I have been building my vocab for a month. I am pretty confused at the usage of these words; I have consulted many dictionaries like Cambridge, Merriam-Webster etc but they all seem to "prevaricate". Here is what I know so far about "disparage".

a. criticize unfairly.

So yeah, you are criticizing someone unfairly, so you are damaging their good name and reputation, so it's synonymous with "denigrate".

b. regard as of little worth.

So, now "disparage" is synonymous with "belittle".

Question 1. Does "denigrate" has both meanings as "disparage"? Is it synonymous with "calumny" and "belittle" both?

Question 2. Google says "deprecate" is another word for "depreciate". Now depreciate has a secondary meaning: disparage or belittle something. So, are all these words synonyms: disparage, deprecate, depreciate, denigrate with primary meaning to criticize unfairly and secondary meaning to belittle?

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    All the words are very similar, but as you know all words have a slight tinge of distinction and appropriateness to be used in certain contexts. For example if someone defames me and I sue them, I would see that more as calumny than merely denigrate or disparage. If I were going around telling people not to buy shares in Google because they are evil, I would see that more as depreciating Google's reputation more than deprecating it or disparaging it. Unfortunately there isn't any way (that I know of) to learn these subtle differences other than practice and exposure.
    – Zebrafish
    Aug 14, 2018 at 3:08
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    'Calumny' is a noun; the (rather clumsy) verb would be 'calumniate'. 'Belittle' means to regard someone as unimportant rather than to actively insult them. As for 'deprecate', see english.stackexchange.com/questions/45295/… Aug 14, 2018 at 8:16
  • Please first, which vocab have you been building? English in general or something about disparagement? What, here, do you mean by "prevaricate”? Could you either post the details of what your dictionaries and thesauruses left unclear, or take the Question somewhere such as English Language Learners, if not both? Aug 28, 2018 at 19:47

1 Answer 1


First of all, I notice that most of these words are Latin-derived or French-derived, except for belittle. Whether a word is of Anglo-Saxon or Latin origin often determines its register (the level of formality it is associated with). Latin = more formal; Anglo-Saxon = less formal. The context in which they are used is also important. In everyday conversation, you can use the first four almost interchangeably, but if you were using them in writing, you might want to consider their etymology and context.

All quotes below are from the Online Etymology Dictionary.


late 14c., "degrade socially" (for marrying below rank or without proper ceremony), from Anglo-French and Old French desparagier (Modern French déparager) "reduce in rank, degrade, devalue, depreciate," originally "to marry unequally, marry to one of inferior condition or rank," and thus, by extension, to bring on oneself or one's family the disgrace or dishonor involved in this, from des- "away" (see dis-) + parage "rank, lineage" (see peer (n.)).

Also from late 14c. as "injure or dishonor by a comparison," especially by treating as equal or inferior to what is of less dignity, importance, or value. Sense of "belittle, undervalue, criticize or censure unjustly" is by 1530s. Related: Disparaged; disparaging; disparagingly.


1781, "to make small, reduce in proportion," from be- + little (v.); first recorded in writings of Thomas Jefferson (and probably coined by him), Jefferson used it in "Notes on the State of Virginia" to characterize the view promoted as scientific by French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc Buffon that American species (including humans) were naturally smaller than and inferior to European ones, which Jefferson was at pains to refute. ("So far the Count de Buffon has carried this new theory of the tendency of nature to belittle her productions on this side of the Atlantic.")


1520s, "to sully or stain" (the reputation, character, etc.), from Latin denigratus, past participle of denigrare "to blacken; to defame," from de- "completely"


This word is used in HTML to refer to an element which will be discontinued in the next version.

1620s, "to pray against or for deliverance from, pray the removal or deliverance from," from Latin deprecatus, past participle of deprecari "to pray (something) away," from de "away" (see de-) + precari "to pray" (from PIE root *prek- "to ask, entreat"). Meaning "to express disapproval, urge against" is from 1640s.


This word is used in accounting to describe the expected decrease in value of an item over the years.

mid-15c., "to undervalue, under-rate," from Latin depretiatus, past participle of depretiare "to lower the price of, undervalue," from de "down" (see de-) + pretium "price" (see price (n.)). From 1640s in transitive sense of "lessen the value of, to lower in value." Intransitive sense of "to fall in value, become of less worth" is from 1790.

So actually they all mean something different and are used in different contexts.

Deprecate and depreciate are two different concepts and are not synonymous.

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