The two quotes below discuss the same topic.

Terry's tortured season took a surreal twist on Tuesday when a blurry image resembling him appeared on cigarette packets in India. GUARDIAN

A blurred picture closely resembling the 31-year-old appears above a "smoking kills" slogan. CNN

The definition of blurry and blurred is very identical whereupon blurred has an extended definition. From OALD:

without a clear outline; not clear

1 not clear; without a clear outline or shape
2 difficult to remember clearly
3 difficult to distinguish, so that differences are not clear

I think that blurry is a derivative of the noun blur while blurred stems from the verb blur. But I wonder why there exists two forms. I tried to find other words where derivatives of both noun and verb with seemingly the same meaning exists to compare their meanings but I didn't find any. Those words which came to my mind have in my opinion a distinction. For instance, washed and washy.

Even though the quotes from the articles give the appearance that they are identical, is there any subtle distinction between blurry and blurred or are they interchangeable without changing any connotation?

  • "Blurred" has the added connotation of the subject having it's outline or shape deliberately made not clear.
    – Bidella
    Commented Mar 19, 2012 at 0:00

2 Answers 2


Blurry can always be replaced by blurred (except in the word blurry-eyed), but not always vice versa. IMO, blurry, for the most part, fits all three meanings of blurred in the OALD excerpt, not just the first.

However, blurred has another use which blurry doesn't duplicate, and the dictionary doesn't bring out (probably because it's hard to do without examples). When blurred follows is, was, etc., (i.e. the picture was blurred), it can take a modifier or modifier phrase (e.g. the picture was blurred by the rain or the picture was badly blurred). Blurry cannot be used nearly as extensively in this way.

To go into nuances, even in the places where blurry and blurred are interchangeable, blurred suggests a previous state of non-blurriness and may suggest a perpetrator, whereas blurry only reports the state of the object and doesn't connote much more. The distinction is, however, only slightly observed in common usage.

  • 2
    have knocked out the comment because it no longer adds anything. The rest of your answer is fully-focussed and not even slightly blurry/blurred (or is that an artifact of my excellent sharp-pixelled monitor? :) Commented Mar 19, 2012 at 0:49
  • ...actually, blurred eyes doesn't grate on me, and checking Google Books I find it's not uncommon Commented Mar 19, 2012 at 0:52
  • You're right. I must be too tired to post answers :/
    – Daniel
    Commented Mar 19, 2012 at 0:54
  • Having mused on OP's point about most adjective-derived-from-noun and past-participle-verb pairs having different meanings, I wonder if your final paragraph embodies any "generic" principle, where no other factors come into play. How does it play out with things like squashy/squashed, minty/minted, speckly/speckled, grainy/grained, etc.? Commented Mar 19, 2012 at 1:16
  • "The picture was hopelessly blurry" sounds fine to me. I think you're actually on very sticky ground trying to identify too many "ways" one or the other word can't be used - a lot of them will turn out to be highly-specific idiomatic usages. Commented Mar 19, 2012 at 14:46

Blurry is an adjective and does not have any particular implications as to why the image is indistinct, and will usually appear in the attributive and predicative positions:

  • The image is blurry.
  • The blurry image is useless.

Blurred is a participle and has additional usages available, and is more likely to occur in apposition. It has different shades of meaning too in that there is the more direct implication that it is the result of some (defective) blurring process as it derives from a verb. While an adjective can be used as a noun, this is slightly more common with a participle (which can in general be used as part of a compound verb, as an gerundive, or as a gerund). The point is not so much that 'blurry' couldn't substitute in all but the first of the examples below, but that we are talking about the result of a process (accidental in general, but deliberate in the case of the last one where 'blurry' would apply it was unintended). In the case of a photo of Doris Day, where photos of the actress were deliberately blurred to create a softer feel, we would not have 'blurry' as an option in examples 3 and 4 either.

  • The ink has blurred.
  • The photo, blurred as it was, was enough to recognize him.
  • Do you want the one that was in focus or the one that was blurred.
  • I prefer the blurred (one).
  • The visible faces are the lawyers, the blurred are the accused.

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