“criticism” and “critique”

The word “criticism” has several different meanings. Your criticism of someone or something indicates your disapproval of the person or his action. A criticism can be either verbal or written; the word always carries with it a negative meaning. The main stress is on the first syllable. Here is an example.

*As far as I am concerned the criticism was unjustified.

The word can also be used to mean an evaluation or judgment of something — novel, painting and film. In this case, you are giving your considered opinion of a work of art; you are highlighting its good and bad qualities.

The second syllable of “critique” rhymes with the words “peak”, “beak”, and “leak”. It is this syllable which has the main stress. When you critique something what you are doing is giving in writing your judgment of something — it could be someone’s work. You are highlighting the good and bad qualities of a piece of work. According to some people, “critique” is a high sounding word for “criticism”.

*The article was a critique of my neighbour’s latest novel.

The Hindu- ‘Know Your English’ Series, October 11, 2004


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