Annual and Anniversary

background image 234

A non-native English speaker wonders about this use of the word anniversary in a business communication:

The prices and products below are based on a 36-month contract, free unit and free installation. Tracker experiences an across-the-board anniversary increase (inflation based) every October.

The reader comments,

I cannot remember ever seeing “anniversary” used in this context. I would have expected a word such as “annual.”

The usage sounds odd to a native speaker as well.

Both words, annual and anniversary, derive from the Latin annus, “returning yearly.”

Anniversary entered the language as a noun in the early 13th century with the meaning “day of a person’s death.” In church use, anniversary came to be used attributively in the phrase “anniversary days,” dates on which saints or martyrs were celebrated.

Annual came along as an adjective about 150 years later in the context of paying an “annual wage.”

Although both words can function as either noun or adjective, in modern usage, anniversary is used primarily as a noun and annual as an adjective:

The Queen to celebrate the 70th anniversary of VE Day at a Westminster Abbey service with veterans 

Penguin Celebrates 80th Anniversary

Annual price increases are common in B2B [business-to-business] subscriptions.

The Annual Picnic is usually a purely social event, and everyone is encouraged to attend.

Although both words refer to a yearly event, anniversary carries connotations of celebration and remembrance, whereas annual is a workaday word meaning “occurring once a year.” In observing an anniversary, one might speak of “an anniversary celebration” or “an anniversary dinner,” but in a business context, it’s more idiomatic to speak of “annual meetings” and “annual price increases.”

Stop making those embarrassing mistakes! Subscribe to Daily Writing Tips today!

You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed!

Each newsletter contains a writing tip, word of the day, and exercise!

You'll also get three bonus ebooks completely free!

4 thoughts on “Annual and Anniversary”

  1. I’d love to see a tip about the use of the word anniversary to refer to increments shorter than a year.

  2. Restricting anniversary out of the business context may be an Americanism. Having spent now 12 years between the Middle East (where there are lots of British influences, directly from the UK and from India) and Asia, I’ve found it common to hear people speak of work anniversaries and one’s anniversary date at work each year.

  3. Anniversary occupies a secure niche in business usage and for a good reason. While “annual” refers to an unspecified time during a year, “anniversary” means the exact moment when the same date comes up a year later. No room for ambiguity.

  4. I concur with what Andy said. For instance, on a wage agreement we might see, “The wage rate will increase by 4.7% on the nearest payday following the anniversary date of this agreement”, meaning that on the first pay day following the, um, anniversary of the agreement taking force, the wage will increase.

Leave a Comment