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“Amid” vs. “Amidst”: Difference And Examples

Let’s discuss “amid” vs “amidst.” In the English language, people use many pairings of words interchangeably. In some cases, these interchangeable pairs are useful and correct; in others, they can be confusing and misleading.

This idea of pairings applies to the words “amid” and “amidst,” which are commonly interchanged by American English speakers. With this in mind, in grammar, are these words really interchangeable? And do they have any true usage differences between them?

What Are The Meanings Of “Amid” And “Amidst?”

To answer this question briefly, “amid” and “amidst” both mean the same thing. They act as prepositions to mean “in the middle of something” or “surrounded by something.” They can be used to show that something is happening all around. For instance:

  • Amidst the chaos of daycare, I sat quietly reading my picture book.
  • The light from the aurora borealis stood out amidst the dark sky.

Additionally, both words can describe when one thing is being simultaneously accompanied by another. For example:

  • Amidst rumors of financial ruin, the corporate executive filed for bankruptcy 

Does “Midst” Mean The Same Thing As “Amidst?”

In addition to “amidst” and “amid,” you may also see the word “midst” in older forms of writing. When used in the context of modern English, “midst” acts as a noun that means “among something” or “the middle of something.” 

Due to their similar meanings, people often swap “midst,” “amidst,” and “amid” with each other. For instance, you can usually swap them out in any sentence where “amidst” or “amid” are used. See the following sentence pairs for example:

  • Amidst the chaos of daycare, I sat quietly reading my picture book.
  • Midst the chaos of daycare, I sat quietly reading my picture book.
  • The light from the aurora borealis stood out amidst the dark sky 
  • The light from the aurora borealis stood out midst the dark sky. 

Even though they are similar and technically interchangeable, it should be noted that “midst” has taken on a more specific meaning. In other words, “midst” can specifically refer to something that is in the middle of another thing, whereas “amidst” and “amid” usually refer to a general area.

“Amid” And “Amidst” Vs. “Among” And “Amongst” 

Another point of confusion for English speakers is the similarities between the following words: “amid/amidst” and “among/amongst.” New English writers often confuse these two-word pairings due to their similar meanings and pronunciations.

Among is the older version of the word, and according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the it derives from the Saxon words “on” and “gemang” which mean “in a crowd.”

There is also an Old English variant of the word “amongst,” the older form “onmang” which appeared in the 12th century. The word “amongst” did not appear until the 16th century, making it the younger version of the English words.

In truth, these words have relatively subtle differences, so you can technically interchange them in many different contexts.

It can be noted, however, that “among” and “amongst” refer to intermixed, distinct, or separate objects surrounding each other. For example:

  • A consensus was eventually reached among all of the townspeople. 
  • The cottage was built among the trees. 

The only difference is that among is more common in Great Britain and the United States.

Origins Of “Amidst” And “Amid”

Many English speakers think “amidst” is old-fashioned and formal. However, “amid” actually came first.

In Old English, many words such as “amiddan” and “on middan” eventually evolved into the modern-day form, “amid.” Interestingly, suffixes such as “-st” were added as a product of Middle English.

As time went on, many words dropped these suffixes. However, some such as “amidst” kept them and can sound old to modern English speakers. Due to their historical heritage, it can be more common to see words with “-st” suffixes found in British English.

Examples From Reputable English Sources

Clinton said on Tuesday she supported the swift release of her emails amid reports that the State Department would not publicly release them all until January 2016. – The Guardian

The moratorium, announced by 39 scientists this past January, came amidst controversy over publishing two studies that described how researchers made H5N1 more transmissible between mammals possibly setting the stage for a flu pandemic. – Science Magazine

Amid vs. Amidst Summary

In the end, “amidst” and “amid” can be pretty confusing words for the average English writer to wrap their head around. Although they sound similar and have the same meaning, it can seem like there are rules that control when and where we can use them.

Luckily, according to most modern guides, you can use both words interchangeably without a problem!

People also wonder if words like “midst” have the same meaning. In short, they do. They usually have more specific connotations that dictate where to use them.

You shouldn’t worry. However, even though there are distinctions between them, you probably won’t run into any issues interchanging them in your writing!

Similar Reading: Despite Or In Spite Of?

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By Ryan Fisher

Ryan holds degrees from Pacific Lutheran University and specializes in proofreading, editing, and content writing with an emphasis on business communication.

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