The Grammarphobia Blog

Results oriented

Q: I’m curious about this sentence: “When the two ingredients were mixed, the resultant material was extremely valuable.” Is it correct to use “resultant” here in place of “resulting”?

A: The adjective “resultant” and the participial adjective “resulting” have pretty much the same meaning: following as a consequence or a result of something.

Both are correct, and we can’t see that one is preferred over another for a particular use.

The first to come along was “resultant,” whose original meaning, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was “issuing or shining by reflection.”

This now obscure sense of the word was first recorded in print in Thomas Adams’s The Spirituall Navigator (1615): “Seeing the resultant light of the starres shining in the water about him.”

The modern sense of “resultant” (meaning “that results, resulting; consequent”) first appeared in writing not long afterward, in a letter of Lord Digby (1639):

“Accepting alike the Faith resultant from the dark mists of the Ignorant, and from the clearest intelligence of the Learned.”

It was also recorded in an essay by the scientist Robert Boyle (1672): “By reason of the figure of the resultant corpuscles.”

But Boyle used “resulting” as well, which the OED defines as “arising, produced, or obtained as a result; resultant, consequent.” Here are two citations:

“The resulting Qualities and Attributes of the small particles of Matter” (1666); and “By putting a much greater, or a much lesser, quantity of Galls, into … the Mineral Water, the resulting colour may be more or less intense” (1684-85).

Like Boyle, you can take your pick, though we think “resulting” sounds more natural and idiomatic.

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