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Can I use the words 'respect' and 'deference' interchangeably?

closed as off-topic by choster, Kristina Lopez, Robusto, Chenmunka, Edwin Ashworth Jul 2 '15 at 14:32

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    You can defer to people you do not respect, and respect people to whom you do not defer. – TRomano Jul 2 '15 at 14:05
  • What definitions have you so far found for these words? – Margana Jul 2 '15 at 14:05
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    Welcome to EL&U. The short answer is no, they are not interchangeable. One of the expectations of this site is that you have attempted some research on your own; please edit your post and provide, for example, dictionary definitions or examples of usages that you have found and identify specifically what your point of confusion is. Our sister site for English Language Learners may also be of interest. – choster Jul 2 '15 at 14:07
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Yes, respect and deference can be used somewhat interchangeably if the person to whom you accord respect is the same person to whom you accord deference. In other words, respect and deference can go together like a horse and carriage.

If, however, you do not respect a person, deference may simply be the proper and diplomatic thing to evince, despite one's lack of respect for the person.

Commenter @TimRomano said it well, when he said,

You can defer to people you do not respect, and respect people to whom you do not defer.

The following sentence illustrates the difference between the two words:

Although I did not respect the winner of the election, I gave him his due deference when we began working together.

Or,

Although I did not give the winner of the election his due deference, I at least gave him my respect when we began working together.

On the other hand, we have:

Since the winning candidate was my best friend, my respect for him quite naturally made me more than happy to give him his due deference.

Or,

Since the winning candidate was my best friend, my deference to him quite naturally made me more than happy to give him his due respect.

In conclusion, the two words are not necessarily interchangeable, but they can be in some instances. When respect for a person is lacking or is given grudgingly, deference to him or her may also be given grudgingly, if only to keep up appearances.

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Deference would mean greater respect or honour associated especially with one's elders or people of higher ranks. So yeah, respect is a slightly diluted version of deference.

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    But you can show someone respect without showing them deference. The words differ by more than degree. – Robusto Jul 2 '15 at 14:26
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    Deference tends to be a specific expression of respect. – ScotM Jul 2 '15 at 17:26
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    Can you show a cited source that defines "respect" as a slightly diluted version of "deference"? – Kristina Lopez Jul 2 '15 at 19:23
  • thefreedictionary.com defines it as a "Great respect "or "high public esteem accorded as a right or as due" .It is almost synonymous of an honour or an obiesance which makes it a stronger word than respect. – Shounak Ghike Jul 2 '15 at 21:31

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