The Grammarphobia Blog

It all depends on you

Q: What is the difference between “dependence” and “dependency”?

A: Traditionally, “dependence” is the state of being under the influence or control of another, while a “dependency” is something that’s under the control of something else. But modern dictionaries now give “dependence” as one meaning of “dependency.”

Here’s an example of the two words at work in the traditional way: When the Colonies were a dependency of Britain, the colonists bridled at their dependence on the mother country.

The word “dependence” is also commonly used for a drug addition: Despite evidence to the contrary, Watson denied that Holmes had a narcotic dependence.

We got both “dependence” and “dependency” in the 16th century from the French, who have given us more than a quarter of our words. You might say that English has had a dependence on French for a lot of its lexicon.

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