Lancashire Times
Weekend Edition
Paul Spalding-Mulcock
Features Writer
1:03 AM 21st October 2023

Word Of The Week : Propinquity

Propinquity noun

Synonyms for the noun ‘Propinquity’ include adjacency, contiguity, immediacy, nearness and proximity. However, whilst the embarrassment of uttering a malapropism is an indefensible, but easily avoided comical error, assigning meaning to a word by dint of its common synonyms is of course a far lesser sin, but one all too easily committed.

Thankfully, a soupçon of Latin helpfully clears the muddy waters of lexicographical confusion, clarifying fine distinctions unintentionally lost by dint of assumption’s all too broad brush…

Image by Alexander Lesnitsky from Pixabay
Image by Alexander Lesnitsky from Pixabay
Propinquity and its cousin proximity both share the Latin root prope, which means ‘near’. ‘Proximus’ stems from this same root, giving us our English word ‘proximity’ and ‘propinquus’ became the ancestor of our modern word propinquity. For those understandably thinking no wonder Latin is a dead language, here comes the interesting bit!

‘Proximus’ is the superlative of ‘prope’ and thus means ‘nearest’, whereas ‘propinquus’ simply means ‘near’ or ‘akin’. However, in English ‘propinquity’ conveys a stronger sense of closeness than ‘proximity’. The latter usually suggests a sense of being in the vicinity of something as in place or time, whereas propinquity denotes nearness of blood, or kinship whilst also connoting similarity in nature.

The distinctions between the two words are admittedly rather subtle, hence why they are often used interchangeably, but somewhat erroneously if one is an inveterate stickler for detail, and therefore prone to being…irritatingly pedantic!