In order to scorn someone's behaviour, excuse etc., we can define it as childish or puerile, juvenile. In my register, they are graded down in that order. Is it right, or is there any difference in meaning or connotation?


"That was a rather childish/ puerile excuse."

  • And don't forget callow and jejune. – Sven Yargs May 31 '18 at 7:36
  • Even sophomoric. – GEdgar May 31 '18 at 11:28
  • @SvenYargs callow, jejune may not be derogatory. – Kris Jun 1 '18 at 11:45

Childish is primarily neutral, with a secondary meaning that is pejorative: "silly and immature". Puerile is pejorative per se, with no "respectable" sense of use. Juvenile, like childish is first and foremost a neutral term, with a mildly derogatory secondary meaning.

That puts them in the order: juvenile, childish and puerile in the degree of increasing derogatoriness.



They are all synonyms of each other, having the same meaning. In American English, they are all interchangeable.

On a different note, at least in America, very few people will know what puerile means. It is not a word in most people's vocabulary.

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    …very few people will know what puerile means? On what evidence do you base your claim? Personal experience? Recognizing a word (passive knowledge) and actually using it in speech are two separate things. – Mari-Lou A May 24 '18 at 8:33
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    @Mari-LouA No. You have been proven wrong. Plus there is plenty of evidence to support this claim. Dont be stubborn and lazy, Google it for yourself. Asking for more evidence doesnt make you sound smarter. It makes you sound puerile. – Keltari May 24 '18 at 8:50
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    @Kris Knowing, and Keltari sustains that most Americans do not understand what "peurile" means, is the not the same as frequency. Ngram plots frequency, not comprehension. – Mari-Lou A May 24 '18 at 9:09
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    @Mari-LouA Enjoy the beer. – Kris May 24 '18 at 9:10
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    @Mari-Lou is absolutely right here. The claim that most Americans won’t understand the word puerile is ludicrous and has not been backed up by any data whatsoever. Usage frequency proves nothing at all about how many people understand a word. Would you also claim that other words of similar frequency, like gaskets, lubricating, scramblers, dramatisation, and bushmen are not understood by most Americans? From personal experience, I have never met a single American who didn’t understand what I meant when I used the word puerile. – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 31 '18 at 7:09

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