disoriented/disorientated, disorient/disorientate, orient/orientate, oriented/orientated

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Redline2200, Mar 19, 2007.

  1. Redline2200

    Redline2200 Senior Member

    Illinois, United States
    English - United States
    I recently heard on TV the word "disorientated" which to me sounds atrocious, but after doing some research, I found out that there is an actual debate over the words disoriented and disorientated.
    I read it is a difference between US English and GB English.
    Could any Britons (or any English-speakers for that matter) be so kind as to affirm this and/or give their opinion on the subject?
  2. Hi Redline2200,

    I always say, "I am feeling disorientated" when I've had too many drinks at a party. Well, when I used to in my youth. :D I drink only cranberry juice these days. :eek:

  3. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - England
    I've never heard anyone say oriented, and I take the same view that the Queen takes at her parties - i.e. orientated.
  4. I have heard both. I do not know whether there is any substantial difference except that you are disoriented (as an adjective) but can be disorientated by somebody else.
  5. Orange Blossom Senior Member

    U.S.A. English
    Good grief! I've never heard disorientated or orientated. I would have thought those were back-formations made up for the fun of it.

    I have only used and heard: disoriented and oriented.

    Orange Blossom
  6. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - England
    Quite wrong, Blossom. They are used in all seriousness over here in preference to orient and disorient by many educated people.
  7. mplsray Senior Member

    Furthermore, disorientate is not a back formation from disorientation. The Merriam-Webster Unabridged gives its etymology as "1dis- + orient + -ate."

    Nor is orientate from orientation. The same dictionary gives the etymology of orientate as "French orienter (from Middle French) + English -ate.

    There are many other verbs which have an -er ending in French and an -ate ending in English. Presumably what happened was that English borrowed some Latin verbs having the past participle ending -atus, changing it to at then to ate. Later, some French verbs ending in -er were borrowed and in some cases, -ate was added to the root as a result of the influence of the Latin etymology. In the case of orient and orientate, both the root and the root plus -ate were adopted as verbs.
  8. Amy181 Senior Member

    English - usa
    I've heard both of these forms, though in the US, I think that "disoriented" is much more common.
  9. lola brown New Member

    Australia, English
    pretty sure americans are the only one's who say "disoriented",.......
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 9, 2009
  10. JamesM

    JamesM modo no mas :)

    As for "disorientate" and "disorient", there is a strong sentiment in the U.S. that "disorientate" is not a real word (and neither is "orientate"). This myth is repeated by well-meaning educators. Obviously, this is not true, but we hold on to these word prejudices despite all evidence to the contrary.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 9, 2009
  11. Orange Blossom Senior Member

    U.S.A. English
    That's why I used the subjunctive in my sentence :) . To expand on my original sentence:

    If I had not read this thread and not seen that people from England use 'disorientate' and 'orientate' in their standard English, I would have thought that they were back-formations made up just for the fun of it.
    Obviously, I discovered in reading this thread that both those word forms are accepted and standard English in England, but here in the United States I haven't heard either one. Of course, I haven't been everywhere in the United States, so there could very well be places here where those forms are used. Yet another confusion for those learning ESL.

    Orange Blossom
  12. winklepicker

    winklepicker Senior Member

    English (UK)
    Verb: orientate; noun: orientation *
    Verb: orient; noun: oriention presumably? :D

    (* originally meaning to line up with the East, as you would when building a church, I believe)
  13. "We three kings of orient are."

    When we are disoriented we can't navigate our way between east and west, or any other direction for that matter, when we've had a few.

    This Queen, in her youth, became disorientated after quaffing champers at state banquets, and had to be led to her bedchamber.

    Now that she's on the cranberry juice, she skips nimbly up the stairs to the welcome comfort of her four-poster, which is always well-aired by a warming pan and a flunkey. :D

  14. Orange Blossom Senior Member

    U.S.A. English
    So let me see if I have this right:

    You use orient and disorient when referring to directions.

    You use orientate and disorientate when referring to mental confusion or removing mental confusion? I'm confused :confused: .

    By the way, when I asked my dad if he had ever heard disorientate or orientate he looked at me as though I had a second head, and he's 85 so U.S. English spelling rules and word usage was closer to British English when he went to school than it is now.

