Using Among vs Amongst

Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
Among and amongst sound very similar. Most people have seen both words used, but it can be confusing what they actually mean. In this lesson, you will learn the correct usage of among and amongst.

Only One Winner?

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is amongst the top-selling literature in the world. Set among a fictional future universe, the main characters Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark fight to be the only survivor in a cruel battle to the death among 24 contestants known as The Hunger Games.

Meaning of Among and Amongst

'Among' and 'amongst' are prepositions. Prepositions are words that show relationships between words, like location ('under' the table), when something is happening ('before' lunch) or to give information (the man 'with' the briefcase).

'Among' and 'amongst' are both prepositions that mean 'to include', 'in the middle of', 'surrounded by', 'in association with or in the company of':

  • We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Thomas Jefferson (to include)
  • There, amongst the trees, was a little cottage. (in the middle of)
  • At the concert, I was among many people from around the world. (surrounded by)
  • Our products are evenly distributed among our business partners. (in association with)
  • Microsoft is among the top corporations in the world. (in the company of)
  • Do not worry. You are amongst friends. (in the company of)

What is important is that among and amongst have the same meaning and can be used interchangeably without any difference in meaning.

Petronas Towers in Malaysia are among/amongst the tallest buildings in the world.
malay

British English Versus American English

It may seem that 'amongst' sounds more British than American.

A search of the usage of 'among' versus 'amongst' of Google Books shows that while 'amongst' is slightly more used in British English, 'amongst' is almost never used in American English. In both British English and American English, among is by far the preferred word choice.

Style

Even though 'among' is the preferred word choice, there is something about 'amongst' that sounds more proper, if old-fashioned, to native English speakers:

  • Amongst the vast sea of people, the woman's red dress stood out.
  • Among the vast sea of people, the woman's red dress stood out.

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