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What's the difference between the words emend and amend? They both have the same definition.

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emend comes directly form lat emendare, while amend took the detour lat emendare > OF amender > ME amenden –  malach Dec 1 '10 at 12:13

4 Answers 4

JoseK is correct that the meaning of emend is confined to textual alterations, and that amend can be broadened to include the general improvement of other things. Still, amend is mostly used in the sense of improving text. If you're talking about fixing a rip in a shirt, you would be better to just use the word mend; to amend the shirt would sound strange. The Constitution of the U.S. may be amended (as it has been) but if the actual document itself were damaged and required restoration I don't think anyone would say the team that did the work amended the Constitution.

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Both have a sense of "improve by adding to", but emend is used generally for editing, as of a text, while you can amend many things.

Also, an amendment will generally come at the end of the original, but an emendment can occur anywhere in the text.

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emend seems to be used in the context of editing (specifically of some text)

while amend could be correcting or repairing or improving of anything.

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I've only ever encountered the word 'emend' in terms of Biblical criticism. There it's used to refer to textual changes that tweak a word or letter to give an alternative reading which makes more sense in context, assuming that the traditional word has been inadvertently altered over generations of copying.

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