What are the similarities and differences? I already tried the OED, but its richness (ie plenitude) of information can overwhelm me, a novice.

I heed the Etymological Fallacy, but does etymology help reveal anything? Etymonline (and also OED) shows that limit's etymology differs (slightly) from limitation's.

  • Try say AHDEL and Collins. Mar 29, 2015 at 15:35
  • 1
    limits are inherent, limitations are imposed.
    – Jim
    Mar 30, 2015 at 3:18

3 Answers 3


Search Google Books for

merriam webster synonym dictionary limit limitation

and you will get access to the page of interest in this specialized dictionary, best for performing synonym separation

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Synonyms: A Dictionary of Discriminated

which tells you that their synonyms are respectively:

limit: bound, end, term

In the main: a prescribed maximum or minimum amount, quantity, or number

This is more about a threshold, a boundary, a number.

limitation: restriction, confinement

In the main: a restriction or restraint imposed from without (as by law, custom, or circumstances

This is more about a [constraining] mechanism.

Now, caveat: they are sometimes used as synonyms for each other.


Limitation is the act of setting a limit. "Limit" is sometimes used as a noun, as a synonym for limitation.

Just as "remodel" is often used as a noun, as a synonym for an instance of "remodeling".

Just as "install" is often used as a noun to refer to an instance of "installation".

All of these are, in my opinion, colloquial. I would not use them in written work.


In this case you will be best off following Firth's maxim, You shall know a word by the company it keeps. If you have access to a good-sized text corpus you can see in which context each of the two forms are used.

For your perusal, here are the 392 matches for the text string limit in the US GPO's online version of the Clean Air Act (including footnotes).

