Q: I’m sick of hearing people use “irregardless” instead of “regardless.” It’s not just ugly; it’s No. 1 on my list of “uggies.” Where did the superfluous “ir” come from? And how can we get rid of it?
A: “Irregardless” has been around for about a century and has been condemned for just as long. The earliest citation in the Oxford English Dictionary, from Harold Wentworth’s American Dialect Dictionary (1912), questions its legitimacy: “Is there such a word as irregardless in the English language?”
The OED defines it as a nonstandard or humorous usage for “regardless.” Both The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary agree that it’s nonstandard.
Where did that extra “ir” come from? Lexicographers (the folks who compile dictionaries) believe that “irregardless” is probably the result of the mushing together “irrespective” and “regardless.”
I agree with you that “irregardless” is ugly. It’s right up there on my list of “uggies” too. The best way to exorcise it from the English language is to avoid using it. Let’s all do our part. But “irregardless” has been around for a long time, and it doesn’t seem willing to go quietly.