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I sometimes hear people use "I hope you feel way better","This is way more than I was expecting" and etc. Could you explain this type of usage and what is the difference between "feeling better" and "feeling way better"?

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    en.wiktionary.org/wiki/way#Adverb
    – aedia λ
    Dec 9, 2011 at 20:27
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    simply, the addition of 'way' is an intensifier, a synonym of 'much' and ...I was about to say 'very' but grammatically that doesn't work... ' a lot'. The exact sonnotation of 'way' I leave to the real answers.
    – Mitch
    Dec 12, 2011 at 14:45

3 Answers 3

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It's not the words so much as the metaphors they represent. Very is the usual adjective intensifier, but way, far, and much can also be used, even though they have other uses, because they're representing particular Metaphor Themes.

Way is short for a long way (which can usually be substituted, e.g,

  • This is way better than it used to be.

  • This is a long way better than it used to be.),

    which means the same thing as far.

  • This is far better than it used to be.

Both of them represent the common Life is a Journey metaphor theme, in which whatever is being discussed (in this case, one's life history) gets mapped onto a Path, in which events are "traversed" in temporal order, so many expressions of physical movement and distance can be used for abstract purposes. Thus, if you've come a long way in recovering, you're way better; if you've come far, you're far better.

Much is a little different. Rather than a Path metaphor, this is a Container, with a volume that can be (metaphorically) measured, and thus terms for quantity and size can be used (like movement and distance terms in Path metaphors) to refer to anything one metaphorizes into the Container. Thus, if you have increased the amount of recovery, you are better by much, or much better.

Most of our thinking, and practically all of our language use, is metaphoric. See here or here for further examples and references.

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  • That sounds very compelling. But do you have a reference for that particular etymology of 'way'?
    – Mitch
    Dec 12, 2011 at 14:42
  • That isn't an etymology. Way has represented travel along paths since it was PIE *wegh- 'To go, transport in a vehicle'; derivatives include way, away, weight, wagon, earwig, devious, trivial, and vex. As for the metaphor, see Lakoff and Johnson 1980 for starts. Nov 14, 2012 at 15:13
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There are certain words that intensify the meaning of the comparative adjectives. Way is one of them. Much and far can also be used this way. Consider:

You are better at Maths than Sam. (He scores 15/20, you score 17/20.)

You are way/far/much better at Maths than Sam. (He scores 13/20, you score 19/20.)

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"Way" here simply means "much". In effect, people are saying "I hope you feel much better". This use of the word "way" is common in North America and has been recorded in Oxford Dictionaries (check under the "adverb" heading).

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    I think the use of way as an intensifier is most common among younger children, outside of the phrase way too, which is more commonly used by people of all ages. (If I hear someone say X is way better than Y, I think the speaker is likely young or perhaps speaks a dialect that's not mine; I would make no such assumptions if I heard someone say that's way too loud.) OP's example of feel way better sounds a bit strange to my ears, though.
    – user13141
    Dec 9, 2011 at 17:31
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    "Way better" is very informal. If you are writing something formal, a way better choice of words would be "much better".
    – Jay
    Dec 9, 2011 at 19:02
  • @onomatomaniak: it's not kids, unless you consider anyone born (at least?) since 1960 a kid.
    – Mitch
    Dec 12, 2011 at 14:43

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