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A similar question has been asked.

However, is it possible to give (general) differences in usage of fast, quickly, speedy and rapidly?

And with respect to the top answer: Are quick and fast absolutely interchangeable?

  • 3
    No two English words are absolutely interchangeable. – Oldcat Apr 9 '14 at 19:42
  • 2
    Pitchers throw fast balls, not quick balls. You dance the quickstep, not the faststep. – Peter Shor Apr 9 '14 at 21:11
  • Nobody ever says 'The fast and the dead' – Oldcat Apr 9 '14 at 21:12
  • There is also the matter of the adverbial '-ly' suffix, which American English tends to avoid. 'I ran quick' vs 'I ran quickly'. – toandfro Apr 9 '14 at 21:40
  • Besides the association with 'life' or 'living', quick generally refers to acceleration. Consider two hypothetical cars: a car that could go from 0-60mph in one second but had a top speed of only 65mph would be quick but not fast; a car whose top speed was 500mph but took ages to accelerate to that speed would be fast but not quick. – MT_Head Sep 2 '14 at 18:12
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I do not think it is strictly possible to give guidelines to usage that are anything other than pedantic. I do, however, think that etymology provides some helpful clues to the more natural contexts of usage.

Quick is related to life and living things such that "quick as a rabbit" seems natural.

Fast has its relationship to strength and force that makes "fast cars" and "run a fast race" seem like a good fit.

Speed is related to success and goals giving "speed limit" and "speedy delivery" their purposeful ring.

Rapid has a hunger to it that makes it well suited to phrases like "consume at a rapid rate" or "rapidly overtaking."

Mixing these up produces some odd results: "Rapid rabbits" are comprehensible but more predatory that we are used to rabbits being. "Quickness limits" Nonsense. "Quick delivery?" Something else entirely. A baby has been born. Further evidence that "quick" wants to talk about life.

There are certainly no rules, just clues buried in the historical antecedents of the modern words. I would say try "quick" first for natural systems and living things and use "fast" as the go-to for machines, forces and acts of power. Rapid has a dark side. Speed is ambitious.

  • Speed: Old High German spuon to succeed Quick: Gothic qius alive Fast: Middle High German vaste firmly Rapid: Latid rapere to seize – Aaron K Apr 9 '14 at 21:21
  • Concise explanation, vivid examples. – Denis Gorbachev Dec 19 '14 at 15:52
  • Quick delivery can be a pizza just as much as a baby. And probably more often. – Steven Littman Feb 20 '16 at 20:11
  • NGram disagrees. Writers in the modern era are more likely to use "quick delivery" for the birth of a child. (quick delivery+baby),(quick delivery + pizza). However adjusting for the relative frequency of the words pizza and baby: ((quick delivery+baby)/baby),((quick delivery + pizza)/pizza) does reveal that rarely when talking about a baby is quick delivery the key point. Pizza however has less going on and quick delivery of a pizza is one of its most salient features. – Aaron K May 19 '18 at 19:25
  • Would you say "the value decreases rapidly/quickly/other..."? – skan Dec 27 '18 at 19:58

protected by tchrist Aug 4 '14 at 2:06

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