I am only interested in the meaning as relating to categories. I understand that there is only a "categorical denial".

For example would be there be a difference between

categorial storage of data


categorical storage of data


  • One important difference is that categorial is far less common. I think mainly it's restricted to domain-specific linguistics terminology (categorial grammar being an analytical approach primarily based on "functional categories"). Dec 2 '19 at 14:04
  • ...I've looked, but can't come up with any other adjective that accepts both -ial and -ical suffixes. It often makes little or no difference whether -ic is extended to -ical (as electric / electrical, botanic / botanical), and in circumstances like that, it often turns out that the less common version starts to acquire some "domain-specific" fine distinction of meaning. Dec 2 '19 at 14:22
  • Maybe central and centrical. Where I don't think there's any distinction apart from the latter being a very uncommon "hifalutin" choice. Dec 2 '19 at 14:30
  • "Is there a difference?" Of course; they're two different words. No two words are the same; there are always different connotations. Maybe you instead meant to ask what the differences are?
    – Drew
    Dec 27 '20 at 4:50

From the standpoint of general usage, as reflected in the dictionaries (and I checked the OED, Merriam-Webster, Lexico, Collins, and Wiktionary), there is no difference in meaning.

However, it is always possible that in a particular field, a word might have a much more specific technical meaning. For example, as FumbleFingers said in the comments, in linguistics, there is something called categorial grammar, which is normally not referred to as categorical grammar. On the other hand, in logic, there is something called a categorial statement, which, however, is even more often called a categorical statement.

In your particular case, if you search google books for categorical storage and categorial storage, you will see, first of all, that the latter is much rarer. However, based on context, it seems (to me, at least) that it means the same thing as the former.

Having said all this, I would say that, to be sure, perhaps you should pose this question to the data science StackExchange.

  • Why data science.SE?
    – Mitch
    Dec 2 '19 at 18:47
  • @Mitch Because the OP asked specifically about categorial/-ical storage of data. I figured this is covered either in computer science or in data science. I did a preliminary search on those two StackExchanges, and the concept seems to be appearing in the data science one. Dec 2 '19 at 19:58

categorial: of, dealing with, or involving a category

I think this is more common in US English, it's not common in British English.

categorical: without any doubt or possibility of being changed

Is not really applicable to data - its more about being emphatic in your opinion or statement... Its dealing with a different thing.

  • 1
    Merriam-Webster says about categorical: "of, relating to, or constituting a category". And I excluded the meaning of categorical you mention in my question. I am really only interested in their difference when it comes to categories. Dec 2 '19 at 19:13
  • Americans do use the English language differently, [I may be wrong but...] I don't think it is correct use in British English for this very reason - confusion [avoidance thereof]
    – NeilB
    Dec 2 '19 at 19:23
  • 1
    Categorial is not common in American English, either. However, for what it's worth, the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), which has 560 million words, gives 10 hits for categorial, while the British National Corpus (BNC), which has 100 million words, gives 17 hits. This would suggest that, if anything, categorial is much more common in British English than in American English, by a factor of about 10! Dec 2 '19 at 20:15
  • Lies, dammed lies and statistics...?
    – NeilB
    Dec 4 '19 at 12:55
  • 1
    @linguisticturn Gold nuggets are much more common than platinum ones, but the gold ones still approach the Hen's Teeth category!
    – BoldBen
    Aug 29 '20 at 9:08

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