    Orange Blossom
  15. Redline2200

    Redline2200 Senior Member

    Illinois, United States
    English - United States
    How interesting! I never thought that this simple question would bring up such a topic.
    It is obvious after reading this thread that "disoriented" is not at all used in the UK or Australia and "disorientated" is not at all used in the US.
    However, it is hard for me to believe that "disoriented" is that foreign to the people outside the US.
    I did a search in a British English dictionary (http://www.dictionary.co.uk/) for "disoriented" and found the following:

    adjective (UK ALSO disorientated)
    confused and not knowing where to go or what to do:
    - Whales become disoriented in shallow water.

    However, after searching "disorientated" in a dictionary that focuses on American English (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language; link- http://www.bartleby.com/61/) I found this:

    Search Results for “disorientated
    No documents match the query.

    I find that interesting, that the word "disorientated" is so strange it is not even always found in our dictionaries.

    Oh well, such a small difference is really quite unimportant in the grand scheme of things I suppose.

    And for the record I would also like to know the answer to Orange Blossom's question:
    Regards! :)
  16. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    Disorientate(d), according to my own experience, is 100% correct in BE and is declared sub-standard by people in the US because of ignorance! :)

  17. Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary:

  18. mplsray Senior Member

    That disorientated is thought to be a back-formation is indeed the result of ignorance, but (as a general principal and without giving an opinion on the word disorientated itself) just because a usage is standard in British English does not keep it from being nonstandard in American English. The pronunciation "et" for ate, for example, is entirely standard in British English and very much nonstandard in American English.
  19. whatonearth Senior Member

    UK, English
    I'm sure we've had this debate before. Was quite a while ago though I think...anyway, it comes down to;
    Oriented = AE
    Orientated = BE
    That is all. ; P
  20. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    I never said one word about disorientate/disorientated being standard AE. But I think a usage note is wise in any dictionary, and I appreciate the fact that Cambridge online always seems to give such usage notes. MW also seems to be very good about usage notes. This is something I think American Heritage could improve. :)

  21. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The OED suggests that orientation may perhaps be "after orientation".
    While noting that orient is less common than orientate in BE, vice versa in AE, it also refers almost all definitions of orientate back to an equivalent definition of orient, but not the other way round.

    Disorientate is based on dis and orientate; disorient on désorienter.
    The orient versions include much older examples than the orientate versions.

    It seems very likely that orient and disorient were the original versions in BE that went across to AE and have remained in use there, uncontaminated by the later introduction in BE of orientate (perhaps from orientation).

    There are many examples of this phenomenon.
  22. Redline2200

    Redline2200 Senior Member

    Illinois, United States
    English - United States
    I hate to disagree, but the reason we do not use that word has absolutely nothing to do with ignorance. Perhaps you could say that the Americans who condemn "disorientated", condemn it out of ignorance, but the fact that we don't say it is nothing more of a matter of that's just not how we say it here ;) .
    Just another one of the minor differences in our two completey legitimate forms of English...nothing to argue or call names over.

    I completely agree. :)
    Just a minor difference (that wouldn't even hinder communication); nothing more even needs to be said.
  23. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - England
    Hi, Panj. I'm having trouble getting my head round the distinction you are drawing here: are you saying that désorienter is not based on dés and orienter?
  24. moo mouse Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English UK
    It's just another one of those words that have become corrupted by Americans (no offence meant - I just mean it has changed) so there are now two ways of saying it and both speakers think the other is wrong! Personally I give a little shudder when I hear 'disoriented' but that's just because it sounds wrong to my British ears!
  25. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - England
    Except that La Reine V said the following was true of BE:

    When we are disoriented we can't navigate our way between east and west, or any other direction for that matter, when we've had a few.

    I don't agree with her, but other Brits may.
  26. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The distinction is that disorient came into English fully-formed.
    Disorientate was formed in English from dis- and orientate; orientate may well have been formed as a derivation from orientation.

    The overall points being to suggest that:
    the orient versions are older than orientate versions and
    the AE preference for orient versions is a consequence of their having emigrated using the older versions.
  27. Redline2200

    Redline2200 Senior Member

    Illinois, United States
    English - United States
    Yeah, it just leaves me confused when I am also hearing things like this:

    I guess I don't know who to believe.
  28. moo mouse Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English UK
    Ok I take your point!
    I also stand corrected by panj:
    Next time I won't shudder but will remember the one time co-existence of both words and consider each derivation to hold equal worth!
  29. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southern England
    English - England
    You might be forced to take the view that practice varies across the British Isles. For what it's worth I emailed a friend who is a distinguished British grammarian. He wrote this morning, as follows:
    I dislike orient for orientate, but it is odd that it’s that way round.
    This suggests that he's familiar with both, but then he's always going to the States.
    I wish LRV would expand her view a little, because I'm not conscious of ever hearing orient or disorient in BE, and that agrees with what so many of the books and people are saying.
  30. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    That is not my point.

