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This sentence from a major Indian daily amused me:

  • The mother of a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) constable, who died in the line of duty in Jammu and Kashmir, was felicitated at the 65th Republic Day celebrations.
  • On behalf of the district administration, Minister in-charge of Mysore district V. Srinivas Prasad felicitated Savitramma, Satish’s mother, in recognition of her son’s sacrifice.

I find it comic given the above context and believe that the use of the verb is inappropriate in the given situation:

  • felicitate verb ~ congratulate.
  • A felicitation is when you congratulate someone.

Is this correct usage?

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    Technically, offering felicitations is wishes for future happiness. Which is why we often congratulate the groom but felicitate the bride: the groom has captured a prize, won a coup; the bride simply took receipt of what was properly due her (due to her beauty, intelligence, upbringing, demeanor, etc etc etc). So anyway, though I've certainly never seen it used this way, and generally find InE weird (and sometimes offputting), it conceptually plausible that the officials are wishing the bereaved future happiness in the wake of te tragedy they recently suffered: this too shall pass.
    – Dan Bron
    May 28, 2015 at 13:58
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    A site-specific search for we felicitated finds more than a dozen instances on The Times of India. I doubt you'd find that verb usage even once in a British newspaper. May 28, 2015 at 14:43
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    ...this analysis explains it by saying Indians tend pick up more of their English vocabulary from reading rather than speech, which causes them to come out with more unusual/dated/archaic usages than native speakers, and to inappropriately mix formal and casual registers. May 28, 2015 at 14:46
  • I also note that OED's most recent citation for felicitate as a verb is 1873. Personally, I think it's effectively archaic/incorrect for mainstream native speakers. May 28, 2015 at 14:50
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    It sounds like a malapropism for 'facilitated'. But when read literally it sounds like a back formation from 'felicitations' (congratulations) and so sounds very inappropriate for a memorial service. But in context of a military memorial, congratulations may be considered appropriate for the ultimate military sacrifice. (and maybe that's how it is used in IndE. I don't think it is used at all (or 'congratulate' for that matter) in US or UK military memorials.
    – Mitch
    May 28, 2015 at 15:20

2 Answers 2

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A better choice, at least in non-Indian english, would have been 'honoured'. 'Felicitated' almost suggests that a large reward was forthcoming. Also, in the first instance they should have omitted those commas in order to avoid the sense that the mother was the one who died in the line of duty.

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  • Weighing in as an Indian: Dr. Spleen is right. Most Indians take felicitate to mean 'officially recognize and honour/award'. I think this is in large part due to these headlines.
    – Tushar Raj
    Jun 3, 2015 at 8:04
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Felicitation comes from the verb felicitate, which means "congratulate," and has a Latin root, felicitas, "happiness," from felix, "happy or fortunate." (vocabulary.com)

Felicitation (You'll almost always see the noun felicitation in its plural form, felicitations)

  • The act of felicitating; a wishing of joy or happiness; congratulation

Usage notes: A man is often wished congratulations on the event of his engagement or marriage. However, it is considered rude to "congratulate" a lady (for "catching" a husband?), so she is wished "felicitations" instead.

(en.wiktionary.org).

It appears that in an attempt to avoid using the idiomatic "congratulated", the writer preferred "felicitated". It still is not the right word or the right phrase for the occasion stated in the OP.

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  • @Dan Bron puts it succinctly. I find InE weird (and sometimes offputting), Jun 9, 2015 at 7:50

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