The words among and amongst can cause a bit of confusion in people’s writing because not many of us are sure when to use which one. Are they just variations of the same word? Do they have different meanings? Do they have different functions within a sentence? In this article, we want to address all of these questions so that you’ll never have to second-guess yourself while writing either of these words again. So what is the difference between among vs. amongst?
Among originated from Old English ongemang (from on ‘in’ + gemang ‘assemblage, mingling’). The -st of amongst represents -s (adverbial genitive) + -t probably by association with superlatives (as in against). Of these two words, among is the earlier of the pair, first appearing during the Old English period. It comes from the antecedent on gemang, which yielded onmang before the year 1100. The variant amongst didn’t appear for another 500 years or so until the 16th century. It is believed that it emerged by form-association with superlatives among(e)st.
Among as preposition:
The overwhelming view amongst Scotland’s chattering classes is that Tommy Sheridan got off comparatively lightly in being jailed for three years at the High Court in Glasgow yesterday. [The Telegraph]
Among or amongst:
Among and amongst are both prepositions, meaning in the midst of, surrounded by, in the company of, or in association with. The answer to this is that there is no demonstrable difference of sense or function between the two words. This means they can both be used interchangeably; it really is a matter of style for when you choose to use one over the other. Even though it is a matter of style, it is still important to keep your audience in mind when picking which word to use. For example, if you are writing a sophisticated novel, using amongst might be appropriate because it adds a sense of unique dialogue or conversation. But, if you are writing for everyday consumption in a newspaper or a similar outlet, among is definitely the right choice for you.