Word Confusion: Patience versus Patients

Posted June 13, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

If one looks strictly at patience as a state of mind and patients in its noun form, it’s an easy explanation. The two words become more similar when patient as an adjective is in use. But still…patience will always be a noun and never used as an adjective. Mind the distinction.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Patience Patients
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; James Harbeck, as an adverb; Dictionary.com: patience and patients

A black-and-white photograph of a man flyfishing in a river

Image courtesy of OSU Special Collections & Archives: Commons [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Fly fishing on the Metolius River in Oregon, or anywhere for that matter, requires patience.

A hospital ward with rows of beds in London, 1916

Image by Donald James Mackintosh, originally published by William Hodge Edinburgh in 1916, and now courtesy of Wellcome Trust [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A double row of patients in this London hospital ward.

Part of Grammar:
Noun; Proper Noun Noun plural of: patient

Adjective; Noun
The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset

[Chiefly British] Solitaire

An ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay

Quiet, steady perseverance

  • Even-tempered care
  • Diligence

Rumex patientia, a.k.a., patience dock of the buckwheat family, whose leaves are often used as a vegetable

[Obsolete] Leave

  • Permission
  • Sufferance

Proper Noun:
Female name

Able to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious

A person receiving or registered to receive medical treatment

[Linguistics] The semantic role of a noun phrase denoting something that is affected or acted upon by the action of a verb

You can find bargains if you have the patience to sift through the dross.

Mom is playing a game of patience to calm her nerves.

Helen lost the last of her patience when her three-year-old broke yet another egg.

Tom has such patience with how slowly Paulie learns.

I haven’t got the patience to work puzzles.

Your antics are weighing on my patience, young man.

Proper Noun:
Patience, as a name, was first used by the Puritans.

Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller is an historical novel exploring lesbian love.

In Georgette Heyer’s The Nonesuch, the character named Patience is so sweet and forgiving.

Be patient, your time will come.

He is quite patient with the boy.

Has the doctor seen his patients yet?

They’ve moved the patients to the third floor.

We have too many patients. You’ll have to direct ambulances to Cedar Sinai.

Doctor, your next patient is in Room B.

Noun: superpatience Adjective: overpatient, patientless, quasi-patient
Adverb: patiently
Noun: patient, patientness
History of the Word:
Both are Middle English from the Old French, which is from the Latin patientia, which is from patient- meaning suffering, from the verb pati.

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C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

Photo of Kathy Davie

Kathy Davie is an editor, author, and artist with degrees in Technical Writing & Editing, Digital Media, and History from Metropolitan State College in Denver, Colorado.

A huge believer in knowledge being power, Kathy has an ongoing and free set of Author Tools for authors interested in self-editing with an ongoing series of posts on Word Confusions, what’s Properly Punctuated, those tricky Formatting Tips, and the sleep-inducing Grammar Explanations. There is also an online tutorial on Using Microsoft Word’s Markup Tool.

And if you get too sleepy, explore KD Did It for various writing and editing services.

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