1--Section 7386c related to limits on construction
3--graph (1) or (2) shall be construed to limit the author-
4--not limited to) consideration of the moisture con-
5--this title shall be construed to limit the authority of
6--limited to—
7--and subject to the limitations provided with
8--sions, including, but not limited to, auto-
9--(a) Amounts; limitations; assurances of plan de-
10--consideration; State expenditure limitations
11--that is chargeable to the percentage limitation
12--ation to exempting an agency from the limita-
13--Subsec. (c). Pub. L. 90–148 reduced percentage limita-
14--provisions limiting available funds to 20 per centum of
15--the twelve and one-half percent limitation of grant
16--cost limitations
17--reason of the regional limitation provided in
18--such limitation is due solely to a redesignation
19--section, notwithstanding the time limit prescribed in
20--cluding, but not limited to—
21--(vii) programs to limit or restrict vehicle
22--(ix) programs to limit portions of road sur-
23--(A) include enforceable emission limitations
24--State agency with any emission limitations
25--section. The criteria shall be limited to the
26--of emission limitations and regulation of the modifica-
27--limitations and percent reductions achieved in
28--limitation achievable through application of
29--ational standard; alternative emission limita-
30--or economic limitations.
31--means of emission limitation will achieve a re-
32--shall set forth emission limits and a compliance
33--that emission limitations and percent reductions be-
34--under this section, consider the emission limitations
35--cluding, but not limited to, substances which
36--the preceding sentence limits the Administra-
37--techniques including, but not limited to,
40--emission limitation or other applicable re-
41--any standard or limitation respecting emis-
42--than the standard or limitation in effect under
43--promulgate emission limitations under this
44--trol technology emission limitation under this
45--basis where no applicable emissions limita-
46--able control technology emission limitation
47--limitations have been established by the Ad-
48--nomic limitations.
49--that an alternative means of emission limita-
50--standard, limitation, or regulation under sub-
51--such emission standard, regulation or limita-
52--regulation or limitation.
53--limitation or regulation applicable to such
54--limitation or regulation is promulgated shall
55--(A) the promulgated standard, limitation
56--standard, limitation or regulation proposed;
57--limitation, or regulation as proposed during
58--standard, limitation or regulation promul-
59--violation of such standard, limitation or regu-
60--limitation under this section for a period of
61--emission limitation promulgated under sub-
62--emission limitation under this paragraph
63--enforceable emission limitation for hazardous
64--sion limitation under this paragraph. An al-
65--ternative emission limitation under this para-
66--emission limitation under this paragraph at
67--including, but not limited to, chlorinated di-
68--regulation limit the use of offsetting reduc-
69--sions limitation under this paragraph.
70--with the emission limitations established
71--such emission limitations for existing coke
72--emission limitations shall reflect the lowest
73--limitations shall be no less stringent than—
74--rulemaking in which such emission limita-
75--limitations in terms of an equivalent level of
76--such emission limitations under this subpara-
77--sion limitations, the emission limitations ap-
78--ministrator shall review the emission limita-
79--revise, as necessary, such emission limitations
80--isting battery. Such emission limitations shall
81--be no less stringent than the emission limita-
82--limitations for existing coke oven batteries
83--may elect to comply with emission limitations
84--tion by the date such emission limitations
85--tery, in lieu of the emission limitations and
86--comply with such emission limitations pro-
87--January 1, 2003. If no such emission limita-
88--gate such emission limitations in accordance
89--source to emission limitations under sub-
90--(j) Equivalent emission limitation by permit
91--(5) Emission limitation
92--emission limitations for the hazardous air pol-
93--emissions limitation established according to
94--amounts exceeding an emission limitation
95--plication is approved, the emission limitation
96--standard rather than the emission limitation
97--of the emission limitation established by per-
98--emissions limitation established by paragraph
99--not limited to, volatile organic compounds,
100--shall include, but not be limited to, carcino-
101--cluding, but not limited to, the Toxic Sub-
102--limited to, hazardous air pollutants listed pur-
103--quirements, standards, and limitations pur-
104--uct substitutions or limitations that may be
105--be limited to, the following—
106--ing, but not limited to, inheritable genetic
107--trator shall use, but is not limited to, the list
108--nation of functions and to limit duplication of
109--Administration so as to limit duplication of
110--shall include, but not be limited to, informa-
111--cluding, but not limited to, the size, location,
112--deny or limit any right of a State or political
113--regulation, requirement, limitation or stand-
114--quirement, limitation or standard in effect
115--include, but not be limited to—
116--U.S.C. 7412(o)], the use and limitations of risk assess-
117--emissions standards and other limitations applicable
118--including, but not limited to, a requirement or
119--fect or limit the State’s or the United States
120--limited to, a requirement or prohibition of any
121--including, but not limited to, a requirement or
122--graph shall be limited to matters where the
123--ment expenses, including but not limited to at-
124--shall in no way limit the Administrator’s au-
125--limitation or other requirement which is adopt-
126--respect to such standard, limitation, or other re-
127--standard or limitation respecting emissions of
128--that if an emission standard or limitation is in
129--or limitation under such plan or section.
130--vided, emission standards or limitations under the
131--limited to, persons who are knowledgeable con-
132--order is issued is an emission limitation or
133--progress shall be limited to requiring compli-
134--sion limitation as expeditiously as practicable
135--compliance with any emission limitation,
136--pliance with an emission limitation, emission
