When something loses value, has it “deprecated” or “depreciated”? Many use these terms interchangeably, but they’re actually importantly distinct. And since you don’t want to make mistakes in your written work, it’s a good idea to know the difference!
In this post, we clarify the meanings of “deprecate” and “depreciate,” then set out how (and when) they should be used.
Deprecate (To Express Disapproval)
To “deprecate” something is to express disapproval of it, or to belittle something:
Although popular, reality TV shows are often deprecated by professional critics.
This is also why we say someone making a joke at their own expense is being “self-deprecating.”
Another old-fashioned use of “deprecate” is to “pray away” (such as praying for protection against an evil). It’s rarely used like this now though, so you’re not likely to encounter it other than in old religious texts.
Depreciate (To Reduce in Value)
The main meaning of “depreciate” is to “reduce or underestimate in value.” Most commonly, it refers to something having lost monetary value:
If not properly maintained, properties will depreciate over time.
This use is reflected in the notion of “depreciation,” a financial term for a method used by businesses to account for the declining value of assets:
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Before investing in infrastructure, you should calculate the expected rate of depreciation.
Confusion with “deprecate” arises because “depreciate” can sometimes mean “belittle,” but to “depreciate” something in this sense is specifically to describe it has having little value.
Deprecate or Depreciate?
These terms are particularly tricky since they’re similarly spelled as well as fairly close in meaning. However, since “depreciate” has a very specific financial sense, you don’t want to confuse them.
As a general rule, if you’re discussing the value of something or finances in general, the term to use will be “depreciate.”
However, if you’re referring to something being belittled – without necessarily impacting upon its perceived value – the correct word is “deprecate.”
Similarly, if someone is self-mocking, they are “self-deprecating”. Remember: