conscientious vs diligent

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akuptsov.hse

Member
Russian
Hello everyone,

I had a talk with someone who says that conscientious and diligent are synonyms, although my hunch's that it's not totally true.

Unfortunately, no context was given, because it was a very brief talk, with a reference to Google Dictionary, though, which provides a list of synonyms for conscientious with diligent on top of that list.

I do agree that their meanings intersect, I just feel that these words aren't interchangeable.

So what do you guys think?
 
  • GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I had a talk with someone who says that conscientious and diligent are synonyms, although my hunch's that it's not totally true.
    "My hunch's???" Do you mean "my hunch is"? If so, you are correct: conscientious and diligent do not mean the same thing.

    < Comment no longer needed. Cagey, moderator >
     
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    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I had a talk with someone who says that conscientious and diligent are synonyms, although my hunch's that it's not totally true.
    I agree: they have different meanings. The meanings are similar, and there may be sentences where either words fits.

    with a reference to Google Dictionary
    Wikipedia says "The Google Dictionary website was terminated on August 5, 2011", but part of its functionality was integrated into Google Search using the "define: " operator.

    Note that "synonyms" are words that "mean the same in some sentences, not in all sentences". Pairs of words that are interchangeable in all sentences are rare in English.

    < Comment no longer needed. Cagey, moderator >
     
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    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    How "the same" do you expect ANY synonym to be? There wouldn't be much point in the variety if any such words were 100% overlapping. Even words denoting exactly the same concrete object carry some nuances of style/formality.

    I agree with dojibear.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    < Response to deleted comment removed. Cagey, moderator >


    Can you give us a sentence, akuptsov, where you think the two words may not be interchangeable? I agree that they don't overlap completely, but they are close enough synonyms.
     
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    akuptsov.hse

    Member
    Russian
    < Response to deleted comment removed. Cagey, moderator >

    As for the two words, I can't think of any examples, but my idea is that if someone is diligent, s/he works hard throughout an extensive period of time, for example, college (a diligent student) or job, and more importantly, it's like a character trait.

    Conscientious seems to me more like a temporary attribute which characterises only the way someone approached a particular task.

    To put it simply, if a person is diligent, s/he is always conscientious, but if a person is not diligent, s/he might be conscientious doing one job and not conscientious doing another one.

    Does that make any sense?
     
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    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Without looking either of these words up, I would say that the difference is as follows:

    Diligent means hard-working.
    Conscientious means hard-working because you believe you have a duty to be.
     

    akuptsov.hse

    Member
    Russian
    Without looking either of these words up, I would say that the difference is as follows:

    Diligent means hard-working.
    Conscientious means hard-working because you believe you have a duty to be.
    So can I conclude that one can be diligent even though one's not convinced that the task is a duty?
     
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    sylvainremy

    Senior Member
    French
    We may need to consider process and outcomes. I feel diligence reflects more effectiveness than conscientiousness. In other words, being diligent implies getting things delivered whereas being conscientious implies applying oneself well, and even making progress, but not necessarily finishing.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    To me, "diligent" overlaps with "thorough" a lot more closely than conscientious does.

    If you're diligent, you keep at it until you reach your goal. If your are conscientious, you try to do what you're doing without violating some written or unwritten rules (but one of those rules could be to not leave something unfinished).
     
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