137--(g) More stringent emission limitations or other
138--In the case of any emission limitation or other
139--sion limitation or requirement for the source in
140--any, or where there was no emission limitation
141--such emission limitation or requirement, which-
142--emission limitation or requirement.
143--emission limitations, standards of performance,
144--(3) In case of any standard or emission limita-
145--tion of such standard or limitation to a source
146--such standard or limitation shall not apply to
147--The degree of emission limitation required for
148--emission limitation for coal-fired steam electric
149--tional means of emission limitation which the
150--limitations and compliance schedules (contain-
151--emissions limitations and other requirements
152--gent than the average emissions limitation
153--(4) Numerical emissions limitations
154--units shall specify numerical emission limita-
155--gate numerical emissions limitations or pro-
156--sions limitations, notwithstanding any re-
157--ing issuance of such limitations), subsection
158--limitations or implement any other measures, if
159--emissions in the absence of such limitations or
160--standard, emission limitation or other re-
161--standard, limitation or requirement applies to
162--operate such unit in violation of such limita-
163--each performance standard, emission limita-
164--emission limitation.
165--opacity limitations to be established by the
166--lation, requirement, limitation or standard re-
167--ment, limitation or standard in effect under
168--tation plan shall contain emission limitations
169--ting forth emission limitations for such facil-
170--variance; emission limitations
171--emission limitations under such permit as may
172--with such emission limitations under such per-
173--nology’’ means an emission limitation based
174--such emission limits, schedules of compliance
175--in excess of 750 megawatts, the emission limita-
176--determining emission limitations which re-
177--limits, schedules of compliance, and other meas-
178--(A) the most stringent emission limitation
179--limitations are not achievable, or
180--(B) the most stringent emission limitation
181--able emission limitations, and such other con-
182--sources to meet emission limitations at least as
183--be within the limitations set forth in such construction
184--emission limitations and are in compliance, or
185--ble emission limitations and standards under
186--limited to, authority exercised under chapter 53
187--any such State to prohibit or limit, directly or
188--ing States from limiting or prohibiting sale or manu-
189--(vi) programs to limit or restrict vehicle
190--not be limited to, the collection of meteorological
191--ation measures may include, but not be limited to
192--from, but not limited to, section 7408(f) of this
193--may limit the application of paragraph (1) to the
194--tions, limitations, or economic incentives (in-
195--shall take into consideration limits on fill pipe
196--tainer lips, limits on the location of the un-
197--quirements, and limitations applicable to it
198--subsection shall not affect or limit the Admin-
199--1970—Pub. L. 91–604 increased the upper limit of the
200--(I) limit or otherwise affect the application
201--(IV) Subclause (I) shall not limit the Adminis-
202--graph (1) or (3) of this subsection or the limita-
203--Reid vapor pressure limitation under this sub-
204--pressure limitations established under para-
205--plies with the Reid vapor pressure limita-
206--the Reid vapor pressure limitation estab-
207--sure limitation established by paragraph (1)
208--with the limitation on emissions of oxides of
209--supplies of oxygenated gasoline are limited,
210--such provisions, including limiting the cred-
211--renewable fuel producers, and to limit any
212--limit the number of cellulosic biofuel credits
213--Clause (i) does not limit the authority of
214--or to expand or limit regulatory authority re-
215--this section and subject to the limitations in
216--(A) Frequency limitation
217--subsection or the limitation specified in paragraph (2)
218--cluding, but not limited to, carcinogenic, teratogenic,
219--refinery’’ and which limited Administrator’s authority
220--sion relating to applicability of limitation specified
221--superseding, or limiting, any more environmentally
222--chanical problems (including but not limited to valve
223--limiting lead content of gasoline would be appropriate
224--but not limited to tire debris, and asbestos from
225--to limit the Administrator’s authority to re-
226--for testing (including, but not limited to, certifi-
227--may adjust for a limited period the deadlines
228--(2) Use of credits; limitations based on weight
229--in this paragraph shall limit the applicability of
230--calculation with respect to a limitation under
231--includes, but is not limited to, effects on soils,
232--(k) The terms ‘‘emission limitation’’ and
233--limits the quantity, rate, or concentration of
234--(m) The term ‘‘means of emission limitation’’
235--sion limitation, other limitation, prohibition, or
236--which includes enforceable emission limitations
237--of (A) an emission standard or limitation
238--such a standard or limitation,
239--emission standard or limitation, or such an
240--lator of the standard, limitation, or order, or
241--ard, limitation, or order, but in any such ac-
242--limitation may be brought only in the judicial
243--forcement of any emission standard or limita-
244--(f) ‘‘Emission standard or limitation under this
245--sion standard or limitation under this chapter’’
246--emission limitation, standard of performance
247--(4) any other standard, limitation, or sched-
248--not limited to section 7413, section 7414, section
249--this title, or emission standard or limitation
250--thority, or limitations, or short of statutory
251--limitation to so comply, and
252--superseding or limiting the authorities and re-
253--(4) a limitation under this chapter for emis-
254--(5) a limitation under subchapter VI of this
255--but not limited to, injunctive relief, compen-
256--standards or limitations contained in a State
257--but not be limited to, State and local require-
258--ments for emission controls, emission limita-
259--Such activities include, but are not limited
260--scribed emission limitations by specified dead-
261--lines, which limitations may be met through al-
262--ments or limitations under this subchapter.
263--limitation for sulfur dioxide or oxides of nitro-
264--such a limitation for 1985 does not exist.
