The majority of linguistic issues that writers face on a day-to-day basis really have nothing to do with grammar at all. More often than not they have to do with usage. This happens because there are a lot of English words that sound very similar to each other, are spelled similarly, or have meanings that are closely related to each other. Blatant and flagrant are two such words.
These two words are commonly confused with each other in English and cause a bit of trouble for some writers. In today’s post, I want to go over the definitions of these two words, when to use them in a sentence, and give you a few ways to tell them apart in the future. After reading this post, you shouldn’t have any future trouble with either word.
The word blatant originated in late 16th century: perhaps an alteration of Scots blatand ‘bleating’. It was first used by Spenser as an epithet for a thousand-tongued monster produced by Cerberus and Chimaera, a symbol of calumny, which he called the blatant beast . It was subsequently used to mean ‘clamorous, offensive to the ear’, first of people (mid 17th century), later of things (late 18th century); the sense ‘unashamedly conspicuous’ arose in the late 19th century. The word flagrant originated in late 15th century (in the sense ‘blazing, resplendent’): from French, or from Latin flagrant- ‘blazing’, from the verb flagrare .
Blatant as adjective:
I’m sick of his blatant lies.
Flagrant as adjective:
This act was a flagrant violation of the law.
A city schools superintendent is independently trying to open up charter schools that would compete for the same struggling students served by her own district — a blatant conflict of interest, critics charge. [New York Post]
Flagrant or blatant:
the meanings of flagrant vs. blatant are subtly different and you should know which word emphasizes what. Blatant means offensively conspicuous. Flagrant means conspicuously offensive. As you can probably tell, many offenses can be both blatant and flagrant, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the words can be used interchangeably. It just depends on what you want to emphasize in your sentence. If you want to highlight the offender’s disdain for public scrutiny, you will probably want to use blatant. If you want to highlight the severity of the offense and how abnormal or appalling it is, you will probably want to use flagrant. It just depends on what you are trying to emphasize.
So what’s an easy way to keep track of them? I like to remember the difference by thinking in terms of sports. In basketball, an especially bad foul is called a “flagrant foul.” This is given out when a player goes above and beyond what is a normal foul and pushes or knocks down another player. In other words, a flagrant foul is a foul that is conspicuously offensive. And obviously a flagrant foul is also blatant because everyone in the stadium can see is, so it is done for all to see. But the emphasis is on the severity of the foul, not how open or easy to identify it was.