Flaunt vs. Flout

by Heather

Lexical Vexations

Flout v. 1. to disregard contemptuously.

Flaunt v. 1. to show off, to display proudly. 2. to disregard contemptuously.

Words in the Wild: He flouted the school dress code by flaunting six inches of boxer shorts above the precariously dangling waistband of his jeans.

The second definition of flaunt is considered by many to be incorrect, and Webster’s states that this second use “undoubtedly arose from confusion with flout.” Nevertheless this controversial use is so common in colloquial speech that it has become at least somewhat acceptable in informal contexts. That said, it’s best in formal writing and speech (or whenever you think your audience is composed at least in part by fusspots) to err on the side of caution and stick to the first definition of flaunt.

Still vexed? You can find a complete list of the Word Blog’s lexical vexations here.

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