    My point is that it is quite easy to check sources. Before making any comment on usage, I check at least one BE source and one AE source. It takes a bit of extra time, but I think it is worth it.

    I was equally ignorant of BE usage here and once told someone that "disorientat" is wrong, not in the US, but wrong. I was embarrassed later on to find out that I had not found "the rest of the story". :)

    I'm now aware that there is a usage difference, and I've noticed "disorientate" used by UK authors. I've never seen it used by an AE author.

    Panjy has given an excellent summary of the history of "orient/orientate" usage, I think!

  31. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    From personal experience I can tell you that "disorientate" is the choice in books written in BE.

    I would say the difference is almost as clear as "flashlight/torch". :)

  32. ElaineG

    ElaineG Senior Member

    Brooklyn NY
    For those who would argue that orient/disorient is unknown in the UK, I offer this quote from Robert Burchfield:

    So that is at least one authoritative British source who prefers orient/disorient, although he also puts paid to the American urban myth that orientate is not a word.
  33. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Interesting point, ElaineG...
    Burchfield can hardly be accused of an AE bias, as he was a New Zealander.
    He was also a Rhodes scholar, editor of the third edition of Fowler's Modern English Usage,
    and editor of the OED for nearly thirty years.
  34. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Hand up from a wee corner of the UK.

    I can't bear orientate and disorientate. It's probably something to do with living on the western fringes, or the fact that every family in my part of the world is claimed as ancestry by some crowd of AE-speakers somewhere. I quite happily use orient, oriented, disorient, disoriented - though not often.

    The orientated version is very clunky, particularly in the case of xxxx-oriented. For example, safety-orientated :eek: Why should I bother when safety-oriented sounds so much better and is perfectly acceptable.
  35. ElaineG

    ElaineG Senior Member

    Brooklyn NY
    I didn't know he was from New Zealand actually, but I did leave out of my post the key information (which was really the point of the post) that he was an editor of Fowler's and not just some random bloke. Thanks for helping to make sense of my ramblings.
  36. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    […] Let's call the whole thing off. ;) <humming famous song>

    I assume you are indicating your preference and not what you consider "more correct"!

    For me the the best part about being reasonably knowledgeable about both AE and BE is that it gives me more choices. If disorientate disorients me, I can make my own judgement or judgment. ;)

  37. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    That's right. It's clear from the evidence that both are correct and both are currently used in BE.
  38. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    I was 99% sure, just wanted to confirm my assumption. ;)

  39. jessica823 New Member

    USA, English
    This is something I just researched and that is why I am late to this topic. Anyway, I prefer to "disorient" over "disorientate." The latter just seems like overkill. In fact, what sparked me to research this was because I was watching a DVD that had a British narrator and he said "disorientate" and it just didn't sound right to me.

    [moderator note: Welcome to the forum! Your off-topic comments were removed. Please search for "pronunciate" using the search function and add any relative comments there.]
  40. nzfauna

    nzfauna Senior Member

    Wellington, New Zealand
    New Zealand, English
    Both are correct.

    I use both, but prefer disorientated.

    To me, when i hear disorient, I can't help but think of someone who has been taken out of the East. LOL!
  41. vamink Senior Member

    I have quite the opposite opinion :).

    *Good grief! I've never heard disoriented or oriented. I would have thought those were back-formations made up for the fun of it.

    I have only used and heard: disorientated and orientated.
  42. JamesM

    JamesM modo no mas :)

    I hope that by reading this thread (and not just posting to it) you have found that your opinion is not based on facts from any authoritative source. :)

    Both are used, both are acceptable, both are common in BE while AE, for the most part, uses "orient", but "orient" is apparently the older of the two.
  43. James Wolfe New Member

    An interesting thread, thank you. Until I found it and did some further research, I was firmly of the opinion that Orient/Disorient as verbs were simply another US bastardisation of the English language. This does not now appear to be necessarily so, as many sources suggest that Orient/Orientate etc. both have their origins in the early 15th century.

    I recall the shorter version first becoming used in the UK some 25 years or so ago. I would think that it is now more used than the longer version, but I may be wrong.

    Two things, however, point towards the longer version being more correct. A previous contributor touched upon the French verb Orienter, which seems to be the origin, and the fact that many French -er verbs take on the suffix -ate when adopted by English viz. Donner - donate, Pénétrer - penetrate.

