Utilize: Not the same as “use”

12 Feb

I often hear “utilize” and “use” being used interchangeably. (Yes, it’s a pet peeve of mine. Most people probably don’t know the difference. But I do, and this is my blog, so it’s ultra important to me.)

Somewhere in history, “utilize” was equated as the more sophisticated form of “use.” This is false. And, in fact, because it’s used incorrectly, it actually makes people sound much, much less sophisticated.

Take heed! Only say “utilize” if you’re using something outside of its intended purpose. For instance, if I grab a flathead screwdriver to open a paint can, then i’m utilizing that screwdriver. I’m taking a tool made for tightening and loosening a particular type of screw, and jamming it under the lid of an aluminum can.

I may be among the only people alive fighting against the inappropriate use of the word “utilize,” but I just can’t help myself. Leading the charge for “use,” FTW!


10 Responses to “Utilize: Not the same as “use””

  1. Jenn March 12, 2008 at 7:54 am #

    I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone. I am currently campaigning to have the word “utilize” banned from use in my office. My colleagues insist on using utilize as a direct replacement for use, with the misguided believe that it makes them sound smart. Obviously this does not work! It is currently my number one pet-peeve, ousting people who stand on escalators as though they are a ride. Good luck with your continued fight.

  2. laura August 26, 2008 at 8:42 pm #

    I find MANY people say ‘utilize’ instead of ‘use’ to wordify and complexificate their vocabulary. Annoying.

  3. Tom September 12, 2008 at 1:46 pm #

    “utilize” and “utilization” came into popular use a little over 40 years ago, no doubt coming from bureaucratize. It makes me crazy and completely goes against the rule of using the simpler spoken or written word. When will it end?

  4. Bill November 12, 2008 at 11:51 am #

    You are defiinitely not alone, using “utilize” interchangeably with “use” drives me nuts. Very annoying.

  5. HFx December 1, 2008 at 11:21 pm #

    Yes, very very annoying. Makes me want to utilize a something one wouldn’t normally use to bonk offender upside the head.

  6. Victor February 2, 2009 at 3:11 pm #

    I’ve always been annoyed by the utilization of utilize instead of use!

    I never knew the full correct meaning of utilization before but the way you describe it points to the likely origin in French. The word for tool in French is “outil” so it’s the “toolization” of something. using X to do a job normally done by Y by turning X into a tool for that purpose.

  7. Alex May 20, 2009 at 4:12 pm #

    Utilize is like nails on a chalkboard to me… Right up there with people who use I when me is correct, in a futile attempt to sound sophisticated.

    • Terrance June 26, 2009 at 3:12 pm #

      Thanks for clearing this up. However, I must admit that my only reason for commenting was to utilize a comment slot to see which pattern would pop up beside my post! I think that’s a clever device to use in order to get more comments.

  8. Ian Howie August 14, 2009 at 1:29 pm #

    Misuse of the word “utilize” is a huge pet peeve of mine as well. While I understand the distinction, 99% of the time “utilize” is used where “use” should be.

    Someone said “I find MANY people say ‘utilize’ instead of ‘use’ to wordify and complexificate their vocabulary. Annoying.” to which I say AMEN.

    Any MMA fans here? (mixed martial arts) If so…you’ll know what I’m about to say: “Mike Goldberg, commentator for the UFC bouts drives me NUTS!! with his incessant use of “utilize”. The word should never have been introduced. (IMO)



  1. Jason Jansma » Utilize or Use? - June 13, 2009

    […] many people like to point out, this means that you utilize something only when you “profitably” use […]

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