The Grammarphobia Blog

Is “winningest” a loser?

Q: The word “winningest” comes to my attention every basketball season and grates on my nerves. I doubt that it’s valid even though it seems to be more and more common. Is a phrase like “the winningest coach” now acceptable?

A: There’s something faintly juvenile sounding about the word “winningest.” What’s wrong with saying “the coach with the most wins” or “the most successful coach” or “the coach with the best record”?

But in fact it’s a legitimate word. it’s been around for hundreds of years, first in the sense of most attractive and later in the sporting sense.

You can find “winningest” in many standard dictionaries, including The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, though some describe the usage as informal.

If you prefer to avoid the word, that “informal” label gives you a good excuse. But don’t expect others to share your view.

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