Among or Amongst?

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Among or Amongst?

What is the difference between "among" and "amongst"?

In the UK, the words "among" and "amongst" can be used interchangeably. For example:
  • Man is an animal which, alone among the animals, refuses to be satisfied by the fulfilment of animal desires. (British inventor Alexander Graham Bell, 1847-1922)
  • Truth springs from argument amongst friends. (British philosopher David Hume, 1711-1776)
In the US, "amongst" is rare to the extent that many will consider it wrong if it is used in formal writing. In American English, "amongst" is used only in literary prose that seeks to add a sense of the old fashioned.
among or amongst difference

More about "Among" and "Amongst"

The prepositions "among" and "amongst" mean the same as each other. "Among" and "amongst" have the following meanings:

(1) "Surrounded by" or "in the company of"
  • I am among my friends.
  • Shoot for the moon and if you miss you will still be among the stars. (American motivational speaker Les Brown)
(2) "Belonging to a group" or "within a group"
  • John is now among those who disagree with the CEO.
  • Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh. (American Poet W.H. Auden, 1907-1973)
  • Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it. (American writer Jane Wagner)
  • (It is unusual, but not wrong, for an American writer to use "amongst.")
(3) "In the middle of"
  • She is among the bears.
  • ("Among" is similar to between in this meaning. "Between" is used with two things, but "among" is used with three or more things.)
  • To put a cat among the pigeons.
  • (This is a common idiom. It means "to cause a stir.")
Remember that Brits could use "amongst" in all of the examples above, but most Americans would only use "amongst" to portray a sense of the old fashioned.

"Among" Is Older than "Amongst"

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "among" first appeared in Old English (5th century to the late 11th century), while "amongst" appeared later in the Middle English period (mid-12th century to the mid 15th century).

"Among" Is More Common than "Amongst"

"Among" is far more common than "amongst," even in British English. (Here is evidence from Google's Ngram viewer.)

A Video Summary

Watch a video showing 10 big differences between British English and American English.

Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

between or among? while or whilst adverse or averse? affect or effect? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? e.g. or i.e.? its or it's? practice or practise? principal or principle? who's or whose?