Word Confusion: Peruse versus Pursue

Posted February 15, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Truly. I can understand why the hunter may want to peruse the prey, but my first thought would be that he (or she!) would pursue their prey, especially when speaking of tracking someone.

I gotta wonder if today’s writers spend too much time watching (or listening) to TV, radio, or stereo, that they don’t take the time to read. And preferably the older books. The ones that actually had editors who knew one word from another.

Oooh, now I’m getting catty. Must be all those perusable books I’ve been pursuing…and perusing.

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.

Peruse Pursue
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Merriam Webster: peruse

Child reading a book

Image by Elizabeth [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Kaitlyn peruses her book.

A Taiwanese artwork of aborigines hunting deer

Image courtesy of Winertai and is in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons

A Taiwanese artwork of aborigines pursuing deer.

Part of Grammar:
Verb, transitive

Third person present verb: peruses
Past tense or past participle: perused
Gerund or present participle: perusing

Verb, transitive

Third person present verb: pursues
Past tense or past participle: pursued
Gerund or present participle: pursuing

To examine or consider with attention and in detail

  • To read over in an attentive or leisurely manner
  • To glance over
  • Skim

To look over or through in a casual or cursory manner

Read (something), typically in a thorough or careful way

  • Examine carefully or at length
Verb, intransitive:
To follow a fugitive, etc., in order to capture or overtake

[Especially of something bad or unlucky] To follow closely or accompany

To seek or strive to attain some object, desire, etc.

Verb, transitive:
Follow someone or something in order to catch or attack them

  • Seek to form a sexual relationship with (someone) in a persistent way
  • Seek to attain or accomplish (a goal), especially over a long period
  • [Archaic or literary; of something unpleasant] Persistently afflict someone

[Of a person or way] Continue or proceed along a path or route

  • Engage in an activity or course of action
  • Continue to investigate, explore, or discuss a topic, idea, or argument
Laura perused a Caravaggio with all the attention of a hungry dog eyeing a steak.

He has spent countless hours in libraries perusing art history books and catalogues.

I watched as he casually perused the titles in Tattered Cover.

I used to get caught up in the encyclopedia; now, I peruse the Internet.

It was his habit for Paul to peruse at least five newspapers over breakfast.

Verb, intransitive:
In The Fugitive, Tommy Lee Thompson pursued Harrison Ford.

Ill health pursued her all her life.

He pursued pleasure as a miser went after gold.

Verb, transitive:
The officer pursued the van.

A heavily indebted businessman was being pursued by creditors.

Sophie was being pursued by a number of men.

Should people pursue their own happiness at the expense of others?

Mercy lasts as long as sin pursues man.

The road pursued a straight course over the scrubland.

Andrew was determined to pursue a computer career.

The council decided not to pursue an appeal.

We shall not pursue the matter any further.

Adjective: perusable, quasi-perusable
Noun: peruser, perusal
Verb: preperuse, reperuse
Adjective: pursuable, unpursuable, unpursued
Noun: pursuer, outpursue, repursue
History of the Word:
Late 15th century in the sense of use up or wear out, perhaps from per- meaning thoroughly + use, but it does compare with the Anglo-Norman French peruser meaning examine. Middle English originally in the sense of follow with enmity, which is from the Anglo-Norman French pursuer, from an alteration of Latin prosequi meaning prosecute.

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