    Secondly, and this is often an acid test, one should look at the noun which is formed from the verb root. Is there a noun Oriention? Is there a noun Orientation? Res ipsa loquitur. I think.

    A most useful site, by the way.
  44. kitenok Senior Member

    By this logic, we should certainly consider visitate more correct than visit, adorate more correct than adore, detestate more correct than detest, presentate more correct than present, acclaimate more correct than acclaim, accusate more correct than accuse, invitate more correct than invite, and so on and so forth. Etymology, it seems to me, is nothing compared to usage and familiarity when determining what is "correct."

    Edit: Welcome to the Forum, by the way!
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2009
  45. James Wolfe New Member

    Quite correct! However, the examples you have given probably all have their origins in Latin (donner does, as well, of course!). Maybe I should just have stuck with the noun argument. As you say, common usage will win the day, in any case.
  46. kthxbai

    kthxbai New Member

    English - US
    Etymology is tricky. The stems from which the words are derived are different verbal forms.

    orient can be traced back to the stem of the Latin present participle; oriens, orientis (rising).

    On the other hand, donation, for instance, can be traced back to the perfect passive donatus (having been given) from which comes the Latin noun donatio, donationis (something given).

    There is a tendency for word forms to become regularized on the basis of such reasoning as in post #43; it seems that words with apparently similar meanings should have similar endings. Hence "orientate" for instance, has come to be accepted. However, its etymology does not give it priority.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2009
  47. Elkapitan New Member

    English & Malay
    I believe another reason for using distoriented in the US and disorientated in Britain has more to do with pronunciation.

    Firstly, Americans have the tendency to shorten English words. Secondly Americans also pronounce "T" as "D" hence to pronounce disorientated as the british it would sound in american as "disorientaded" which sounds weird. So the shortened version of the word is used in US.

    Thats what I believe anyway in addition to its etymology. Im in asia and we use disorientated. I only use the shortened version when saying something like - "It is very business-oriented".
  48. mplsray Senior Member

    As an American who uses the intervocalic alveolar flap when pronouncing a word such as butter--which is what is usually involved in American English, rather than the consonant /d/--the pronunciation of disorientated with a flap for the second t doesn't strike me as odd in the slightest. Without any perceived oddness, there is no incentive to change the pronunciation, so I don't agree with you that this aspect of pronunciation is relevant to why many Americans avoid orientate and related words.

    Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, however, comes to the following pronunciation-related conclusion, in its entry "orientate":

    I must note, however, that the etymology of orient, orientate, and their related words does not support your theory that the disuse of disorientated by Americans has something to do with a supposed American tendency to shorten English words, because orient, oriented, and disoriented are not shortened forms of orientate, orientated, and disorientated.
  49. NeoRetro10K New Member

    I think they are both correct, but, if you are writing a formal paper, it's probably best to stick to using just one of them if you have it in there multiple times.
  50. JJ_ New Member

    British English
    Very interesting discussion. I found it by googling for disoriented vs disorientated after being piqued by hearing yet another usage of disorientated on British TV.

    My take as a non-grammarian but otherwise hopefully intelligent speaker of HM English is that disorientated is something of a UK neologism; a bastardization that is to be avoided in favour of the US English "oriented". Disorientated sounds clumsy and frankly rather ugly and in my experience most things that sound clumsy in any language are wrong, wrong, wrong.

    Let's think about this. Disoriented/disorientated is an adjective.
    One uses the -ate(d) suffix; the other does not (rather it just has the appended "d").
    The suffix -ate is I believe NOT added to verbs to form an adjective when the verb ends in a "t" (perhaps it is not added to verbs at all to form an adjective but let us at least narrow the scope of the analysis to something manageable).

    accredit --> accredited (not accreditated)
    debit --> debited (not debitated)
    abstract --> abstracted (not abstractated)
    accost --> accosted (not accostated)
    admit --> admitted (not admitated)
    enlist --> enlisted (not enlistated)
    encrypt --> encrypted (not encryptated)

    Now I'm not sure whether all of the above are adjectives but you get the point. If somebody can point out a verb that ends in a "t" and which is adjectivized by the addition of -ate then I would be interested to hear it.

    We British English speakers are fond of lamenting/lambasting/teasing the Yanks for bastardizing our beautiful language (ax/e, anyone? LOL) but there are many cases where the British English variant is itself a bastardization (along with the rather regrettable misuse of "less" vs "fewer" (for countables) or "which" vs "that" (for restrictive clauses)) and I feel that this is one of them.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2010

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