rapidly versus quickly and fast

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Hese

Senior Member
German
Hello there,

could anyone tell me the difference between rapidly and quickly?

I rarely hear rapidly, I mostly read it in newspapers in relation to economic growth. Is it more formal?

But then, I found the expression "to speak rapidly" in my dictionary! I'm confused now.

Thank you very much for your answers!
 
  • Giordano Bruno

    Senior Member
    English, England
    Here's my best guess after a few minutes thought. "Rapidly" refers to discrete changes and "Quickly" is used for continuous change. You may run quickly, but not rapidly although your feet may move rapidly. You may talk of rapid alternations or changes in direction. This distinction is not 100% reliable and in fact it is often not clear whether changes are discrete or continuous, thus you may talk of a rapid turnaround and a quick turnaround.

    I think that if I press distinction much further, it will all unravel. Let's see what others have to say.
     

    domangelo

    Senior Member
    United States English
    I have a feeling that there is truth in what Giordano Bruno says, but it is a very weak distinction at best. I think that the difference is almost totally in the realm of level of formality. Rapid is simply a more formal register than quick. And then there is fast...
     

    Hese

    Senior Member
    German
    Wow, this sounds complicated. Sorry, but I can't follow you on this: what is discrete change compared to continuous change?
     

    Alisterio

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Wow, this sounds complicated. Sorry, but I can't follow you on this: what is discrete change compared to continuous change?
    A discrete change (I didn't know either and had to look it up in the dictionary) is one "consisting of distinct or unconnected elements", and as such is the opposite of a continuous change.

    I'm with domangelo on this one: "rapid" is just a more formal way of saying "quick".
     
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