A question from Ikram in Pakistan:
I really appreciate your efforts to help us to learn and improve English language.
I have a query about two words in English language. 'dedicated' and 'devoted' are the two words which are commonly used in speaking and writing. I am well aware of the meanings of the two words. My question is that in some situations we prefer to use the word 'dedicated' rather than 'devoted' while in other circumstances we prefer to use 'devoted'.
Please enlighten me when it is appropriate to use 'dedicated' rather than 'devoted' and vice versa.
Thanks in advance.
'Dedicated / Devoted'
Mark Shea answers:
This is a tricky question, Ikram - the words 'dedicated' and 'devoted' seem very similar.
If we look at the etymology of the words - that's how they came into English - we see that they have quite similar meanings originally. Both come from Latin: 'devote' comes from the word meaning 'a vow', and 'dedicate', which has changed very little, comes from the word meaning 'to proclaim', 'consecrate' or 'devote'. Both words have a religious background, and both mean to have great love, affection or enthusiasm for something.
We might identify some differences in the use of each word today, however...
'Devoted' has remained far closer to its original meaning - we still use it to talk about someone's commitment to a particular activity or object. It's particularly used to talk about someone's love for their family -
"He's a devoted father" OR
"She was devoted to her grandchildren."
We can use it, perhaps less frequently, to talk about other areas of life:
"Years of devoted research finally produced results," for example, or...
"The teachers were devoted to their students."
The central meaning is that effort and concentration are involved in the object of the devotion. And it's worth noting that the noun 'devotions' might also mean religious activities like praying, for example.
'Dedicated' has become more flexible over time...
We're less likely to use it to talk about love for one's family or in a religious context - it's a more general word.
If you are dedicated to something, you believe that it's right and worthwhile and you give a lot of time and effort to it. It's especially useful to talk about someone's attitude to their job -
"A dedicated worker" is very committed, for example. But 'dedicated' could also be used to describe someone who believes very strongly in the importance of an ideal...
'A dedicated vegetarian' believes very strongly that people should not eat animals.
'Dedicated' can be used in another way though:
A song on the radio might be dedicated to a particular person - you can call some radio stations and they'll play songs which you request for your friends or family.
'A dedication' is a statement which says who a book has been written for or who a song has been sung for.
To sum up then, both words have similar origins and meanings, but we're more likely to use 'devoted' to talk about family or loved ones, and 'dedicated' to talk about work or other interests.
So thanks for being such a dedicated learner of English, Ikram!
Mark Shea has been a teacher and teacher trainer for fifteen years. He has taught English and trained teachers extensively in Asia and South America, and is a qualified examiner for the University of Cambridge oral examinations. He is currently working with journalists and is the author of the BBC College of Journalism's online English tutor.
Audio - Download the answer (mp3 - 981k)
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