extinct/die out

linlon

Senior Member
mandarin
Hi,

Because "die out" means "become extinct", are they interchangeable in any cases?

Thank you!
 
  • palomnik

    Senior Member
    English
    In most cases, yes. Not in all.

    For example, a custom can "die out", but it normally can't "become extinct." Normally only living creatures can become extinct.
     

    linlon

    Senior Member
    mandarin
    Thanks palomnik, but I have a question about your answer. According to the dictiionary, "extinct" can also mean:if a type of person, custom, skill etc is extinct, it does not exist in society any more.
    Why is that?

    Thank you!
     

    palomnik

    Senior Member
    English
    I suppose it's true that a custom or a skill can become extinct, but to my mind it sounds unusually formal. My Webster does show "gone out of use" as a possible meaning.

    An alternative could be "no longer extant."
     
    Or even fade away into oblivion.

    I think we don't say "extinct" too much for skills because that means completely gone. No human being uses it anymore. Maybe "becoming extinct" or "die out," because it's not completely out yet, but it's fading away.

    When animals or anything become extinct, you will never see them again.
     

    evilregis

    Senior Member
    English, Canada
    Extinct is most often used when referring to species of animals disappearing from the planet. When referring to animals, "die out" or "extinct" will work.

    The dinosaurs went extinct. The dinosaurs died out.

    Other things usually have other terms. Perhaps because few other things really go extinct.

    Many aspects of our daily life are cyclical over the years. Bell bottoms were in, then out, then in (briefly) and then back out again. Typewriters, while rarely used anymore, have taken on antique status and have become valuable to people in other ways. Hair styles come and go and come back again. Many things do, which is why I believe extinct is most often reserved for living creatures.
     

    linlon

    Senior Member
    mandarin
    HI,

    Thank you all for your comments. That means "die out " is often used when referring to anything like skill, comstom, practices and ideas?

    Thank you!
     

    palomnik

    Senior Member
    English
    Yes, I'd agree that "die out" would be by far the more common term to use for skills, customs, practices and ideas. As evilregis observes, sometimes old customs don't really die, and perhaps a better synonym is "fallen into disuse."
     
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