Last night a person in our group was describing another fellow as stringent. I told him I had never heard a person described with this word and instead stern or exacting might be better. I Also said that only rules, guidelines, laws, etc are usually modified with this adjective. This person has been a school teacher in the past and I was the only one in the group who had any problem with his usage of this word in this fashion. Could anyone give me any help with this question?

To include exact context as best as I remember, he was referring to people who have a stringent personality (as being very religious, legalistic) saying they are usually very insecure people. I immediately said, "don't you mean strident instead of stringent? to which he quite correctly answered that the two words have different meanings and he does mean stringent. Thanks for the answers. I really agree with hot licks, that it is certainly unusual. I love reading and have always been a bookworm and have never seen the word used like this before.

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    Certainly unusual. In another context one might wonder if the speaker had meant "strident" or perhaps even "astringent". – Hot Licks Mar 11 '16 at 19:54
  • Quirk & Svartvik posited a 5-point gradience of 'acceptability'. After considering a mixture of Google search results, Google Ngram results, gut feeling and the dictionary definitions and examples, I'm going to suggest 25% acceptable. Others may disagree. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 11 '16 at 21:59
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    Would you please edit the question to include the exact sentence in which it was used please? – Jim Mar 12 '16 at 3:02




Exact definitions differ, but the word seems to be used most often as an adjective for abstract concepts.

That being said, you might get away with it if you're saying, for example:

John is being very stringent in this situation.

--especially if the situation involves rules, restrictions, or specifications.

Probably not, however, if you're saying

John is a very stringent person.

In this case, you would probably need to use strict to be technically correct.

  • Totally not referring to you. John was the first common name that came to mind. lol. – Adam Hayes Mar 11 '16 at 20:00
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    I'm 100% aware of that. You may have noticed by this point that I'm not exactly the most serious person in EL&U comments and seeing you use my name in an example I couldn't resist. :D – John Clifford Mar 11 '16 at 20:00

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