I can think of "that is to say", "in other words", "put differently". And I'd like to know if there are any subtle differences in the usage of these synonyms. Can they always be used interchangeably regardless of the context?

3 Answers 3


“i.e.” always, only, and ever means “that is”, and should always be read that way. It never means “put differently”. It is never meant to be read aloud or in your brain as eye-eee initials; it should be expanded for the abbreviation it is, and very most preferably into English not Latin.

You may be thinking of videlicet < vidēre licet, abbreviated viz. in print but originally a scribal abbreviation employing Tironian et: vi⁊. This is usually read aloud as “namely”, and has a slightly different nuance compared with i.e., which you can look up in any general reference book.

I very strongly recommend not using Latin abbreviations, because I can guarantee you that between reader and writer, someone won’t know what these properly mean. After all, look at the question you asked.

  • Could you please detail the nuance between viz. and i.e.? I ended up with nothing after looking them up in several online dictionaries.
    – sma
    Commented Feb 19, 2012 at 20:46
  • viz = namely, and often introduces multiple terms; i.e. = meaning, and usually gives just a single term as if in apposition
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 19, 2012 at 21:13
  • +1 for a reference to Tiro, one of my favorite historical figures.
    – Robusto
    Commented Feb 19, 2012 at 21:29
  • @Robusto I mention him by name in the “letters lost from English” thread.
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 19, 2012 at 21:33
  • 1
    I would not think 'that is' to be the same as 'put differently.'
    – Kris
    Commented Feb 20, 2012 at 7:07

Perhaps the simplest replacement is a comma:

I'm king of the hill, top of the list.


i.e. is an abbreviation for the Latin id est, which means 'that (literally, 'it') is'. You can use any formulation which says the same thing. Personally, I avoid Latin phrases and abbreviations where possible. If they disappear from general use, as seems quite likely, I would say good riddance.

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