What’s the Difference Between Adverse and Averse?

chalkboard, averse, adverse

What does adverse and averse mean?

The adjectives adverse and averse are related. Both come from the Latin root vert- meaning “to turn.” In Latin the word adversus meant “turned toward” and “hostile” and is a direct root of adverse. Averse, on the other hand, emerges from the Latin word aversus, which meant “turned away.”

Today, adverse is rarely used to describe people but rather to describe effects or events, and it usually conveys a sense of hostility or harmfulness: adverse reviews; adverse winds; adverse trends in the economy.

Averse describes people and means “feeling opposed or disinclined.” It often appears with a negative word (not) to convey the opposite meaning of the actual word (the opposite meaning being “willing or agreeable”): We are not averse to holding another meeting. Averse is usually followed by to, and in older use occasionally followed by from. The related noun is aversion: He has an aversion to pickles.

According to Google’s nGram, the use of averse has been falling consistently since the early 1800s, while adverse has generally risen.

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