Posted by: Jack Henry | November 9, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Aw and Awe

Dear Editrix,

I see this all of the time: people misuse the words aw and awe. Can you please tell people what these words mean, what part of speech they are, and when each one should be used?


Thankful in Texas

Dear Thankful,

It would be my pleasure to discuss this!

Let’s start with aw (sometimes spelled aww). Aw is an interjection that is used for a couple of reasons. Sometimes it indicates disappointment or pity, such as “Aw, I’m so sorry that you didn’t get a cookie.” Other times, it indicates that someone thinks something is cute or adorable. For example, “Aw, that is the cutest wagon full of puppies I’ve ever seen!” Surprisingly, this interjection has been around since 1797.

Now, let’s look at awe. Awe is a noun that used to mean dread or terror. Now, Merriam-Webster defines it as “fear mixed with dread, veneration, reverence, or wonder.” I think today it has a more positive feeling associated with it—when someone says something is awesome, they tend to mean it is really fantastic, not really scary. (See more about Awesome and Awful in Ben’s article.)

Awe is also a verb, meaning “to inspire with awe.”

Here are a couple examples of using awe:

· She looked at the playroom in awe; thousands of Legos were covering the floor, except where the children were kneeling.

· The altar of gold and sapphires was created with awe-inspiring craftsmanship, but it was also blinding.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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