Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Censor or Censure?

When a public official is deemed deserving of a reprimand, would fellow politicans censor or censure him? Do people who remove indecent content censor or censure it?

Censor or censure: These two very similiar-sounding words have very different meanings, so you have to know the difference between the two. People use one more often than the other. That means some people might forget the second word even exists.


The far more common of the two words can be a noun or a verb.

As a noun, it refers to a person who examines conduct and morals and, potentially, alters or deletes conduct or speech that fails to meet certain guidelines. As a verb, it refers to the act of altering or deleting content to conform with certain guidelines.

This word came into English in the mid 16th century from Latin, from censere, which meant to assess or examine.

In early Rome, the censor was one of two magistrates who acted as census takers, assessors and inspectors of morals and conduct. One of these, Cato the Elder, tried to preserve Rome’s ancestral customs and combat “degenerate” Hellenistic influences.

People who feel their presumed freedoms to speak their mind are being infringed often scream censorship. But people don’t have the right to say anything they want in private locations like websites. Artists who complain of censorship on the airwaves forget that in many cases, the FCC requires efforts to maintain decency.

Some of us who own websites have no qualms about removing or editing content that doesn’t meet the site’s standards.


Censure can also stand as a noun or verb. As a noun, it refers to a judgment of condemnation or an official reprimand. As a verb, it means to make such a condemnation or judgment.

Politicans and public officials censure colleagues they feel suffer lapses in good judgment or act immorally. At times, such actions are political maneuvers themselves, designed to earn points for those who issue them. Censures do not normally come with additional consequences other than the shaming itself. However, they can be accompanied by a threat of further action if the behavior is not corrected.

But censures can apply to more than just individual politicians. Recently, the Greek government faced a censure over a plan to rename Macedonia. Also, a firefighters union voted to censure a fire chief in Minnesota.

This word came into late Middle English from the Latin words censere, which meant to assess or examine, and censura which meant a legal judgment.

Now that you know the more detailed explanation, you can boil it down to this: CCensormeans to alter or edit or a person who does so. Censure means to reprimand or the actual reprimand someone issues.

If you get them wrong, a self-appointed grammar censor might just decide to censure you!

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.