Meticulous X Thorough

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Cesar A. D.

Portuguese - Brazil
Good morning.

Which would be the difference between thorough and meticulous in the following sentences? Are they interchangeable?
  • He was determined to be thorough in his research.
  • She's very thorough and conscientious.
  • She planned her trip in meticulous detail.
  • My father was meticulous about his appearance.

From the dictionary:
  • Thorough: being very attentive to accuracy and detail
  • Meticulous: taking or showing extreme care about small details

Is one more formal than the other? And both are used nowadays?

Thank you!
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    English - England
    When you compare words, you look for differences and not similarities. There are very, very few real synonyms in English.

    • Thorough: encompassing all (or the vast majority) of something - They made a thorough search of the house -> they looked in every place - even in places that you would not normally think of.
    • Meticulous: taking or showing extreme care about the small details of something. They made a meticulous search of the house -> they looked in great detail at even the smallest things.
    You would particularly make a thorough search for something relatively large, e.g. a person; a gun, etc.; and a meticulous search for something small, e.g. fingerprints, traces of poison, clues, evidence, etc.

    You would not say "I made a thorough search of the cup." Thorough is usually used with larger areas and objects - A thorough search of the room/garden/forest/county, etc.
    Both words are current in English. There is no difference in formality.
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