Can anyone give me a really short & sharp distinction between these two words? Are they notorious for often getting mixed up?


Sorry, but Malvolio's answer is too simple in some parts, and the other parts are simply wrong. Let's see what NOAD has to say:

invidious |inˈvidēəs| adjective (of an action or situation) likely to arouse or incur resentment or anger in others : she'd put herself in an invidious position. • (of a comparison or distinction) unfairly discriminating; unjust : it seems invidious to make special mention of one aspect of his work.

That's not eVil. It's not even evil. It can be used as a pejorative, but it is decidedly not simply a synonym for bad.

insidious |inˈsidēəs| adjective proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with harmful effects : sexually transmitted diseases can be insidious and sometimes without symptoms. • treacherous; crafty : tangible proof of an insidious alliance.

This in a sense means "sneaky" — but that is far short of a definition. Insidious is actually more "evil" than invidious, as you can see.

If you need a mnemonic, use the "v" in invidious to represent the "v" in "visible": it's something you can see. If something is insidious, on the other hand, it's something harmful which derives its power from the fact that you don't notice it.

  • OK, that does it for me. Personally I think we should randomly select one of these words to be taken out and shot. At least the other one could have a reasonable life then. – FumbleFingers Apr 26 '11 at 0:47
  • @FumbleFingers: But they're so cute together! – Robusto Apr 26 '11 at 2:12

There's no Darth Vidious?

Or, invidious, with a v, means "eVil"; insidious, with an s means "Sneaky". Does that help?

  • Not bad! It's just been proposed to me out here in the "real" world that I should link invidious / invader and insidious / sidling, but I think I like yours better. – FumbleFingers Apr 24 '11 at 16:11
  • who came up with the second of these two words (whichever was coined second)? – Mitch Apr 24 '11 at 17:23
  • @Mitch: I won't endear myself to the tribal elders here by admitting that so far I haven't even checked a dictionary for either word, but that's the truth. Am busy tonight so I'll look up more details tomorrow. – FumbleFingers Apr 24 '11 at 20:04
  • 1
    This is simply misleading the OP. – Robusto Apr 24 '11 at 23:19
  • @Robusto -- Not it's not! "That's not argument, it's just contradiction." – Malvolio Apr 24 '11 at 23:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.