augur » auger

Chiefly in:   auger well (for)

Classification: English – questionable

Spotted in the wild:

  • “First and foremost, it doesn’t auger well for the state of science education in the United States.” (California Wild: The Magazine of the California Academy of Sciences, Keith K. Howell's editor's column, Spring 2005, p. 2)
  • “and augers well for the future of this validated course. … which augers well for the Commonwealth Games and European Championships later.” (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Paul Brians (Common Errors in English Usage)

The verb “augur” ‘foretell’ occurs in modern English with any frequency only in the idiom “augur well/badly (for)”, so it’s ripe for respelling with the verb “auger”, related to the noun denoting a boring tool (though “auger” is itself a rather specialized word — just not as specialized as “augur”). The references treat this as a simple spelling error, and it might well be; the question is whether some people who use it think that boring is somehow involved in the meaning, perhaps though current states of affairs boring, metaphorically, into the future.

Certainly, the “auger” spelling is common: on 10 April 2005, I got ca. 12,400 raw Google web hits for “augers well for”, a respectable number in comparison to ca. 63,500 for “augurs well for”.

“Augurs” is reshaped more drastically in “all goes well (for)”, q.v.

| link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2005/04/10 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by Ken Lakritz , 2005/04/11 at 6:41 pm

    Here’s a note about this eggcorn that I wrote last month. We agree that it’s a boderline case:

    ‘augers well’ for ‘augurs well.’ This is a surprisingly common mistake (78,000 google hits for ‘augers well’ vs. 107,000 for ‘augurs well.’) I’d call it a borderline eggcorn except when predictions about drilling are being made. See, e.g.,

    … It augers well for the productivity of sands within the Tiof channel system although a lot more work needs to be done before any field-wide commercial … rnsitem?id=1108450867nRNSO6061I


  2. 2

    Commentary by Shion , 2006/07/16 at 6:26 pm

    This may be an interesting comment if ‘all goes’ well.

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