A comparison between "neat" and "tidy"

A-friend

Senior Member
Persian (Farsi)
According to the dictionary definitions:
Tidy:
having everything ordered and arranged in the right place, or liking to keep things like this.
Neat:
tidy, with everything in its place.
Now please let me know which word suits better in the blanks below and why:
1) Keep your hair...............
a) tidy
b) neat

2) You have such...................handwriting.
a) tidy
b) neat

3) - They did a very................... job.
a) tidy
b) neat

I think they both mean the same thing and "tidy" is a subset of "neat". In the manner that something that is "neat" can be "tidy" too, but something that is tidy cannot always be neat. However, I cannot understand their true meanings.
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In your examples I personally would use: 1) tidy, 2) neat, 3) either, depending on the type of job.

    The very fact that there’s an idiom “neat and tidy” suggests that the two words are not 100% synonymous.

    A room as a whole could be described as tidy or untidy but probably not as neat. It would be untidy if there were lots of “stuff” scattered around rather than neatly arranged.

    Skilfully executed work, especially if done by hand (e.g. writing or needlework), would normally be described as neat rather than tidy.

    But an arrangement of things in an orderly manner could be described as either neat or tidy.
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    But an arrangement of things in an orderly manner could be described as either neat or tidy.
    :thumbsup:
    Thnk you lingobingo; perhaps, this is the only situation that these two adjectives can be used interchangeably. But I wonder if you could provide me with some examples.
    Thank you.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Tidy is obviously used more often overall, since its both an adjective and a verb, whereas neat becomes neaten as a verb. And I think it’s used more often in reference to a number of things being tidily/neatly organised, whereas neat is more closely related to single items (a neat hem/pile/diagram/essay, neatly applied paint/make-up/decoration).

    And actually, I take it back about a room not being called neat. Both words are OK, although tidy arguably has a nuance of having previously been untidy.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    1) I could use either neat or tidy (even together, 'neat and tidy').
    2) I could use either neat or tidy (I prefer 'neat' but more out of habit because 'tidy handwriting' is something people say and which I am familiar with (see this Google search for a few examples. )
    3) I could use either but it would depend entirely on the context.
     
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