Prevaricate vs Procrastinate
Two commonly confused words are prevaricate and procrastinate. They are similar in being quite formal, Latinate, words but have different meanings.
Prevaricate means “to deviate from the truth” (Merriam-Webster). It is not quite so strong as “lie” but implies an intention to mislead.
It is often, but not exclusively, used in reference to politicians:
- “It is one of the known indications of guilt to stagger and prevaricate in a story.” (Edmund Burke)
- “McCain will sometimes surrender to the cheap ploy or prevarication when the moment demands it, but it is often with a smirk or a wince, some hard-to-miss signal that he knows he’s up to no good.” (Matt Bai, The McCain Doctrines in the New York Times)
Procrastinate means “to put off intentionally and habitually” (Merriam-Webster). The term is often used in advice on time management or self-improvement, and can also be a noun (“procrastination”). People who habitually procrastinate are “procrastinators”.
- “Everyone experiences the desire to procrastinate. For one reason or another, nothing is harder than doing the one task that needs to get done.” (From How to procrastinate more productively)
- “Procrastination is not a problem of time management or of planning. Procrastinators are not different in their ability to estimate time.” (From Why We Procrastinate in Psychology Today)
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