Adverse vs Averse: What’s the Difference?

Even though they have just one letter difference between them, adverse vs averse are not the same word. Skilled writers know how to tell them apart.

Because both adverse and averse show some sort of opposition, these two commonly confused words are even more confusing than others. If you are going to be a good English writer, you must know how to use them properly.

Thankfully, there are some easy ways to tell the adverse vs averse apart. Once you get these down, you will be able to confidently use the words correctly every time.

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Adverse Vs Averse: A Guide To Their Different Meanings

Adverse Vs Averse

The English language is full of words that sound similar and even have similar meanings, but have different usages. Adverse and averse are just some of the many words that fall into this category. Though they are both adjectives, they have slightly different nuances that you will want to understand.

Adverse Definition

Adverse means “acting against” or “acting in a contrary direction.” It can also mean “harmful” or “unfavorable.” This word tends to be used when referring to things and circumstances, like bad weather, not people. It often modifies reaction, impact, and effect. 

Here are some examples of adverse used in a sentence:

  • The adverse effects of cancer treatment give many families a reason to weigh their options after a difficult diagnosis.
  • She had an adverse reaction to the perfume her friend was wearing, which resulted in a migraine headache.
  • The adverse weather conditions made driving difficult.

Synonyms for Adverse

Adverse has quite a few synonyms. They include:

  • Hostile
  • Negative
  • Unfavorable
  • Unfriendly
  • Unsympathetic
  • Bad
  • Unhealthy
  • Counter
  • Disadvantageous

Etymology of Adverse

The word “adverse” comes from the Middle English language with roots in Anglo-French and Latin. it comes from the word advers, which in turn came from the Latin word adversus. This word means turned toward, facing or opposed. 

Averse Definition

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, averse means having a feeling of dislike, repugnance or distaste. The word averse is more often used to refer to people and their feelings instead of things, and it often has the preposition “to” or “from” right after it.

Averse is often used to with a strong dislike for taking on risks. Saying someone is risk-averse means they are not interested in taking on too much risk. This pairing often comes up when talking about investments. 

Here are some examples of averse used in a sentence:

  • The child appeared to be averse to cleaning and chores.
  • Perfectionists are averse to receiving criticism of any kind.
  • The senator was not averse to taking on a political challenge to stand up for his beliefs.

Synonyms for Averse

Synonyms for averse
Averse means having a feeling of dislike, repugnance or distaste

Averse has just a few synonyms. They include:

  • Allergic
  • Antipathetic
  • Disgusted
  • Opposed

Averse Etymology

Averse comes from the Latin word avertere, which means to turn. It also has some roots in the Middle French word avertir. You might also be interested in our awhile vs. a while explainer.  

Keeping the Two Words Separate

With just one letter, the letter “d,” making them different, adverse vs averse are quite confusing. These are not homophones because they are pronounced differently, but they are similar enough to cause confusion.

Though it is an oversimplification, in general, you will use adverse when talking about things or circumstances. If you are talking about a person and their feelings about something, you will use averse. 

A Final Word on Adverse vs Averse

Adverse and averse is a pair of words that are easily confused. In spoken English, you may not even notice if someone gets them mixed up. However, if you are writing, you must keep them straight to write well. 

Use adverse when referring to things and averse when referring to people’s feelings. Always run your writing through a grammar checker to double-check that you have gotten it right. With these writing tips, you will be able to write more effectively even with these tricky words. If you liked this post, you might also find our who vs. whom guide helpful.

FAQs On Adverse Vs Averse

What is the difference between adverse and averse?

These two adjectives have similar connotations, but some differences as well. Generally speaking, adverse is used to refer to negative events or circumstances, while averse is used for negative feelings and people’s emotions. 

Can someone be risk-adverse?

No, because this phrase refers to a person’s feelings about taking on risk, you would use risk-averse, not adverse.

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  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.