Using ‘refute’ and ‘rebut’

If you are writing an academic or formal piece, it is important to understand what ‘refute’ and ‘rebut’ actually mean.

They are often confused with or used instead of ‘deny’, ‘reject’ and ‘repudiate’*. These words mean to dispute something without providing an argument or proof.

‘Refute’ and ‘rebut’ mean to disprove by argument or evidence but in slightly different ways:

  • To refute is to prove something to be false or to disprove by argument.
  • To rebut is to try to prove that something is false or to present an argument against it.

These distinctions may not matter too much in everyday discourse, but it does matter when you want your audience to take you seriously.

*This is a decidedly ugly word, right?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s