to depart from (to take as a starting point)


Senior Member
French & English, Alberta, Canada
Hello! I am wondering if this usage is correct: "Departing from principle X, Author (2014) sets out principle Y." The meaning desired is to take principle X as a starting point. Is that a correct way to use "depart from"? I always thought it meant to deviate from. Thank you!
  • e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    It is not correct. You can only use depart like this when you start from a physical location, e.g. Departing from Waterloo Station early that morning, he ...
    You could use Starting from instead.


    Senior Member
    British English
    Although I do not like the use of "departing from principle X..." I do not agree that depart can only be used when departing from a physical location.


    Senior Member
    UK English
    Could you give an example when depart is used in the sense of start from when not starting from a place?
    Of the 69 examples in the BNC for departing from, the meaning is either leaving or deviating from, except possibly in one case: "We're departing from the idea that microcomputers will be a fantastic source of telecommunications traffic in the future."

    I'm not clear what this means, but I note that it was spoken by a Frenchman. :)


    English - England
    The converse of "departing from the principle/rule, etc." is "following the principle/rule, etc."

    It is also used in e.g.
    "Departing from his habit of eating only a slice of toast for breakfast, he cooked himself a breakfast of eggs and bacon."
    The converse of this would be:
    "Following his habit of eating only a slice of toast for breakfast, he put a slice of bread in the toaster and reached for the butter."

    I cannot agree with Biffo that departing = rejecting. Reject is too strong. It is possible to depart from a habit/rule/principle/guidance, etc., without rejecting it under all circumstances.

    To depart from = to diverge, to move away from, where "move" can be used figuratively.

    1651 T. Hobbes Leviathan iii. xl. 255 It was not with a design to depart from the worship of God.
    1732 G. Berkeley Alciphron II. vii. xxiv. 187 They depart from received Opinions.
    1867 E. A. Freeman Hist. Norman Conquest (1876) I. App. 673 The fourth narrative departs in several important points from the Chronicles.
    1893 Law Times 95 27/1 depart from the long-established practice.
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