6th September 2020
Word Choice: Flaunt vs. Flout
The words “flaunt” and “flout” look similar written down, so it’s easy to mix them up if you’re not familiar with them. But they have different meanings, so you won’t want to confuse them in your writing. In this post, then, we’ll look at what “flaunt” and “flout” mean and how to use them correctly.
Flaunt (Show Off)
Put simply, “flaunt” is a verb that means “show off.” More specifically, we use “flaunt” when someone is putting something on display or drawing attention to something in order to win admiration. For instance:
Her family members were always flaunting their wealth.
He liked to flaunt his success at the annual reunion.
The things people flaunt are typically possessions, abilities, achievements, or qualities. However, you can also “flaunt yourself” more generally, which means “act ostentatiously to attract attention”:
He watched the young men flaunting themselves in front of the crowd.
In most cases, moreover, “flaunting” has negative associations. Thus, to say someone is “flaunting” something is to express disapproval of their behavior.
Flout (Intentionally Disobey or Ignore)
The word “flout” means to deliberately ignore a law, rule, or convention:
Hundreds of people flouted the ban on public gatherings.
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She is going to flout convention and wear a green wedding dress.
Importantly, “flout” implies that you know the rules but don’t respect them (i.e., you can’t “flout” a rule by accident). If you flout something, then, you are showing scorn or contempt for it, not just ignoring it.
Can “Flaunt” Mean “Flout”?
Some dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster, now list “ignore or treat with disdain” as a definition of “flaunt.” This is because using “flaunt” to mean “flout” is such a common error now. And over time, it may become so common that nobody will question you if you use “flaunt” in this sense.
However, most style guides still warn against mixing up these words. So to be sure your writing is clear, we recommend sticking to “flout” for now if you mean “ignore or treat with disdain,” especially in formal writing.
Summary: Flaunt or Flout?
While “flaunt” and “flout” are often confused, they have different meanings:
- Flaunt means to show something off to gain admiration.
- Flout means to intentionally ignore a law, rule, or convention.
To remember which word you should use, it might help to imagine a rich aunt flaunting her wealth, since the word “aunt” appears in “flaunt.”
We hope you’re now confident about using these terms correctly! If you’d like any help to check your writing is error free, though, why not try proofreading? You can even try our services for free!
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