Would you want to be operated on by a surgeon whose skills are adequate? Sound fine? Or would you rather have one who’s good?

A Dutch person would probably say, “Fine”. An English person would probably say, “No, I’d rather have one who’s good.” It’s a question of the overtones: adequaat is a positive word, whereas adequate is fairly negative – it suggests grudgingly that something is only just good enough.

  • prefer appropriate (when you’re being neutral) or
  • good or a synonym (when you’re being positive)

It’s another of those words where English is the odd one out: the lack of positive vibes isn’t the case in other languages, so this is another Eurospeak word that the Danes or whoever will apply in the same way as the Dutch.

Prevalence: moderate. Quite surprisingly common this one, for a word that isn’t terribly widely used.
Frequency: very high. When the word is used, we find ourselves changing it nearly every time.
Native: no. We use the word, all right. It’s the overtones that matter.

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

One thought on “Adequate

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