I was puzzled to find out the definition of “discursus” incidentally in Readers Plus English Japanese Dictionary, one of the best-selling English Japanese dictionaries, which is published by Kenkyusha, a well-reputed foreign language dictionary publisher in Japan.

It defines ‘discursus’ as;

n. 理路整然たる討議、説明 (logically consistent and well-organized discussion or explanation), while it defines ‘discursive’ as; a. digressive. One’s sentences and stories passing from one thing to another; ranging over a wide field.

To me, it’s strange that ‘discursus’ and ‘discursive” both of which are considered to be cognates derived from Latin `discurro’ meaning ‘running about’ come up in the reverse meaning: ‘discursus= logically consistent and well-organized” and ‘discursive =digressive, loose thinking.’

So I consulted with other English Dictionaries.

All CED, OED, Merriam-Webster define “discursive’ in the same way as “digressive; Passing from one thing to another; ranging over a wide field," but none of them provides definition of ‘discursus.’

Spellchecker keeps trying to correct “discursus” into “discourse” while I’m typing this question.

However, Wikitionary and Dictionary.com. carry the heading of ‘discursus’ with the same definition as an uncountable noun; (Logic) Argumentation; ratiocination; discursive reasoning.

Google NGram shows that compared with a notable rise of the currency of ‘discursive’ (0.000669585% in 2007), the incidence of ‘discursus’ is negligibly low (0.0000009975%).

Do you think the definition of Readers Plus English Japanese Dictionary of “discursus” is appropriate? Depending on your input, I’d like to request the editor of the dictionary to re-edit the definition of the word.

3 Answers 3


Discursus, (Ngram) is a formal, uncommon term used with the below definitions (actually a Latin term). I think that your Reader Plus Japanese Dictionary gives an appropriate definition of it:

  • n. (Logic) Argumentation; ratiocination; discursive reasoning.

  • n. argument.


  • In his five-volume Discursus academici de iure publico (1615–1623), Arumaeus pioneered public law as a distinct field of study. Influenced by Dutch humanism, his methodical analysis of the constitutional law of the Holy Roman Empire focused no longer on Roman law but on Imperial sources of public law, such as Imperial basic laws and electoral capitulations.

Discourse: as you note is the more commonly used term which derives form 'discursus':

  • n.
    1. A formal, lengthy discussion of a subject, either written or spoken.
    2. Archaic The process or power of reasoning.

Discursive (adj.) [Medieval Latin discursvus, from Latin discursus], means also 'disgressive' and , I think, it is clearly related to its Latin origin.

    1. Covering a wide field of subjects; rambling.
    2. Proceeding to a conclusion through reason rather than intuition.

Source:http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/discursus Source:http://www.finedictionary.com/Discursus.html

  • You don't mind contradiction of definitions (consistent and inconsistent) of two resembling words? Aug 13, 2014 at 7:12
  • 1
    The point you make is interesting. It appears that 'discursive' has had other influences trough centuries while 'discursus' has remained more stable in its meaning. Note that its meaning is not only 'disgressive' but 'discoursive' also. thefreedictionary.com/discoursive
    – user66974
    Aug 13, 2014 at 7:36
  • 1
    @YoichiOishi I've never seen 'discursus' before, and from this answer it appears to be a latin word used in English only as academic jargon. When reading academic text I expect intuition to be of no help and just temporarily accept whatever meaning the academics assign to their jargon words.
    – 01d55
    Aug 13, 2014 at 18:09

It's mean Argumentation; ratiocination; discursive reasoning. Discursus Wordigg definition


Dis-CURS-us. Cursion as in Recursion, or of a course. Of course is a countable, as in a iteration of a process. Off course in the course would qualify as discourse, which indicates paradox. Unsurprisingly, we then find discursus defined as a paradoxiformation. In course merely indicates a passage, or process, from which any prefix or suffix can be added according to speakers preference. Did we play all 18 holes straight through, or did we skip abou; No-one says you absolutely have to start at hole one. Valid reasoning can still take place in a discursus. Amble whichever way you choose. The question is, why would you ever use discursus instead of discourse. Say, Paul gave a good discourse. Vs Paul gave a good discursus. I think it's a matter of agreement. I'd use discursus as an open form of process, as one would in a conversational manner. In other words, use it at the coffee shop, not at the podium. In reference to Paul's discursus on orange juice...etc. Also we have cursory, meaning at a glance. Thus, if I'm not careful, my answer will become discursory of discursus.

  • references missing
    – GEdgar
    May 11, 2021 at 0:31

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