Downright vs outright

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Downright is an adjective that describes something bad as completely bad or wholly bad. Sometimes it is used as an adverb to modify other adjectives, positive or negative, and then it simply means completely or wholly.

Sometimes is it also an adjective to describe something as extremely harsh or blunt, without finesse.

Another adverb form is downrightly and the noun form is downrightness.

Outright is an adverb that means completely, but it is usually paired with an action rather than a attribute. It can also mean for something to be done in a direct or open manner. The whole or complete meaning can also be seen as happening all at once instead of in segments.

As an adjective outright means direct, immediate, or indisputable.

In short, downright is used for emphasize in the utter completeness of an attribute or term and outright is used when something is blatant or wide out in the open, not up for debate. We have include an example below of how the two words can be used on the same modifier and have slightly different meanings.


“I think that the debate about refugees and asylum seekers during this election has been downright shameful,” agreed Uffe Elbæk from The Alternative. [The Telegraph]

These are not crafty-looking blooms. Jafek-Jones’ flowers look very real and are downright beautiful works of art. [The Dallas Morning News]

The night before the mayhem hits, he will gather his musical Friends for the fourth annual Calm Before the Storm, billed as “a celebration of authentic Irish culture, steered toward the more poetic, poignant and outright beautiful songs and poetry from the land of saints and scholars.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

Edmonton Fire Rescue Services will require all condo and apartment buildings to supply proper receptacles for cigarette butts if management has not outright prohibited smoking. [CBC]

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