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Is there a context where envision is not a synonym of envisage, or vice versa?

Envisage's definition:

contemplate or conceive of as a possibility or a desirable future event

Envision's definiton

imagine as a future possibility; visualize:

Visualise's definition seems to be relevant to envision only in so far as it means imagine, which seems to me to be synonymous with "contemplate or conceive of".

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Their etymologies are different: envision is an early 20th c coinage, envisage is borrowed from French in 18th c. But I can't see much usage difference. They feel identical. – Mitch Aug 3 '12 at 13:11
up vote 8 down vote accepted

It seems to be a regional distinction. British English prefers envisage, but American English prefers envision. There's a long explanation here as to the history.


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As an American English speaker, I don't think I've ever seen envisage in general usage.

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The definition and usage of both words overlap a lot, but there is one difference I can perhaps think of. Envisage is commonly used as a synonym for predict or anticipate. Envision is less likely to be used for the same.

I do not envisage a growth in telecommunications sector in the next two years.

Envision, on the other hand, could be used when you imagine something fancy or a remote possibility. To quote an example from here,

"I can't envision him on horseback!"

The difference may be one that never exists in practice, but I do feel envisage is commoner in business circles than envision.

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I'm not sure about your points on the why and the where ... But, it is interesting that Google Ngrams appears to concur with your example when you perform a simple comparison of "envision/envisage him on" with "envision/envisage him as". There are zero results for "envisage him as", with the other combinations returning multiple hits. – coleopterist Aug 3 '12 at 13:43
@coleopterist: Hmmm... I am not sure how best to use Ngrams to justify my point. Not sure if checking merely on the basis of prepositions will suffice. – Bravo Aug 3 '12 at 13:46
Actually, my last comment should read, "There are zero results for 'envisage him on'" :/ I'm not sure how best to filter usage examples in Ngrams either. Sorry. – coleopterist Aug 3 '12 at 14:09

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