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These two words mean pretty much the same thing.
But I couldn't understand the difference.

I picked these two examples from google translate:

  • investigators have yet to accumulate enough evidence
  • starting from nothing he had amassed a huge fortune

Can I swap amass and accumulate in these examples?
Any explanation about differences and distinctions would be nice.

  • 1
    Offhand I can't think of any (verb) context where they're not interchangeable, but I think I'd probably use accumulate nearly every time. One potential advantage is if you need a noun, apart from the gerunds accumulating, amassing there's also accumulation, but I don't think there's any such version of amass – FumbleFingers Apr 18 '15 at 13:17
  • @FumbleFingers You're right but these are TWO words and each one created in a purpose. So we can not ignore one of them and always use another. – Ham3d Apr 18 '15 at 13:33
  • You're very, very, very wrong if you think these two words were "created for a purpose", and that this somehow implies the "language planners" of centuries ago had any such purpose in mind. Feasibly that might be a meaningful way to look at, say, Esperanto, but it's not how English arose or how it works today. True synonyms are rare because when they arise, we either stop using one of the words completely, or we start to use it in contexts that gradually shift the meaning (or retain the original meaning, while the other word shifts). – FumbleFingers Apr 18 '15 at 13:50
  • ...as, for example, beef today almost always means the meat from the animal (butchered, cooked, eaten). Originally it was our "Norman-sourced" word for the animal, and was freely used with that sense. But these days we reserve our "Anglo-Saxon-derived" cow for the animal. – FumbleFingers Apr 18 '15 at 13:54
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Search at Google Books for the best synonym separator:

"Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Synonyms"

Once you find it, go to p. 13, to the article on "accumulate" and related words. It tells you:

*Amass refers usually but not always to things that are valuable, such as money or treasures [amass a fortune]. It frequently implies more imposing results than accumulate.

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

To me, amass implicitly contains an emphasizer: it is accumulate "to power two":-)

| improve this answer | |
  • You're quite right - a worthless/undesirable thing like detritus accumulates an estimated 1150 times in Google Books, but there's not a single instance of detritus amasses. That has to be interpreted in light of the fact that without the word detritus the "bare" figures are 1179K vs 48k, so in principle there should have been a few dozen hits for my second search there. – FumbleFingers Apr 18 '15 at 13:41

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