militate » mitigate

Chiefly in:   mitigate against

Classification: English – not an eggcorn

Spotted in the wild:

  • “In general, the speed of mass communication mitigates against exploring an issue carefully…” (L.A. Times, quoted by Garner)

One of the two word substitutions that are most frequently suggested to me as eggcorns. (The other is “flout” >> “flaunt”.) Discussed in virtually every usage dictionary, including recent ones: Garner’s Modern American Usage, Cochrane’s Between You and I, Fiske’s The Dictionary of Disagreeable English. The words are similar in both phonology and meaning, so the substitution is understandable. The usual direction of substitution has the somewhat more frequent and less specialized word, “mitigate”, replacing the somewhat less frequent and more specialized word, “militate”, but the reverse substitution also occurs. I can’t see how either direction of substitution counts as any sort of reanalysis, though, so I’ve labeled this as “not an eggcorn”.

| link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2005/04/05 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by pat schwieterman , 2006/10/10 at 12:22 am

    “Mitigate against” is sufficiently well established to make its way into edited books. I was just reading the short story “An Incident at Agate Beach” (Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 19) by Marly Youmans, and ran across this on page 37:

    The death seemed like something that hadn’t happened, it came so quickly. Its very abruptness seemed to mitigate against tragedy and to suggest an unreality.

    Either “militate against” or “mitigate” would seem to work in context. I think “mitigate” might have been the best choice, but the two words’ interchangeability here shows just how reasonable this substitution is.

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