Why is "alright" not all right?

Always is all right. Albeit is all right. Although is all right. Why isn’t alright all right?

Alright is all right. It’s just a variant of all right.

It is. Why do you think it isn’t? It’s an acceptable alternative spelling. Chambers says it is a less acceptable alternative but it’s still used.

My SO uses it all the time and his publishers allow it.

Many of the cites I found at onelook.com list it as a “non-standard usage”. I had it drummed into me as a kid that the “alright” spelling was an improper corruption along the lines of “ain’t”. The Merriam-Webster website has this to say:

So why do the grammarians get their panties in a bunch about “alright” but seem to be fine with other contractions of “all” and something else?

Why should it be?

I’ve never had a problem (or spoken to anyone who does) with ‘alright’. In fact, I’ve always been under the impression they had slightly different meanings:

  1. I’m alright = I’m fine


  1. These answers are all right. = … all correct…

to use ‘alright’ in (2) would imply that the answers were ok/not bad/adequate rather than correct. Likewise, using ‘all right’ in (1) would imply that I was entirely correct (which I am, of course!:smiley: )

I’ve got no particular reason for this usage, other than the fact it seems logical to me…

Is that alright with you?:stuck_out_tongue:

I think you’ll find that most English words with the “al-” prefix, e.g. “already” & “although,” are not combinations of “all” and the root word, but of “al,” meaning “even” (compare German “also”, meaning “therefore”–as in “even thus”). “Alright” was probably a back-formation of “all right,” likely inspired–erroneously–by the above words.

If you write “alright,” I’ll understand what your meaning is. But I’ll also make a judgment about you and your education level. The same goes for “alot,” “should of” instead of “should have,” and “suppose to” instead of “supposed to.”

Thank you Gary T, and no thanks to the rest of you jamokes. :slight_smile:

Hold on struct, I don’t think we should pay too much attention to that assertation by GaryT. I was just about to write a reply to him, stating that he holds a minority view.

If you look up almighty, although, altogether or already you will find that they all come from the word all, albeit in various stages of development. From Old English eall (almighty) via Middle English al (altogether) to all (alright).

The only reason alright hasn’t made it into all dictionaries is that the word arrived relatively late - it has nothing to do with any different formation.

And as Fowler noted, ‘alright’ sometimes works better than ‘all right’:

(from the alt.english.usage FAQ)

I agree that it does not look good in formal writing, but that is a matter of taste, not grammar.

I think that’s a tad unfair. ‘Alright’ is nowhere near the grammatical corruption displayed in ‘alot’ or ‘should of’.

Those latter examples you gave are mainly used by the younger generation, misspelling a phrase they hear frequently. ‘Alright’, on the other hand, is obviously not; if one was to hear someone say the word out loud, they would assume it was spelt ‘all right’, or ‘allright’. They wouldn’t remove the L.

Plus, it is unlikely ‘alot’ will ever be a formal phrase in the English language (or at least not for hundreds of years). ‘Alright’ is already considered correct by many dictionaries.

It made it into my dictionary: Alright adv. Nonstandard: All right.

In any case, this is the exact word that eliminated me from the 3rd grade spelling bee, reducing me to tears. I have never forgotten that it is not all right to use alright.

It’s nonstandard because the consensus is it’s nonstandard. You can use it, but be prepared to be considered ignorant of the language.

Would anyone advocate the use of “alwrong,” BTW? If “alright” is correct, why not?

Popup, my dictionary shows “although” to be formed from “al”=even and though. This makes a lot more sense than a combination of all and though. Methinks the dictionary you linked is in error on that point.

For many of the other words, it does appear correct that the combination was made with all. Apparently I overgeneralized in my post.

I think we should avoid loaded terms like “corruption” in a discussion about language. It isn’t linguistically meaningful as language change is a natural feature of all languages, and the word “corruption” implies that one alternative form can be superior to another in an objective way.

“Alot” isn’t a corruption, it’s the result of a process that has been at work in the English language for a while. Articles and nouns merge and split all the time. Or are you going to insist that cooks wear naprons and Florida exports noranges?

I’ll grant you that “should of” is obviously a phrase that has its origins in a mishearing of “should’ve” but it is on its way to becoming just another of the many ways to use “of.” Prepositions are very flexible things!

You can’t draw meaningful conclusions about correct language forms by applying logic at this level, since correctness in language comes from usage, not from choosing the most “logical” form out of competing alternatives.

It is useful for understanding etymology of words, or teasing out underlying grammatical rules, but it’s a no-go for judging correctness.


True, languages change all the time, and pedants are annoying. But it’s hard for me to accept “should of.” We have “should,” a modal auxiliary, combined with a verb in the present perfect, e.g., “have done.” To say “I should of done” just doesn’t make sense–it tells me that the speaker isn’t able to distinguish the present perfect, which is one of my favorite tenses. (I know, it’s a little weird to have a favorite tense.) At the risk of being one of those annoying pedants, “I should have done” seems to me objectively better.

I confess that I really don’t care for “alright” and “alot” either, but I can tolerate them. But “should of?” We’re going to hell in a handbasket, I say.