Difference Between Amid and Amidst (with Table)

The difference between amid and amidst is stylistic. Both these words share similar meanings of being ‘surrounded by’ or ‘in the middle of’. The difference between the words arises in terms of their usage.

While amidst is more commonly used in the literary sense in a sentence, amid is widely used in common parlance. The uses of the words in the various dictions also stem from this seminal variance between the two terms. Amidst was popularized in the Middle Ages and still holds sway among the British English speaking populace.

Amid is the preferred term of usage among the American speakers and is invoked upon fairly commonly in everyday interactional conversations. The popularity of the informal version is much more than the formal literary term amidst.

Comparison Table Between Amid and Amidst

Parameters of ComparisonAmidAmidst
Stylistic usageAmid is widely used in the common parlance.Amidst is commonly used in the literary sense in sentences.
Preferred Expression InUsed more frequently in American English.Used more frequently in British English.
Antiquity of the TermAmid is not an archaic term.Amidst is considered an archaic and outdated term.
Formality of UsageInformal usage of the term.Reserved for more formal usages.
PopularityMore popular in the Middle Ages among poets, writers and commoners alike.Popular among the current English speaking world populace.

What is Amid?

As a preposition, amid connotes the relationship between two words. The meaning of the word is much too similar to its antiquated counterpart- amidst. Amid means ‘to be among’ or ‘in the middle of’ or ‘surrounded by’. It can be used to connote something happening ‘in the middle of’ another event. Similarly, the word can also be used to connote an object, event or person being ‘surrounded by’ something.

Amidst and among are used as common synonyms of the term.  The term originated in British English from the word ‘on middan’. If something is happening ‘amid’ occurrences of other varieties, it is happening in the middle of these other things.

Amid is the informal variant of amidst and is more commonly used in daily exchanges. With the turn of the century, the term has gained more popularity, overshadowing its archaic counterpart.

Some examples of sentences that commonly employ the term:

  1. He entered the room amid a roaring sound of applause.
  2. The lone house stood amid the cluster of pine trees.
  3. The demonstration continued amid the imminent fear of retribution.
  4. The chief guest arrived amid the on-going festivities.
Amid

What is Amidst?

As a signature term of preference in old British English, amidst has the same meaning as amid. It connotes being ‘surrounded by’ or ‘in the middle of’ or ‘in the midst’. The term is preferred in the formal literary context of poetry and prose writing. It was used in common parlance during the Middle Ages but has since lost its significance.

The term is now considered archaic and its synonyms like amid are more commonly used in everyday conversational interactions as well as writing. The formality attached to the term deters one from using it in common linguistic interactions. However, it is still fairly popular among British speakers.

Some examples of sentences that commonly employ the term:

  1. The minister entered the area amidst taut security.
  2. The celebration began amidst the cheering crowd of supporters.
  3. The moon shone bright amidst a few stray clouds.
  4. She was the most intellectually proficient student amidst her peer group.
Amidst

Main Differences Between Amid and Amidst

  1. The first main difference between the two widely used English terms is in terms of their stylistic usage. While amidst is used extensively in English literary works, amid is used in common parlance. Amidst is commonly seen in works of literature like novels and poetry. Amid -as the non-formal version- is commonly used in everyday speech and writing.
  2. Another significant difference between the terms is in terms of their usage in the British and American dictions. While amid is used in the American linguistic system much more commonly, amidst is the more popular term of usage among the British populace.
  3. Amidst is sometimes also considered to be an archaic term, more commonly used in the Middle Ages. However, amid is not an archaic word and is used in common, everyday exchanges.
  4. Amidst is classified as a more formal term than amid. In a formal context, usage of the term amidst may be more appropriate than amid. Amid is more suited for informal usage. The everyday informal environment is conducive for the use of the term amid rather than amidst, as the latter evokes a literary bent of speech.
  5. Amidst was more popular in the Middle Ages among writers, poets and commoners alike. While amid is more popular today among the diverse English speaking global population. The use of the word amidst has significantly declined in the recent years, as its informal synonym gained clout.

Conclusion

Both amidst and amid are used as prepositions and both have largely overlapping meanings. Both these terms signify ‘in the middle of’ or ‘surrounded by’.

However, there exist subtle differences between the two terms in the context of their stylistic usage. While amid is more suited to be used in common parlance, amidst is commonly used in literary works in the English language.

This stylistic differentiation gives rise to several other subtle variances including the preference of each term among a different set of English speakers. The term amid has more currency among the American English speaking populace, while the term amidst is more popular among the British English speaking population.

The formality of each term is also different. Amidst is considered to be more formal than amid. The popularity of the usage of each term also differs.

The term amidst attained popularity during the Middle Ages among novelists, poets and the common people in Britain. While the term amid has gained popularity among the people of both America and Britain in the current historical period.

References

  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-971X.1989.tb00658.x
  2. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/1-4020-3873-9_1.pdf