congenial:BrE or AmE


Senior Member

I have a question for the native speakers: is the word "congenial", in my particular case as in frase "congenial environment", meaning friendly, British English or American English? And if it is British, what would the American equivalent be???

Thank you in advance :)
  • EStjarn

    Senior Member
    The dictionaries' definitions of 'congenial' (word #29,059 in the 500,000 word frequency list):
    Oxford Dictionaries:
    1. (of a person) pleasing or liked on account of having qualities or interests that are similar to one's own: his need for some congenial company.
    2. (of a thing ) pleasant or agreeable because suited to one's taste or inclination: he went back to a climate more congenial to his cold stony soul.

    The American Heritage Dictionary:
    1. Having the same tastes, habits, or temperament; sympathetic.
    2. Of a pleasant disposition; friendly and sociable: a congenial host.
    3. Suited to one's needs or nature; agreeable: congenial surroundings.

    The collocation 'congenial environment' has 2 occurrences in the British National Corpus (BNC - 100 million words) and 9 occurrences in the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA - 425 million words). The following are the BNC instances:
    Louis was "made very sad indeed" when Charles was taken away from him and sent to the monastery of Prüm in the Ardennes. There he stayed for some eight months, in the care of Abbot Markward. Separated from his tutor, Charles nevertheless found himself in a fairly congenial environment: Markward was a noted scholar, and Prüm's library was well-stocked.

    Large enough to be able to offer supervision in most areas of social policy and social work, the department's commitment to research creates a very congenial environment for research students who will encounter a wide range of substantive interests and methodological expertise. All MPhil and PhD students normally have two supervisors and it is common for one of these to come from outside the department.
    Comment: In neither of these passages would I interpret 'congenial' as 'friendly'. The meaning seems to me more in line with 'agreeable because suited to ones needs'. This holds true also of the COCA instances, of which I quote:
    Long ago, astronomers argued similarly about the Earth itself - why it orbited so pleasantly around its source of warmth. Perhaps some unknown mathematical law required such a fortuitous location, some savants averred. But it turned out that there was no one law - rather there were lots of planets. People simply populated the one of those planets that offered a congenial environment.

    The most thriving forms of wildlife I observed, however, were the leeches. The morning mist gave them a congenial environment in low-hanging foliage.
    I'd be interested in knowing the particular sentence (and its context) in which your interpretation of 'congenial environment' is 'friendly environment' because I'm not sure it's how it should be understood. (I also think it might help native members to answer if they knew why you were asking.)
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