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I often hear people talk of being pressurised into doing something, but I'm almost certain this is incorrect. A can of deodorant is pressurised, or a tin of beer, since in both cases the release of pressure yields a delicious bubbly beverage (in the former) or a pleasant smelling, easily applied spray to eliminate underarm smells (in the latter).

If one feels a degree of pressure to do something, does that not mean that one feels pressured into doing it, as opposed to feeling pressurised?

The term pressurised seems to me to be of North American origin (I refuse to use a z instead of an s). This seems reason enough not to use it, given that American English is a different language to British English, however I see it time and again in British English language media.

There seems to be little in the way of consensus on other parts of the internet so I thought I might ask here.

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    @used2025161 I believe it's a BrEng/AmEzng thing, "pressurised" being chiefly British
    – Elian
    Nov 18, 2015 at 14:38
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    I have never (here in the US) heard someone speak of being "pressurized" into doing something.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 18, 2015 at 14:39
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    Have you been drinking deodorant again? Nov 18, 2015 at 14:39
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    @Brian, yes - I think we may need a question on the meaning of "former" and "latter"! And I must say that I have never heard that expression in Canada either. Nov 18, 2015 at 14:41
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    People are pressured to do things they don't want to do. Substances are pressurized in order for them to take up less space.
    – Ricky
    Nov 18, 2015 at 16:06

5 Answers 5

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The full OED says pressure as a verb is originally a N. American usage, which they define as...

To apply pressure to, esp. to coerce or persuade by applying psychological or moral pressure.

The more "standard" form pressurize/pressurise, which can also be used with that specific figurative sense, is more likely when it's a straightforward literal usage relating to actual gas pressure (atmospheric, etc.).


It's worth noting that there are only 9 instances of "Don't pressurize me!" (AmE spelling) in Google Books, compared to 54 instances of the BrE version "Don't pressurise me!" (these numbers have to be considered in the context of an estimated 2,670 results for "Don't pressure me!").

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  • Yes - I think people in Britain do say pressurised to mean that someone has been coerced. I agree that it should be pressured (or even pressed) - but I had assumed that pressuris(z)e was American-led.
    – WS2
    Nov 18, 2015 at 17:56
  • @WS2: I'm quite happy using either word in the figurative sense. I have one of those new-fangled "isolated, hermetically-sealed" central heating boilers with minumum operating pressure higher than atmospheric. I have to re-pressurise the system several times a year via a valve to the main water supply (because of slow leaks, I suppose), but although I'd understand re-pressuring it, I don't think I'd ever use the verb in that literal sense myself. Having said that, I think we're at the absolute margins of "How precise is English?" here. It ain't really that precise. Nov 18, 2015 at 18:30
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As a scientist I must say that I find the figurative use of "pressurised" (in whatever spelling) confusing, as that term has a very specific literal meaning in science: to place a substance or object under elevated levels of actual pressure (e.g., "to pressurise a container to 1000 bar" - while you could never say "to pressure a container to 1000 bar"). For the figurative use I would therefore always prefer "pressure" or "pressed" and reserve "pressurise" for the technical use in science.

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I am (almost) certain no one uses pressurize in the US or Canada in this way unless maybe they are originally from the UK. As a Canadian who lives on the border and watches both Canadian and US media all the time I have never in my 50 years heard talk of pressurizing people except on Corrie.

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I have heard the term pressurized in British English. I do feel that it is on several occasions been used out of context. I believe that if you are pressured into doing something or not, that it is quite different then a can of pressurized air. With that said, it all comes down to your education throughout the world.

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  • The Brits do have a prior claim on the language, including choice of correct contexts where there's divided usage. Dec 27, 2021 at 11:33
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I’m from the US but I watch a lot of British tv. I can tell you I have never heard anyone in America use pressurized to describe a person. I actually had to look this up to see why Brits do. Here we say pressured. As in I don’t want you to feel pressured. Pressurized refers to something mechanical.

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  • Did you find out why Brits do? Dec 27, 2021 at 11:31

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