For at least a year and half, I read "deprecated" as "depreciated", even when writing it down myself, I would spell it as "depreciated", even though pretty much every time I read it, it was spelt correctly (the intended meaning, was the meaning of "deprecated").

(When I finally spoke the word in conversation, obviously in the wrong context, and got told I should use deprecated, I was somewhat freaked out, especially after reading the same material I previously had, only to find it had all magically changed.)

I see from Stack Overflow I'm not the only one: https://stackoverflow.com/search?q=depreciated

Can depreciated have a similar meaning to deprecated in any circumstances? (And why after reading it spelt correctly so many times, or just after the first, would I say it in my head and write it down incorrectly?)

Secondly, what is the difference between deprecated and obsolete?

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    Don't do that to me, man! I now feel compelled to go on a StackOverflow editing spree with that link... – Andrew Vit Oct 15 '11 at 23:50
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    I recently had to correct a seasoned and otherwise competent developer when he told me "the function is depreciated". It's crazy how wide spread this is. – Jordan Bentley Oct 16 '11 at 0:00
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    Code monkeys can't speel. – Sam Oct 16 '11 at 6:04
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    And don't get me started on their misuse of the semicolon. – Sam Oct 16 '11 at 6:04
  • For me, recently, pain ceased to be soaring and started searing... – SF. Nov 13 '12 at 14:56

The main difference is that deprecate is largely archaic, apart from its very modern computing sense. The original meaning (derived from Latin de=away, and prevari=pray) meant to ward something off (by prayer, for example). It can also be used to mean to express disapproval of; deplore; belittle, but IMHO this is also dated/poetic usage outside computing. I also suspect it's used as something of a euphemism for denigrate, which to some people is uncomfortably close to the n-word.

Deprecated is normally used today for some feature of a computer language which is still supported, but no longer recommended. It may not be supported at some time in the future, because it doesn't fit well with the way the language is being developed.

There's no substantive difference in meaning between deprecated and obsolete for that "no longer recommended" computer sense. But obsolete is used in far more contexts than deprecated, and can sometimes imply "no longer capable of being used", rather than just "not recommended".

Depreciated, on the other hand, derives from Latin pretium=price. It's used of things which have reduced in value over time.

TL;DR: People either confuse the words because they don't know what they mean, or because they don't notice the extra letter "i" in one of them.

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    I would argue that there is a qualitative difference between "deprecated" and "obsolete". Something can continue to be useful, but it's not encouraged. It might never be supplanted by something else to make it obsolete. – Andrew Vit Oct 15 '11 at 23:55
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    I don't think deprecate is archaic. I see "self-deprecation" and "self-deprecatory humour" frequently enough. (It's not actually self-depreciation, is it?) – ShreevatsaR Oct 16 '11 at 3:04
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    @ShreevatsaR: I certainly wouldn't call the self- forms archaic, but I do think they're a little poetic/flamboyant/dated. Not much, though. – FumbleFingers Oct 16 '11 at 3:25
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    +1 for an excellent answer, but one extra point which I think is in play: both these words are fairly unusual, so when people are wavering between the two, I suspect depreciated gets a big boost from the analogy with appreciated, which is much more common than either. – PLL Oct 16 '11 at 13:46
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    @SF.: The original meaning (now, effectively obsolete :) of deprecate was a lot stronger than simply "unpreferred" (it meant you earnestly prayed for it not to exist). So I think the word today only has meaning in the computer context, where it always means There's a better method available now. This old method is currently still supported, but be warned that it might not be in future. And so far as obsolete is concerned, I think there's always the implication that an obsolete thing has been replaced by something newer and better. – FumbleFingers Nov 13 '12 at 15:43

The dictionary gives "belittle" as a synonym for both words. As FumbleFingers points out, "deprecate" means to "pray away" and "depreciate" means to "price away", so they aren't that far apart.


People get confused because the spellings of the two words are nearly identical. When we read, we don't read every individual character, we just process a few letters and make a guess.

That may sound like I'm pointing out the obvious, but it gets a bit more interesting. The spelling difference between "deprecated" and "depreciated" is towards the center of the two words, which turns out to be the real problem. A study was done at Cambridge University which showed it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae.

Edit: It appears that the study was never actually conducted, and the claim is not true as stated, but there is still some truth to it.

Intuitively it still seems to me that altering letters in towards the middle of a word would have less of an effect than altering the extremities, especially the first letter. Unfortunately I don't know of any reputable study to support my claim, so I'll leave it at that.

Edit2: Snopes lists this as undetermined.

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    That study is now depreciated - it mostly only works for words that are short. – mgb Oct 16 '11 at 2:44
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    @MartinBeckett It's not depreciated, if anything it's apprecated. – Jordan Bentley Oct 16 '11 at 2:53
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    BTW, if you click the link you'll find that actually no such study was done at Cambridge University. And it's not true that only the first and last letter matter; try the "The sprehas had ponits and patles" sentence that's near the bottom of the page. This has been discussed before on English.SE. – ShreevatsaR Oct 16 '11 at 3:44
  • @ShreevatsaR Damn...so disillusioning. – Jordan Bentley Oct 16 '11 at 4:17
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    But do read your link for lots interesting stuff on the importance of letter position and word recognition, including a literature review and a PhD on this. – Hugo Oct 16 '11 at 4:34

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