remained less common than the form "in despite of"—and of course far less common than the simple preposition despite by itself—at least through the end of the nineteenth century.
'Despite of' today
Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary (2008) offers this advice on the phrase "despite of":
The entry for despite as a preposition in this Cambridge dictionary consists of two definitions:
This dictionary, however, has no entry for despite as a noun.
Recent instances of "despite of" as a prepositional phrase are somewhat rare in Google Books searches, but they do occur. For example, from Jorge Alió & Dimitri Azar, Management of Complications in Refractive Surgery (2008):
And from Nathan Rein, The Chancery of God: Protestant Propaganda Against the Empire, Magdeburg 1546–1551 (2008):
There are even some recent instances of "in despite of," with despite clearly operating in its old position as a noun. For example, from John France, The Crusades and the Expansion of Catholic Christendom, 1000–1714 (2006):
And from Hanning Chen, Molecular Modeling of Proton Transport in Condensed Phases (2008):
Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary is clearly incorrect when it asserts that "despite is never followed by 'of'," but the rule that the dictionary tries to teach advanced English learners is undoubtedly practical and useful: most people speaking and writing in English don't use the phrase "despite of," and many people hearing the phrase will assume that it is an error.
The facts that despite in the phrase "in despite of" is a noun and that (according to the most recent Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary) despite as a noun remains in good standing in current English hold little practical weight, it seems to me. In most real-world situations, "in despite of" comes across as poetical, quaint, or mistaken. Still, the phrase has a long history of respectable use in English, and the notion that "in despite of" somehow transgresses against sense even more objectionably than "despite of" alone does fails to consider the differing parts of speech that despite functions as in the two phrases.
protected by tchrist Jul 1 '14 at 0:51
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