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Resilience or Resiliency: Navigating the Nuances in Language

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As we explore the spheres of psychology and personal development, the terms “resilience” and “resiliency” often cross our paths. They seem almost interchangeable, and indeed they are, to a great extent. However, linguistic purists might argue that there is a slight difference between these terms. 

Etymology and definitions

Both “resilience” and “resiliency” stem from the Latin word “resilire”, which means “to leap back” or “to recoil.” In general, both terms are used to describe the ability of a person, system, or material to recover from setbacks or adapt well to changes.

Resilience: the constant

Resilience is a noun and is more common in usage. It has been in the English lexicon for a longer time and is often employed in both psychological and material contexts. In psychology, it refers to an individual’s ability to adapt to adversity, trauma, or stress. In material science, resilience refers to the ability of a material to absorb energy when deformed and return to its original state.

Resiliency: the measure of flexibility

Resiliency, also a noun, has historically been used to describe the quality or measure of being resilient. It is sometimes used to emphasize the degree to which something is resilient. However, in contemporary English, especially in American English, “resiliency” has become nearly synonymous with “resilience” and is often used interchangeably.

Usage and preference

Geography plays a role in the preference for these terms. In British English, “resilience” is predominantly used, while American English has seen an increased use of “resiliency”, particularly in spoken language.

In professional settings or formal writing, “resilience” is generally preferred, as it is more traditional and widely accepted. “Resiliency” may be chosen in conversational contexts or when wanting to particularly emphasise the qualities or characteristics of being resilient.

Takeaway

The terms “resilience” and “resiliency” are, in practical terms, interchangeable, but with subtle historical distinctions. “Resilience” is the more traditional and globally accepted term, while “resiliency” has seen growing popularity, especially in American English. Understanding these nuances can empower us to be more discerning and deliberate in our language, especially in professional or academic contexts. However, it’s important to recognize that language is constantly evolving, and the flexibility in the usage of these terms reflects that dynamism.


Adam Mulligan, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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