265--Where the emissions limitation for a unit is
266--sions limitation is not expressed on an annual
267--annual equivalent of that emissions limitation
268--(1) 1 For the emission limitation programs
269--nual tonnage emission limitation calculated
270--to the emissions limitation requirements of sec-
271--emission limitation requirement compliance
272--limited to, requirements for the allocation,
273--which are applied to emissions limitations re-
274--is a limited authorization to emit sulfur dioxide
275--limit the authority of the United States to ter-
276--minate or limit such authorization. Nothing in
277--regulation or as limiting State regulation (in-
278--shall supersede any other emission limitation
279--(a) Emission limitations
280--sulfur dioxide in excess of the tonnage limita-
281--that, after January 1, 2000, the emissions limita-
282--such violation including, but not limited to, li-
283--emissions limitation requirements of this sec-
284--ject to the emissions limitation requirements of
285--units subject to the emissions limitations of
286--(4) the emissions rates and tonnage limita-
287--limits will, in total, achieve the same or
288--limitation provided for in the approved substi-
289--subject to an emissions limitation requirement
290--(E) specify the emission limitation and num-
291--limitations provided for in the permit and ap-
292--nual tonnage limitation specified in the exten-
293--sions limitation requirements of section 7651d of
294--limitation requirements of this section which
295--unit as provided below is subject to the limita-
296--nage emission limitation under this section is
297--shall not be subject to the 8,900,000 ton limita-
298--limitation equal to the product of the unit’s
299--for each unit subject to the emissions limitation
300--fur dioxide tonnage limitation equal to the prod-
301--the emissions limitation requirements of para-
302--ceed an annual sulfur dioxide emissions limita-
303--ide tonnage emissions limitation equal to the
304--annual sulfur dioxide emissions tonnage limita-
305--unit subject to the emissions limitation require-
306--emissions tonnage limitation equal to the prod-
307--limitation requirements of paragraph (1) with an
308--annual sulfur dioxide emissions tonnage limita-
309--emissions limitation requirements of this para-
310--limitation equal to the product of its baseline
311--limitation equal to the product of the unit’s
312--limitation equal to the product of the unit’s
313--ject to the emissions limitation requirements of
314--ject to the emissions limitation requirements of
315--to the emissions limitation requirements of this
316--limitation requirements of this subsection. The
317--a unit subject to the emissions limitation re-
318--nage limitation equal to the product of the
319--annual sulfur dioxide tonnage emissions limita-
320--an annual tonnage emission limitation equal to
321--annual sulfur dioxide tonnage emissions limita-
322--nual sulfur dioxide tonnage limitation equal to
323--for each unit subject to the emissions limitation
324--subject to the emissions limitation require-
325--ject to an emissions limitation requirement
326--limitation requirements of this section applica-
327--limitation requirements of this section: Pro-
328--emissions limitation requirements of subsection
329--limitation requirements of subsection (b)(1) of
330--the unit pursuant to the emissions limitation
331--tion and shall be subject to the emission limita-
332--(b) Emission limitations
333--ity boilers listed below, which limitations shall
334--emission limitations on a lb/mmBtu, annual av-
335--vise the applicable emission limitations for tan-
336--emission limitations, if any.
337--(d) Alternative emission limitations
338--section, authorize an emission limitation less
339--stringent than the applicable limitation estab-
340--section cannot meet the applicable limitation
341--based the applicable emission limitation.
342--for which an alternative emission limitation is
343--ble of achieving the applicable emission limita-
344--to the emissions limitation requirements of sub-
345--sion limitations under subsection (b)(1), (2), or
346--plicable emission limitations set pursuant to
347--emission limitations for such units that ensure
348--of time, in compliance with limitations set in
349--tations. Such emission limitations shall only re-
350--tors, of a unit subject to the emissions limita-
351--plicable emissions limitation requirements of
352--case of the emissions limitation requirements of
353--limitation equal to the product of the unit’s
354--(f) Units subject to certain other limits
355--sions limitation requirements of section 7651d(b)
356--be granted an extension of the emission limita-
357--limitations and is economically or techno-
358--tion Plan emissions limitation or its actual
359--emissions limitation requirement set forth in
360--(c) Emission limitations
361--Annual emissions limitations for sulfur diox-
362--designated; specify the emissions limitation;
363--equal to the emissions limitation calculated
364--emissions limitation requirement or, in the case
365--ted in excess of the unit’s emissions limitation
366--year in excess of the unit’s emissions limitation
367--Nothing in this subchapter shall limit or
368--regulations may include limitations or the use
369--cluding, but not limited to, units that become
370--sion limitation, or emission prohibition.
371--permits incorporate emission limitations
372--should be construed to limit the Administrator’s
373--shall include enforceable emission limitations
374--locations, including, but not limited to, ambient
375--not limited to, accidental and intentional releases
376--limited to, accidental and intentional releases from
377--thorize the production of limited quantities of
378--limited quantities of class I substances solely
379--limited quantities of halon-1211
380--limited quantities of a class I substance in ex-
381--limited quantities of methyl bromide, solely
382--thorize the production of limited quantities of
383--ize the production of limited quantities of
384--use of limited quantities of class II sub-
385--tion of limited quantities of a class II sub-
386--tablishes revised production limits for the
387--under the revised production limits equals the
388--production limits in the same manner as pro-
389--(b) Effect of transfers on production limits
390--production limits established under this chapter
391--to increase production limits established under
392--from limited experiences.