“Gratitude” or “Gratefulness”?

By Maeve Maddox

Lauren writes:

I have searched the internet for the answer to this, but I cannot find it: What is the difference between ‘gratitude’ and ‘gratefulness’ if any.

Both Merriam-Webster and the OED treat the words as synonyms:

Merriam-Webster:
gratitude: the state of being grateful
gratefulness: : the quality or state of being grateful

OED:
gratitude: The quality or condition of being grateful
gratefulness: The quality of being grateful

The abstract noun gratitude comes from Medieval Latin gratitudo, “thankfulness.”

The adjective grateful comes from an obsolete adjective grate, “agreeable, thankful,” which came from a Latin adjective, gratus, “pleasing.” Gratefulness is an abstract noun formed by adding the suffix -ness to grateful.

Personally, I prefer gratitude to gratefulness because I don’t like using -ness abstract nouns when a form without -ness is available and suits the context.

Here are some examples of what seem to me to be unnecessary -ness formations, together with the words that can be used instead:

anxiousness / anxiety
amiableness / amiability
animatedness / animation
determinedness / determination
coolness / cool (when the sense is “not warm” : in the cool of the evening)
fanaticalness / fanaticism
falseness / falsity
moistness / moisture
ostentatiousness / ostentation
poorness / poverty (when the sense is “lack of wealth”)
stupidness / stupidity
tiredness / fatigue

Bottom line: Gratitude and gratefulness mean the same thing. Which to use is a matter of stylistic choice.

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7 Responses to ““Gratitude” or “Gratefulness”?”

  • Cecily

    “Gratitude” is far more common, at least in England, and I prefer it that way.

    “Poorness” sounds ghastly, and I’m glad to say I don’t think I have encountered it before.

  • Nick Rose

    I agree on most of these preferences for avoiding “-ness”. However, I would argue that in some cases, the meanings are not quite the same. Moisture, for example, is the water content in a substance that exhibits moistness.

    Even in the case of the initial example, could it not be argued that gratitude is what one feels, while gratefulness is the tendency to have that feeling.

    In these examples, the distinction is very similar, and this is my gut-feeling interpetation of these distinctions.

    Does anyone else agree?

    I am afraid beg to disagree on the use of “cool” as a noun. But perhaps this is a UK/UK issue? (I am British.) I would use “coolness”. I also find “tiredness” quite acceptable as a synonym for fatigue.

  • Michel Cayer

    I have to agree with Nick here. I feel that there is a subtle difference in meaning.

    I can certainly feel a bread for moistness but I would not feel it for moisture (except in specific circumstances).

    Gratefulness for me is more a feeling or a state of being which has a much longer duration than Gratitude which would apply to a specific event or gesture.

    Yes in a sense they have the same meaning but I find that it applies to different things.

  • kathryn

    Well, maybe “damp” would be better than “moisture.”
    And I have certainly encountered “cool” as a noun in “cool of the evening” and “cool of the day”–just checked my deskside dictionary (A battered Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language) and it lists cool as a noun, using that specific context as an example. . .

  • Naomi Hamm

    when phrasing and structuring your sentences, you must be careful. One will go better than the other.

    example: A form of her gratitude for all that he had done for her in these twelve years was she paid him back in full, though he never expected her to.

    another example: His gratefulness towards her was displayed in each and every way, whether be it, that he not only cooked dinners every night but he was overly-creative in their presentation.

    Also he would rub her sore and achy feet at the end of the long and hard work day.

    Yes, it should flow and ebb the way we all talk. and should sound pleasing when you read it.

  • April Dawn

    I suppose with most of those words it is a matter of how a writer uses it. Honestly Gratefulness makes my ears hurt as it runs through my head.

  • Sylvain Bouchard

    Excellent discussion here !

    So if indeed I am getting this right (note: English is a second language to me…) , I could say that I feel gratitude (appreciation) RIGHT NOW for your collective input on this matter, which I was actually researching because I was confused between the two words. And I will forever be grateful (be in a STATE of gratefulness) for the existence, on the web, of such discussion forums.

    Am I getting this right ? 😉

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