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Definition: Seeking to imitate or emulate something or someone because of admiration. An obsolete meaning is ‘to be jealous’ of someone or something.

Pronunciation: Ehm-yew-lus


Entered Middle English around 1400. Originally from the Latin aemulus, meaning to ‘vie with’.

 Why this word:

The word ‘Emulate’ is not that unusual. Indeed, we have all probably used it at one stage or another. However, the adjective of ‘Emulate’, Emulous, is not used. And this seems something of a shame. After all, we can feel jealous of someone. We can feel envious of someone. And we can feel proud of someone. So why do we no longer feel emulous of someone? It seems like a perfectly logical, useful word.

However – that said – it was the origin of this word that originally caught my attention. To ’emulate’ means to admire to the point of copying (or, simply put, that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery). However, it seems that the original use of emulous had a different connotation – that of ‘jealousy’. It seems reasonable to assume, therefore, that there was originally no word to represent the idea of copying because of admiration. Copying was, it appears, an act of jealousy. Thus, the words emulous and ’emulate’ evolved to fill this niche, leaving ‘jealousy’ and ‘envy’ to closely guard their definitions.

How to use the word emulous in a sentence?

This word is relatively straight-forward to use. When a style or an idea that has been used before by a director, an author, a politician, etc – you can say that they were being ’emulous’ of the original idea.


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Written by Sean Carabini

Seán Carabini is a Dublin-based author. To date, Seán has written the humorous travel memoirs 'Sticking Out in Minnesota' and 'American Road', as well as 'American Road: The poems' - a book of travel poetry related to the memoir. Seán has also developed a podcast based on the book - subscribe to the American Road podcast today! Seán is a committee member of the Irish Writers' Union.

Chrissy Skelton is Seán Carabini's editor. A graduate of the University of Minnesota's Anthropology programme, Chrissy emerged armed with an arsenal of little-known words and cumbersome jargon - all of which will now be off-loaded onto 'unusedwords' readers!


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