Deprecated vs Depreciated

One thing that often annoys me, particularly in my line of work in IT is the frequent muddling-up of the words deprecated and depreciated.

According to Wiktionary

Depreciate

Verb

  1. (intransitive) To reduce in value over time.
  2. (transitive) To belittle

Deprecate

Verb

  1. (formal) to express disapproval of.
  2. (computing) to recommend against use of.
  3. (archaic) to pray against.

So when a module or feature of a computer program is outdated and has been replaced by a new one, it is deprecated.

3 Comments

  1. rats
    July 28, 2009
    Reply

    its depreciated too…

    The value has gone down (caused by release of new software/hardware).
    Its depreciated, so i deprecate it.

  2. Jason
    June 29, 2014
    Reply

    Deprecate vs Depreciate and Obsolete – why I am right, and the rest of the computer industry is emphatically and consistently wrong.

    Since I was 4, my Grandmother used to play Scrabble with me. This is back when Scrabble had more respect for the English language, e.g., proper names were not allowed, nor were words from other languages not commonly used in English, etc. Every time she played a word she would ask me if I knew what it meant, and if I didn’t, she made me look it up in this huge Oxford dictionary she had. Thing was like the Gutenberg bible. I’m talking huge. You can imagine that when I started playing Scrabble with her this occurred quite frequently. At the time I was mostly annoyed, but now, I look back on her with enormous gratitude for instilling in me a decent vocabulary. Unfortunately, she also instilled in me a rather stuck-up prudish attitude towards incorrect use of the English language. Hey, I still make mistakes, but as soon as someone points it out to me or I realize what I’ve done, I course correct. I don’t keep repeating the same mistake because it suits me.

    Granted language evolves, e.g., “google” is now a verb, apparently. Through what’s known as “common use”, it has earned its way into official dictionaries. However, “google” was a new word representing something heretofore non-existent in our speech.

    Common use does not cover blatantly changing the meaning of a word just because we didn’t understand its definition in the first place, no matter how many people keep repeating it.

    The entire English-speaking computer industry seems to use “deprecate” to mean some feature that is being phased out or no longer relevant. Not bad, just not recommended. Usually, because there is a new and better replacement.

    The actual definition of deprecate is to put down, to speak negatively about, to express disapproval through degradation, to denigrate. It does NOT mean merely to recommend against.

    It comes from Latin de- (against) precari (to pray). To “pray against” to a 21st century person probably conjures up thoughts of warding off evil spirits or something, which is probably where the disconnect occurs with people. In fact, to pray or to pray for something meant to wish good upon, to speak about in a positive way. To pray against would be to speak ill of or to put down or denigrate. See this excerpt from the Oxford English Dictionary.

    1. Express disapproval of:
    (as adjective deprecating) he sniffed in a deprecating way

    2. another term for depreciate ( sense 2).
    he deprecates the value of children’s television

    What people generally mean to convey when using deprecate, in the IT industry anyway, and perhaps others, is that something has lost value. Something has lost relevance. Something has fallen out of favor. Not that it has no value, it is just not as valuable as before (probably due to being replaced by something new.) We do have a word that means this in English and the word is “depreciate”. See this excerpt from the Oxford English Dictionary.

    1. Diminish in value over a period of time:
    the pound is expected to depreciate against the dollar

    2. Disparage or belittle (something):

    So when something loses value, it has depreciated.

    Notice that definition 2 sounds like deprecate. So, ironically, deprecate can mean depreciate in some contexts, just not the one commonly used by IT folk.

    Also, just because currency depreciation is a nice common use of the word depreciate, and therefore easy to cite as an example, doesn’t mean it’s the only context in which the word is relevant. It’s just an example. ONE example.

    It bugs me, it just bugs me. I don’t know why. Maybe because I see it everywhere. In every computer book I read, every lecture I attend, and on every technical site on the internet, someone invariably drops the d-bomb sooner or later. If this one ends up in the dictionary at some point, I will concede, but conclude that the gatekeepers of the English lexicon have become weak and have lost their way… or at the very least, lost their nerve.

    The official OED definition of this word in no way limits its use to finance, nor is it the only context in which it is used. Citing examples of this context does not further your case.

    The correct transitive verb to use here is obsolete. Again, see the OED definition. Wikipedia and other online “community” sources are un-reliable because they can be based on hear-say and mis-information.

    obsolete – v. (transitive) – Cause (a product or idea) to be or become obsolete by replacing it with something new:
    we’re trying to stimulate the business by obsoleting last year’s designs

    Depreciated and obsolete makes sense, deprecate does not. I’m not making this up and you can choose to accept the truth or not, but according to the official lexicon of the English language, I am right on this. It is actually deprecate, in the context of IT, that makes no sense at all.

    To deprecate means strictly to demean or to denigrate. It does NOT mean to just recommend against.

    The author doesn’t demean a module, does he/she? Does a module become ridiculed? No. That would be ridiculous. It’s just not correct and it never has been.

    That’s it. I’m done, and while I’m sure there are grammatical mistakes in this soliloquy and a spelling error or two due to auto-correct or the fact that I don’t type and have to look at the keys the whole time, my argument stands.

    Still, most people in my industry don’t care. As someone remarked to me at the Openstack convention in Atlanta when I gave him this same speech, “Irregardless, I’m still going to keep saying deprecated.”

    *sigh*

    • June 30, 2014
      Reply

      Great rant, Jason. Thanks for taking the time to write this interesting and well-considered comment.

      While I don’t disagree with your definitions, I think what prompted me into writing this (five years ago) was people repeatedly saying “deprecated” but writing “depreciated”. At least pick one and stick to it!

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