This is the excerpt from J.D. Beresford, The Looking Glass. Originally published in 1921.

"She was, she had often told herself, "a born sceptic; an ultra-modern." She had a certain veneration for the more distant past, but none for her father's period. She had long since condemned alike the ethic and the aesthetic of the nineteenth century as represented by her father's opinions; so that, even now, when his familiar comment coincided so queerly with her own thought, she instinctively disbelieved him."

My exercise demanded me to determine the word with closest meaning to the word "Veneration". Four words were listed as "distate","reverence","deference","awe". I figured out immediately that one of the two words "reverence" and "deference" would be the answer. However, I stuck here because as far as I knew, both "reverence" and "deference" mean "respect", regardless of the meaning of the word "defer" being "to comply with" or "to put off". To elucidate this, I decided to look up both words in Oxford Dictionary.

Deference: http://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/deference?q=deference Reverence: http://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/reverence?q=reverence

Both of them have more or less the same meaning with "respect". However, the official answer turned out to be "reverence". As a result, can somebody help me figuring out this problem? Perhaps there is some problem with intonation of the word or something more intricate?

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    Deference implies in some way sacrificing (for lack of a better word) something of your own because you consider someone else's equivalent better. You defer to someone's will, opinion, etc., by letting it override your own. Deference to earlier periods in time would somehow kind of mean choosing to abide by former times (living in them?) rather than your own. It doesn't really make sense, though I suppose you might get away with saying that the Amish live in deference to the 19th century because they actively reject anything newer. In general, though, it makes more sense to revere the past. Oct 1, 2016 at 17:10
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    Defer and revere are quite different. Which matches venerate?
    – tchrist
    Oct 1, 2016 at 17:11
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    An another word that the author may have used in such context is "nostalgia" (*a feeling of pleasure when you think about things that happened in the past"), even if it is not a real synonym of veneration.
    – Graffito
    Oct 1, 2016 at 17:32

1 Answer 1


Deference is something you show, i.e., it's behavior. Reverence is something you feel. Out of politeness to others, you may show deference for something -- say religious symbols -- that you, yourself. do not revere. In the passage, her veneration of the past is in contrast to her "ultra-modern" skepticism, and both of these are mental states.

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