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Syntax Training | Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

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January 23, 2007



I realise that this is a very old post, but I came across it when I was searching for the reason why the word 'timeous' was always underlined by my spell checker. I thought you might be interested to know that we use it fairly regularly in formal writing in South Africa (we generally follow the British style of English). The document I'm currently working on reads that my company "requires timeous notification of ..."

Thanks for a great site by the way, I am a huge fan of correct grammar. I only hope that I achieve it most of the time.


Hi, Ruth. Wow! Thank you for that useful piece of information. I had no idea "timeous" was used anywhere on earth.

I am glad you like the site. Thanks for commenting.



I ran into another post in my current search before correcting what I thought was an erroneous occurrence of timely used as an adverb, that points out timeous and timeously are also used commonly in the UK, and specifically by the Scottish it said.


Even more specific than "Scottish" :-
Timeous and timeously derive from the form of Medieval English once spoken across southern Scotland. While the East coast (i.e. Edinburgh) of Scotland has gradually adopted more anglicised vocabulary, the terms remain prevalent on the West coast (i.e. Glasgow) particularly in semi-official documents (eg. public sector). Personally I would always use "timely" (I'm an East-coaster), though that choice sometimes leaves me stuck for an appropriate adverb.
I'm amazed that the usage also exists in South African English and can't help wondering at the derivation.


Language does continue to amaze. Thanks for commenting, Murray.

Dave Fraser, forensic linguist

My 1975 Webster's "under-the-bridge" dictionary says that timely as an adverb is 'archaic,' so it's probably not any less archaic 35 years later.

Clearly, some accountant started using 'timely' as an adverb because he thought he knew more about the language than he actually did. Most likely, all he really knew was that "adverbs end in L-Y."

It would be excellent if Lynn saw this comment and commented in return.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Dave. Both my current (2009 and 2010) dictionaries are fine with "timely" as an adverb meaning "in time," "on time," or "opportunely."

Both of them label the word as "archaic" when it means "early" or "coming too early, premature."



The IRS uses "timely" as an adverb: "You failed to timely file your personal tax return." Some dictionaries may call it archaic, and to my ears it still sounds odd, but it is definitely making a comeback in American legal circles.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Amy. Thanks for commenting. You expressed what I found in my research described above.


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