Ludicrous vs Ridiculous

By Maeve Maddox

I read a celebrity quotation that asserted that a rumor being circulated about her was “ludicrously silly.” The statement struck me as ridiculous.

Silly is a synonym for ludicrous; using one to intensify the other is overkill.

In recent years, ludicrous has become celebrity-speak for plain old ridiculous. As a result, a subtle difference between the two is being lost.

Rapper Christopher Bridges, known as Ludacris, told an MTV interviewer that he based his stage name on his “split personality,” which he described as being “ridiculous and ludicrous.” Bridges apparently perceives a difference between the words, (what that is, he doesn’t say), but other celebrities seem to have latched onto ludicrous as if it were merely a classier word than the more familiar ridiculous.

For example,

If being an attractive woman got you attention for directing, then the entire ‘best director’ category would be comprised of models. To me, that is just the most ludicrous connection that you could make. –Diablo Cody

Actors will never be replaced. The thought that somehow a computer version of a character is going to be something people prefer to look at is a ludicrous idea. –Peter Jackson

Dictators are ludicrous characters, and, you know, in my career and in my life, I’ve always enjoyed sort of inhabiting these ludicrous, larger-than-life characters that somehow exist in the real world. –Sacha Baron Cohen

The curtains would open and it would be just her standing in some ludicrous pose, like Aphrodite. –Lesley-Anne Down

It seems to me that in each of the above quotations, the speaker was reaching for ridiculous or perhaps a word with some other connotation that would be more appropriate in the context.

Connotation: The signifying in addition; inclusion of something in the meaning of a word besides what it primarily denotes; implication.

Ridiculous seems to me to be less judgmental than ludicrous. Something ridiculous provokes laughter because it is incongruous. For example, a man wearing a lampshade for a hat presents a ridiculous sight.

Something ludicrous is both incongruous and contemptible. For example, a nineteen-year-old with the full use of his legs riding on the shoulders of his bodyguards while touring the Great Wall of China presents a ludicrous sight.

Each of the following synonyms is a word for a dwelling: house, palace, shack, hut, hovel, mansion. They may be synonyms, but each conveys a different feeling to the reader or listener.

English possesses numerous adjectives used to convey the meaning ludicrous, most of which are synonyms, but each of which carries some difference in connotation. Here are some:

absurd
asinine
comical
farcical
foolish
idiotic
laughable
preposterous
risible

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11 Responses to “Ludicrous vs Ridiculous”

  • Glenn Miller

    Thanks for another informative post. It makes me think of _Spaceballs_, the 1987 _Star Wars_ parody. In it the ship goes to ridiculous speed, then to ludicrous speed.

  • Cat

    This was great; I often see people using the word “ludicrous” a little too loosely, I’m glad to know it’s not just me who thinks so!
    By the way, is the example of the man wearing the lampshade from your imagination or a subtle Flowers for Algernon reference?

  • Dale A. Wood

    Oh, I think that most people who use “ludicrous” instead of “ridiculous” are just trying to be chrome-domes. They just think that “ludicrous” is a more-impressive word, but that is a fallacious notion. D.A.W.

  • dragonwielder

    And here I thought the rapper was making a clever wordplay on “ludicrous” and his given name. Apparently I was wrong.

    I think it’s a shame that more people don’t care about word connotations. I love the rush I get when I find the perfect word for a context, whether it sounds impressive or not. Thanks for the article, Maeve!

  • venqax

    Does fallacious mean false?

  • venqax

    “If being an attractive woman got you attention for directing, then the entire ‘best director’ category would be comprised of models. To me, that is just the most ludicrous connection that you could make.” –Diablo Cody

    I’m even more upset by the improper use of comprised. Is this Cody person competing in some kind of bad English contest that the Russian had added to the Winter Olympics?

  • Dale A. Wood

    To Venqax: “Does fallacious mean false?”
    No, “fallacious” does not always mean false. It is sometimes possible to use fallacious (i.e. “broken”) reasoning to reach a true conclusion.
    The problem is that fallacious reasoning causes more problems than it solves.
    D.A.W.

  • Dale A. Wood

    When you are wondering about a word like “fallacious” here is a good source because it draws from multiple dictionaries:
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/fallacious?s=t

    This one states that when something is fallacious, it could downright false, or it could be merely misleading, or questionable.
    D.A.W.

  • Luke

    You gave what you thought seemed to be the connotations for ludicrous and ridiculous. But you got them the wrong way around. Ridiculous invites ridicule (whether for blatant incorrectness, ignorant or absurdity… whatever), which is close to contemptible. Ludicrous invites amusement at the deliberate foolishness of something. Oxford etomology suggest Latin “ludicrum” as an origin.

  • Tars Tarkas

    I find it preposterous to fault someone for using ludicrous when you think they should have used ridiculous. It’s entirely possible they actually meant what they said. You say that ridiculous seems to you to be less judgmental than ludicrous. Ridiculous seems to me to be more judgmental. Ridicule, in my opinion, seems harsher & more judgmental that ludicrous’s connotation of amusement.

    Anyway, just my $.02; reasonable minds may disagree.

  • venqax

    OK. I just thought fallacious might be a more-impressive word, but guess that is a fallacious notion.

    So ridicule is worse than ludicry?

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