Word Choice: Born vs. Borne
  • 2-minute read
  • 11th October 2015

Word Choice: Born vs. Borne

The words “born” and “borne” are spelled almost the same but differ in meaning. Getting these terms mixed up can therefore impact upon the clarity and accuracy of your written work. To help you avoid this kind of mistake, we’ve compiled a guide on how these terms should be used.

Born (in the USA)

When Bruce Springsteen sang that he was “born in a dead man’s town” he was using the word in its literal sense, meaning “existing as a result of birth.” This is why we say that someone born in a certain place was place-born (e.g., German-born, Canada-born, etc.):

New Jersey-born soccer player Carli Loyd was instrumental in the USWNT’s World Cup victory.

In a more figurative sense, we sometimes use “born” to mean “arising from/of”:

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was born of a competition between Shelley and her companions to see who could write the best horror story.

Furthermore, if someone has undergone a major change in their life we might say they have been “born again” (such as a “born again Christian”).

Borne

The word “borne” is the past participle of the verb “bear.” It therefore means “to have carried”:

On Palm Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem borne on the back of a donkey.

This is why we use adjectives like “waterborne” or “current-borne” when describing something carried by something else (e.g., “an airborne virus”).

Another way in which we use this term is to indicate that someone has taken responsibility for something:

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The upgrade had been expensive, but the company had borne the brunt of the costs.

The term “borne out,” meanwhile, means to corroborate or confirm something:

The scientist’s hypothesis was not borne out by the experiments she conducted.

Borne vs. Bore

It’s worth noting that the verb “bear” has another past participle: bore. The difference between “borne” and “bore” is that the former is passive and the latter is active.

So if we’re using the active voice, in which the subject of the sentence is actively bearing something, we use “bore”:

The palm tree bore coconuts.

But when using the passive voice the subject of the sentence is not doing anything, so we use “borne”:

The coconuts were borne by the palm tree.

It’s therefore important to remember the distinction between “bore” and “borne,” as well as the difference between “born” and “borne.”

Comments (1)
Edward Hennessy
13th May 2021 at 01:20
Fun with "born vs. borne"...An annotated guide. I am merely a linguaphile with no credentials, but here is my contribution! Lets start with the idioms! An idiom is an expression peculiar to itself (see Merriam-Webster idiom definition ) and as such can break the conventional rules of grammar! (See Dictionary.com, idiom definition). "Born of “ and “Born out of " are idioms according to their Merriam-Webster definitions, so lets let them be and not worry about them! The word "born" and  germane to this discussion “bear" each have numerous meanings, but I'll just deal with the relevant ones here! Born and bear can each refer to childbirth...and childbirth can either be child centered based on “born” or mother centered based on “bear”! See dictionary.Cambridge.org , “bear” definition “born or borne”) Conjugation is easy for child centered birth : born, born, and born! (See cooljugator.com). Here are child centered examples: My grandson is being born as we speak! There is a baby born every minute! He was born in 1950! He wished he had been born in another era! Using “bear” to denote a mother carrying and giving birth is outdated (people say “had” now) but it’s still seen in older literature! So here are mother centered examples based on "bear!” Conjugation: bear, bore, and borne! (See cooljugator.com) She assents to bear a child. She bore a child last spring! She had borne six children in her lifetime! More on “born”...while “born" means human birth, it also means the birth of our thoughts, emotions and ideas! (See Collins Dictionary, “born” definition) (See Cambridge Dictionary, "born" definition). Also, born means to yield, bring forth, resulting from (see Merriam-Webster, born definition ) and bring into existence(see google word search, born): Anxiety born of the Covid era! A mind born of the computer age! Her own business was born! A new partnership born of necessity! A new nation was born! A star is born! Born-again! Now back to "bear, bore and borne"! “Bear" has many other meanings, but I’ll just deal with two that I believe are most pertinent to this topic : Proven or confirmed (see Google word search, bear) : The market will bear out your astute stock choices! A year went by and your choices were indeed borne out! You made money! Carried (in addition to carry and give birth to a baby) and tolerate or endure (see Google word search, bear) : The disease was mosquito-borne! He was a veteran of the 22nd Airborne Division! She bore that burden for many years! He had borne the weight of his past mistakes! I can’t bear another pill! The small truck can’t bear the load! Whew!...I kindly submit the above for your approval! Thank you! Addendum: People often ask, ”What about the phrase ‘bear fruit’...meaning to yield good things?” Cambridge labels it an idiom! Cooljugator declension is bear, bore and borne! But M-W says “born” may be substituted as an acceptable variant for “borne” in this context! (Author’s note: Makes sense, since idioms need not comply with the rules of grammar!) See “bear fruit “ definitions in Cambridge and M-W! See Cooljugator, “bear fruit.” - [ ]

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