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anxiety vs anxiousness Options
Koh Elaine
Posted: Monday, October 09, 2017 8:55:00 PM
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anxiety
anxiousness

What is the difference in meaning?

Thanks.
rroselavy
Posted: Monday, October 09, 2017 11:01:03 PM
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I don't think there's a difference in meaning, but "anxiety" is the more usual term (at least in AE).
palapaguy
Posted: Monday, October 09, 2017 11:16:41 PM

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rroselavy wrote:
I don't think there's a difference in meaning, but "anxiety" is the more usual term (at least in AE).

Agree.
thar
Posted: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 1:14:17 AM

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I would go further, and say as a BE speaker I don't consider 'anxiousness' to be a word.
Neither of two dictionaries I respect, the free online Oxford and Cambridge, have it listed, so I don't think I'm alone!
tunaafi
Posted: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 6:30:23 AM

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Koh Elaine
Posted: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 7:10:43 AM
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I am surprised by the result shown by the ngram viewer. However, fraze.it has quite a few examples of the usage of 'anxiousness'. The word can also be found in the free dictionary and Oxford online dictionaries in the following links.

https://fraze.it/n_search.jsp?hardm=1&t=0&l=0&p=2&q=anxiousness
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/anxiousness
https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/anxiousness

I would deeply appreciate it if someone could explain to me the irregularities which are confusing me.

thar
Posted: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 7:32:09 AM

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what is confusing you?
How it can be both 'right' and 'wrong'?


Remember dictionaries are descriptive not prescriptive. If enough people use a word, it goes into the dictionary. If enough people use the word 'anxiousness' it goes in. Whether that is people who don't realise it is not a word, or deliberately choose to form a new one, or whether it once was, and has gone out of favour, I don't know.
It is just an alternative formation pattern
You can form a noun by adding -ness (I am sure you can think of loads of examples)
This is the 'Old English' way
Eg
serious, seriousness. Nervous, nervousness
eg
Middle English seryows, (from Old French serieux) + Old English -nis, -nes,
smallness
Old English smæl + Old English -nes

or by changing -ious to -iety (pious, piety, anxious, anxiety)
This is the Old French way
eg
pious, piety
Old French pieté, from Latin pietās.

Anxiety falls into this category:
French anxiété
anxieux +‎ -té, from Latin anxietas.


Now, I consider 'anxiety' to be the normal noun. And I consider the other form to be wrong. This is not one of those examples where there are two forms and they each take on a slightly different meaning or usage. Here they seem to be used for the same thing. So there seems no need for it.
Whether it is a recent thing, or an old word, I have no idea. All I know is that in current usage, it does not appear to be universally accepted.
I would avoid using 'anxiousness' if I were you. You don't need it because it doesn't seem to have any distinct meaning, and to at least some people it will seem wrong and make your writing look bad. If it is normal in your regional version, then of course that changes things a bit - but you just have to be aware of who you are writing for, and what they consider 'wrong'.
mactoria
Posted: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 7:38:25 AM
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Koh Elaine: You're correct in writing that Oxford on-line and several other dictionaries include "anxiousness" as a word (a noun), and Fraze.it does indeed show a lengthy list of exemplar sentences including "anxiousness." So it is a word that is acceptable for both American and British English, though as Google Ngram shows, it has little if any actual utilization in written language for the past many decades. In looking at a number of on-line dictionaries (Oxford, Merriam-Webster, etc.) it's my impression that it's usage is limited but seems to have been used somewhat as a layperson's term for anxiety. Meaning that 'anxiety' was more of a psychiatric term and 'anxiousness' was more of a regular person's term, but some time back laypeople adopted the psychiatric term for a number of uses e.g. for true psychological anxiety, for being just upset, for being bothered, etc. That's my impression after looking at a number of sources, not something I can pin on a specific resource.

So while 'anxiousness' is evidently a legitimate word found in many (but not all) dictionaries, it's just not a word that most people in English-speaking countries would think of using, preferring instead to use 'anxiety. Nor sure this addresses your concern about the differences (or irregularities as you called them) in how the two words are seen and used, but it's my best shot.
thar
Posted: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 7:42:49 AM

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Ah, I had no idea of the 'psychological' use. That does make sense in terms of people trying to give it that 'niche' meaning - ie they want to form a noun but avoid the nuances of the word 'anxiety' and the baggage it brings with it, in that particular context.

So my advice is the same, just substitute 'context' for 'region'. Just be aware of your audience and whether to that particular audience it is a legitimate word.
If in doubt, leave it out, particularly in formal or educational settings, because of the danger of people misjudging your fluency and ability to use 'good' English.
Ashwin Joshi
Posted: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 9:29:06 AM

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Wonderful discussion!

Me Gathering Pebbles at The Seashore.-Aj
Koh Elaine
Posted: Tuesday, October 10, 2017 9:34:20 AM
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Joined: 7/4/2012
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Thanks to all of you who answered my question. Through this discussion, my doubt has been cleared, and I'm no longer confused.
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