In the transcript of the debate between Russell and Copleston, I found the sentence

I'd like to put the main weight on the metaphysical argument.

Can the phrase "put more weight on something" mean "to attach more importance" to it?

For example, does it make sense to say the following?

Compared to person B, person A puts more weight on psychological aspects.


2 Answers 2


Idiomatically, most people prefer to (metaphorically) give more weight to [some contributory factor] rather than put more weight on it. But both versions are perfectly natural, and semantically they're equivalent (attach greater importance to some factor).

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Note that both "conscious agents" (people) and "abstract concepts" such as data, arguments, lines of reasoning can give or put weight on / to / behind some interpretation. But for reasons that escape me, "people" can't normally lend weight to a conclusion - only "abstract concepts" can do this.

  • 1
    I can't find endorsement, but to me 'put more weight on' involves risk-taking while 'give more weight to' doesn't entail or even really connote this. The untried bridge versus the louder organ note. May 29, 2021 at 18:34
  • To me "Finding A gives (or lends) more weight to X" means "Finding A provides more supporting evidence in favour of X hypopthesis". Whereas "Person A gives (or puts) more weight to/on X" means "Person A considers the relative importance of X to be higher (than some unstated other thing Y)".
    – Vicky
    May 30, 2021 at 9:36
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    @EdwinAshworth: It took me a while to come up with recent as a useful word to tack onto put/give more weight on/to for my NGram usage chart. I certainly didn't notice any tendency for those different phrasings to reflect different meanings, even after leafing through a few dozen examples for each. The difference with lends sticks out a mile (it usually only occurs with adds, not recognises greater credibility). But whenever there are two ways of saying something it's always likely they'll acquire different connotations for at least some speakers, so maybe. May 30, 2021 at 12:31
  • 'Just because they're good workers, doesn't mean that you should put more weight on them to compensate from[sic] the bad workers.' obviously means 'shovel more work on'. // 'Patients ... will not be aware of the validity and reliability of many of the trials, experiments and reports widely available and sometimes put more weight on them than justifiable.' [[Piller, Journal of Lymphoedema](file:///C:/Users/Edwin/Downloads/decisions-they-are-never-easy-but-this-is-what-we-would-like-to-do-and-here-are-the-reasons-why.pdf)] implies patients taking unwise action, risks. May 30, 2021 at 16:00
  • @EdwinAshworth: I don't recognise that "good workers" usage at all (looks like a more literal place a heavier burden on them sense to me, not really connected to the pay heed / confer credibility senses we're mainly dealing with here). But the "patients" example seems to be exactly the pay heed sense - those patients place too much faith in / give too much weight to / "over-trust" experimental procedures. May 30, 2021 at 16:51

Yes, in that context that is exactly what it means - the speaker wants to highlight the importance of the metaphysical argument and specifically wants to attach more importance to it than to other arguments. This is actually the main definition for "give weight" in the FreeDictionary:

give weight to
give weight to (something)
To consider something important or especially relevant. Often used with modifiers such as "much," "a lot of," etc.
Jonathan knew his parents never approved of his relationship with Michael, so when he decided to get married, he didn't give much weight to their objections.
Because you're a mentor here, your students are going to give a lot of weight to your opinion.

In my British English experience, "give more weight to" actually has two distinct different meanings depending on whether the subject is a piece of evidence / experimental finding, or a person.

"Finding A gives (or lends) more weight to X" means "Finding A provides more supporting evidence in favour of X hypothesis".

"Person A gives (or puts) more weight to (on) X" means "Person A considers the relative importance of X to be higher (than some unstated other thing Y)".

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