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Amend vs. Emend

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  Angbeen Chaudhary  —  Grammar Tips

Every once in a while writers come across a set of words that are so similar to each other that they aren’t sure what the difference is. Either that or they use the words so infrequently that they forgot (or never knew to begin with) the difference between them. Such is the case with amend vs. emend. One of these two words we use quite frequently; the other word is one some writers aren’t aware exists.

Today we will talk about the definitions of these two words, their histories, how to use them in a sentence, and what sets them apart from each other. After reading this post you shouldn’t have any difficulty choosing amend or emend in your next written work.


Amend originated from Middle English: from Old French amender, based on Latin emendare. Emend originated from late Middle English: from Latin emendare, from e- (variant of ex- ) ‘out of’ + menda ‘a fault’. Compare with amend. The two words share a root in the Latin ēmendāre, which means, roughly, to remove fault. The older amend came to English, around the 13th century, via French, where the e in the Latin word had become an a several centuries before. Emend, which came to English a couple of centuries later, is more directly derived from the Latin source, so the more Latin spelling is intact.

Amend as verb:

Amend when used as a verb means to make minor changes to (a text, piece of legislation, etc.) in order to make it fairer or more accurate, or to reflect changing circumstances.

The rule was amended to apply only to non-members.

Amend also means to improve the texture or fertility of (soil).

Amend your soil with peat moss or compost.

Emend as verb:

Emend when used as a verb means to make corrections and revisions to (a text).

These studies show him collating manuscripts and emending texts.


El-Beshry said the committee was appointed to amend the constitution in a way that would help maintain the country’s sovereignty and promote democracy. [Sify]

The bill would amend the state motorcyle helmet law to say that only people under 21 would be required to wear a helmet. [KEZI TV]

The Norton Anthology editors emend the text to contain a comma after “merchants” rather than a colon. [Walter Pater via Project Gutenberg]

Second, all critics have agreed to condemn the digression in which Theobald advertised his ability to emend Greek texts. [Hugh G. Dick via Project Gutenberg]

Amend or emend:

The two words emend vs. amend cannot be use interchangeably in all contexts, so it’s important we know when to use which word. Amend is to change something, usually a document or personal behavior, to make it better. Emend is to correct something, usually in a text, to fix an error. amend is the older of the two words, making its way into English in the 13th century from the French word amender. The French spelling had gone from an “e” to an “a” several centuries before entering English. Emend, on the other hand, came into English a few centuries after amend and retains a more Latin spelling. Both words originate from the same Latin word ēmendāre, which means to remove fault.

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