Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Paramount and Tantamount

I don't write very many posts about the usage of individual words. But let's refresh the difference between the adjectives "paramount" and "tantamount", which not only mean different things but are used in different grammatical constructions. "Paramount" means "supreme"; "tantamount" means "equivalent to". We normally find the first in sentences like the following:

It is of paramount importance that we all work for a resumption of negotiations between both parties.

But "paramount" can also contain the suggestion of importance on its own. It then means "requiring first consideration", as in:

The best interests of the client are paramount.

"Tantamount" is different. It describes the relationship between two things rather than the status of a single thing.

Breaking off negotiations at this point is tantamount to a declaration of war.

That is, the two actions are equivalent.

1 comment:

Kurt said...

Most excellent. I needed to know this and your post was the first thing that came up in Google when I used search term "paramount vs. tantamount." Thanks!