Some of the trickiest English words to differentiate are those words that sound alike or have very similar meanings. The words avenge vs. revenge are just such a set of words. While they aren’t exactly homophones, they do have similar sounds, both ending in “venge.”
But, what makes them so difficult to tell apart is how similar they are in their meanings. Sometimes, depending on the dictionary you consult, you may not be able to decipher any difference at all.
What is the Difference Between Avenge and Revenge?
Today, I want to talk about the difference between avenge and revenge and the best ways to use them in your writing. I will go over their definitions, illustrate how to use them with example sentences, and give you a few trick to remember their difference.
After reading this post, you shouldn’t ever be confused in picking avenge or revenge again.
When to Use Avenge
Avenge is a verb meaning to inflict a punishment or penalty for an injury or a wrong.
- We will avenge your son’s death.
- I will avenge those who sullied your name.
- The victim was avenged after the shooter was sentenced.
- “As her family, we do not seek to avenge her death.” – The Guardian
In this sense, avenge is a word that connotes a pursuit of justice for someone other than one’s self. It suggests punishing a person when someone is looking to vindicate someone else other than himself or herself—or is serving the ends of justice.
It could be said that a prosecutor in a murder case is looking to avenge the parents or other family members of the victim.
The key point is that avenge has more to do with justice or retribution than it does with personal retaliation. It connotes an exaction for a wrongdoing and is often something that people seek for those other than themselves.
When to Use Revenge
Revenge is both a noun and a verb and generally means the act of taking vengeance for injuries or wrongs; retaliation. While revenge can function as a verb, it is much more common for it to be seen as a noun.
- He was so blinded by a desire to get revenge. (Noun)
- It was difficult not to be overwhelmed by feelings or hate and revenge. (Noun)
- “Rodman, a lifetime fifty-eight-per-cent free-throw shooter, was decidedly less amused, but he got revenge by making nine of twelve from the line.” – The New Yorker (Noun)
- We are determined to revenge our humiliating loss from last year. (Verb)
Revenge is a more personal form of vengeance and is usually centers around feelings of anger and resentment.
In the example above, for instance, there was no “wrong” done to the team who lost, but they felt humiliated. Perhaps they gave up an impressive lead and then ended up losing. This is not wrong or immoral, but they are seeking personal retaliation against the other team for this.
Revenge is much less concerned with retributive justice than it is with personal satisfaction or an “evening up of the score.” Since it is such a personal feeling, revenge often deals with real or perceived wrongs, whether or not any harm was done.
Remember the Difference
Revenge and avenge are difficult to tell apart, but these tricks should help you out.
Avenge means the achievement of justice. Both avenge and achievement start with the letter “A.”
Revenge means retaliation. Both revenge and retaliation start with the letter “R.”
Being careful not to mix up revenge vs. avenge is important for clear and precise writing, and while it is sometimes difficult to tell which is best word, revenge or avenge, choosing one over the other will affect the tone of your writing.
Avenge is a word broadly concerned with inflicting a punishment or penalty in the pursuit of justice.
Revenge is a word broadly concerned with inflicting harm or punishment for personal retaliation.