A colleague just asked about comparing values "case sensitively". I see those words together on technical sites, but nowhere else. I myself see no problem with the phrase, though it sounds a bit awkward. Is there a better single-word substitute for "in a case-sensitive fashion"?

  • I would rather talk about "case-sensitive comparison", "case sensitively" sounds odd to me.
    – nico
    Apr 28, 2011 at 13:38
  • @nico: They are both nice in my opinion. You are comparing two different usages, since case-sensitive acts as an adjective, case-sensitively as an adverb.
    – Alenanno
    Apr 28, 2011 at 13:40
  • @Alenanno: I know, I was just saying that the adverb sounds a bit odd to me, so I would rather use the adjective. It was just a personal preference, nothing more.
    – nico
    Apr 28, 2011 at 14:01

2 Answers 2


The word case-sensitively may be rare outside of technical sites, because the concept is little needed anywhere else. However, it's built out of normal, productive English morphological rules, so it's perfectly licit. I don't believe that there is any other terse alternative.

  • Yeah, I guess it's too technical and "new" to have actual synonyms.
    – Alenanno
    Apr 28, 2011 at 13:41

The term I've seen most often is "case sensitivity." Ergo:

  • "A colleague asked me about comparing values in a case-sensitive manner."

This leads naturally to:

  • "A colleague asked me about comparing case-sensitive values."

Trying to force the construction into an adverb leads to unhappy results.

  • No it doesn't. Requiring a longer paraphrase leads to unhappy results.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 28, 2011 at 16:57
  • In this context, "happy" and "unhappy" are linguistic terms. They don't mean quite the same thing as emotionally happy or sad.
    – The Raven
    Apr 28, 2011 at 19:36
  • No, they're not linguistic terms: they are evaluative terms on some unspecified scale. (I agree that they don't refer to emotional states). You prefer to avoid the neologism by a longer paraphrase; I see nothing wrong with the neologism and may often prefer it to a longer paraphrase. Your last paraphrase has changed the meaning (though I suppose that since "case-sensitive values" is nonsense, pragmatically it will be interpreted in the same way).
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 29, 2011 at 12:09
  • "Speech Acts" by John Searle and "How to Do Things with Words" by Austin both make use of the specialized sense of "happy" and "unhappy" with respect to meaning and construction. "Case-sensitive values" would be fields that are affected by upper and lower case inputs, which are common in, say, databases.
    – The Raven
    Apr 29, 2011 at 16:08
  • @Raven: thanks, I didn't know about Searle & Austin's special uses of those words. I agree that pragmatically "case-sensitive values" would be understood that way, but being picky I would say it is the field not the value that is case-sensitive. A value can no more be case-sensitive than it can be sorted.
    – Colin Fine
    May 1, 2011 at 22:56

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