Today’s topic is “irregardless.”
Hi, Grammar Girl. I’m an English teacher in Boston, Massachusetts, and I am freaking out. One of my students tells me that “irregardless” is now a word, and apparently it’s been added to some dictionaries. Can you clear this up for me? This is serious panic time.
In the immortal words of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy“: Don’t panic. “Irregardless” is a word, but it’s not a proper word, and your student’s assertion that it’s in some dictionaries is a great opportunity to talk about the different kinds of entries in dictionaries.
‘Irregardless’ Versus ‘Regardless’
First, let’s talk about “irregardless.” Some people mistakenly use “irregardless” when they mean “regardless,” and that’s considered to be an error. “Regardless” means “regard less,” “without regard,” or “despite something.” For example, Squiggly will eat chocolate regardless of the consequences (meaning Squiggly will eat chocolate without regard for the consequences, despite the consequences, and so on).
The prefix “ir-“ is a negative prefix, so if you add the prefix “ir-” to a word that’s already negative like “regardless,” you’re making a double-negative that means literally “without without regard.”
The first example the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) shows for “irregardless” is from another dictionary: Harold Wentworth’s American Dialect Dictionary from 1912, which places the origin of the word in western Indiana. Other words from the American Dialect Dictionary include “doodad,” “dojigger,” “finagle,” “fuddy-duddy,” and “nummies” to describe delicious food. We definitely know how to make up silly words.
But I have good news…