Thursday, June 26, 2008

"Incredible" and "Incredulous"

Levels of Distractibility: Who cares? = *. Some people will be distracted from your meaning: = **. Many people will be distracted from your meaning: = ***.

Question: I know that "incredible" means "unbelievable." What does "incredulous" mean?

Answer: In meaning, the two words are pretty close, causing the confusion that people sometimes have in using them. "Incredible" means literally, "not able to be believed," or "hard to believe." "His speed around the track was incredible" means that his record speed was hard for anyone to believe.

"Incredulous" means literally "full of not believing," or "I don't believe it." While you will hear or read "incredible" frequently, you will hear or read "incredulous" infrequently. "She was incredulous at his behavior" means she could not believe the way he behaved. "When he testified before the jury, she was incredulous at his distortions of the truth" means that she could not believe he would lie the way he did.

The distinction between the two? "Incredible" = Anyone would find it hard to believe. "Incredulous" means "I" or "she" or "we" or "they" personally cannot believe it.

Rating of Distractibility: (***). Educated people know the difference between these two words. To substitute one for the other will raise eyebrows. RayS.

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