Word Confusion: Supposably versus Supposedly

Posted March 19, 2019 by kddidit in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

This word confusion, supposably vs supposedly, was requested by J Hafner.

Both words begin with the bound morpheme sup – pose. And both are adverbs.

The primary difference is that supposably is a more positive assumption while supposedly is more negative. I usually interpret the latter’s use as derisive.

Supposably is only used (and rarely) by Americans and usually wrongly. You’re better off sticking with supposedly, which is the most common usage.

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.

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Supposably Supposedly
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: supposably and supposedly; Oxford Dictionaries: supposedly

Daytime view of the Milwauee Art Museum

Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, by marchinileo0 is under the Pixabay license, via Pixabay.

Supposably, a great view of the Milwaukee skyline.

Daytime view of the Milwaukee skyline from the Hoan Bridge

Hoan Bridge View by Jeramey Jannene is under the CC BY 2.0 license, via Flickr.

Supposedly a great view of the Milwaukee skyline.

Part of Grammar:
Adverb Adverb
[American English only] Rare in actual use

Capable of happening



As may be supposed


More commonly used

[Often used to indicate that the speaker doubts the truth of the statement] According to what is generally assumed, accepted, or believed to be true

  • Seemingly
  • Purportedly
They are supposably oriented to the ideals of justice.

Supposably, he was not visible to any but two people.

Jenny Nightless has supposably reformed her conduct.

“But the extreme poles of her affection are supposably represented by Phaon and Anactoria.” – Edgar Saltus, Historia Amoris: A History of Love, Ancient and Modern

There were rumors of a rift between him and his colleagues, supposedly because they were jealous of his relationship with the duchess.

He had supposedly gone to France.

The result on screen is a form of animation but supposedly with realistic movements and emotions.

As with so many sports, the dawn of a new century brought nostalgia for a supposedly vanished golden age.

Prehistoric art shows magical rites which supposedly ensured successful hunting.

That one arm of a supposedly free press would do this to another is irony indeed.

Last night’s attack came in the form of a message supposedly from one of her friends.

Worst of all, a company with supposedly growing sales was actually slipping backward.

Adjective: supposable, unsupposable
Noun: supposer
Verb: missuppose, missupposed, missupposing
Adjective: supposed, nonsupposed, unsupposed
History of the Word:
Mid-18th century, from supposable + -ly, with its earliest use found in Joseph Butler (1692–1752), a moral philosopher and theologian. 1610s, from supposed + -ly.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

Satisfy your curiosity about other Word Confusions by exploring the index. You may also want to explore Formatting Tips, Grammar Explanations, and/or the Properly Punctuated.

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Man Answering Phone by ClkrFreeVector Images is under the Pixabay license, via Pixabay. Human Skeleton by Dawn Hudson is under the CC0 license, via PublicDomainPictures.net.

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