Origin of e.g.
words often confused with e.g.
Sometimes these words and phrases are most familiar as abbreviations—the prime example being etc., which we use every day as a substitute for “and so forth” or “and so on.” Even though etc. is pronounced as if it were spelled out in full ( et cetera ), not everyone realizes that et cetera is in fact the two-word Latin phrase they’re using and that it literally does mean “and the rest.”
While etc. may win the prize for frequency of use, there are two other Latin abbreviations that also are very familiar: e.g. and i.e. Unlike etc., neither e.g. nor i.e. is pronounced as if it were spelled out, but rather just by the initials (the same way you would pronounce a.m. / p.m. or FBI ).
As useful abbreviations go, e.g. and i.e. are a great pair, but the main reason they’re even thought of as a pair is that they are sometimes confused, which is understandable given the absence of Latin in a typical modern education. So let’s have a quick Latin lesson and learn the simple facts about these two abbreviations.
E.g., used as a substitute for the words “for example” or “such as,” is short for the Latin exemplī grātiā, which literally means “for the sake of example.” I.e., used as a substitute for the words “that is,” “that is to say,” or “in other words,” is short for the Latin id est, which literally means “that is.” Now that we’ve got the meanings down, let’s look at some actual usage.
e.g. = “for example”
• If you’re worried about a house full of dog hair, remember there are many nonshedding breeds—e.g., silky terriers, Basenjis, and Lhasa apsos.
• I’ve got no food restrictions, but some things I’d sooner not eat, e.g., oysters.
• The most applauded moments were her soliloquies—e.g., at the end of Scene 1.
i.e. = “that is (to say)” or “in other words”
• Our son’s adorable pound puppy is my favorite breed —i.e., a mutt!
• There’s only one way I don’t like my potatoes prepared, i.e., boiled.
• The critics called the performance “scintillating” and “dazzling”—i.e., they loved it.
Hopefully, the preceding sentences have shown how useful (and very different in meaning) these abbreviations are, but that won’t help someone who wants to use one and can’t at the moment remember which one means what. If all else fails, think of e.g. as the beginning of egsample (not a real word, but one that sounds like example ). That technique may not make you a Latin scholar, but it might help put you on the right track to the right usage!
WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH e.g.e.g. , i.e. (see confusables note at the current entry)
Other definitions for e.g. (2 of 2)
E.G. VS. I.E.
What’s the difference between e.g. and i.e.?
The abbreviation e.g. essentially means for example—you say it before providing an example of the thing you’ve just mentioned. The abbreviation i.e. essentially means that is or in other words—you say it before rephrasing what you’ve just said, often to put it in simpler terms.
Both are abbreviations of Latin phrases: e.g. stands for exemplī grātiā (which literally means “for the sake of example”); i.e. stands for the Latin id est (which literally means “that is”). Both are pronounced by saying the two individual letters in the term.
Both are commonly used in writing, but i.e. is much more commonly used in speech—most people don’t often say e.g. when speaking (probably because the phrase for example is so common and well understood).
Sometimes, people use them in overlapping ways, but this is technically incorrect, since i.e. is meant to indicate a rephrasing, while e.g. is meant to signal that a specific example is going to be given. Of course, both of these things involve an attempt to make what has just been said a little clearer (by clarifying or specifying), so it can be hard to remember when each one is appropriate.
To help remember when to use each one, think of the i in i.e. as standing for in other words. Think of the e in e.g. as standing for example (which it pretty much does).
Here’s an example of e.g. and i.e. used correctly in the same sentence.
Example: The second sewing lesson (i.e., the one starting next week) will cover several different skills (e.g., sewing on a button and sewing a seam).
Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between e.g. and i.e.
Quiz yourself on e.g. vs. i.e.!
Should e.g. or i.e. be used in the following sentence?
Many birds are dimorphic, ____, the males and females of a species have different appearances.
How to use e.g. in a sentence
Lyra d soi, n d' eg, kai kithara leipetai, kai kata polin chrsima; kai au kat' agrous tois nomeusi syrinx an tis ei.The Modes of Ancient Greek Music|David Binning Monro
There will soon be one b-e-eg mince pie we-eth Captain Wright eenside.Famous Privateersmen and Adventurers of the Sea|Charles H. L. Johnston
You mean to tell me you know he's that—ah—er-what's-his-name—Eg Phillips come back?
But you let that dratted Eg heave in sight with all sail sot and signals flyin' and she's all smiles in a minute.
I told her she had better think over what I said about that Eg's schemin' to get her mother and the five thousand dollars.
British Dictionary definitions for e.g. (1 of 3)
British Dictionary definitions for e.g. (2 of 3)
eg. or eg
Word Origin for e.g.
British Dictionary definitions for e.g. (3 of 3)
Cultural definitions for e.g.
An abbreviation meaning “for example.” It is short for the Latin exempli gratia, “for the sake of example.” A list of examples may be preceded by e.g.: “She loved exotic fruit, e.g., mangoes, passion fruit, and papayas.” (Compare i.e.)