Blatant vs. Flagrant: What’s the Difference?

The majority of linguistic issues that writers face on a day-to-day basis really have nothing to do with grammar at all. More often than not they have to do with usage. This happens because there are a lot of English words that sound very similar to each other, are spelled similarly, or have meanings that are closely related to each other. Blatant and flagrant are two such words.

What is the Difference Between Blatant and Flagrant?

These two words are commonly confused with each other in English and cause a bit of trouble for some writers. In today’s post, I want to go over the definitions of these two words, when to use them in a sentence, and give you a few ways to tell them apart in the future. After reading this post, you shouldn’t have any future trouble with either word.

When to Use Blatant

how to tell the grammar of blatant and flagrantBlatant is an adjective that is generally used to describe bad behavior. It is defined as, “done openly and unashamedly, offensively conspicuous.” For example,

  • During his speech to the crowd, the candidate told a blatant lie.
  • The blatant error cost the candidate the race.
  • The thief robbed the convenience store blatantly in the light of day.

Something that is blatant is done plainly for all to see, so the emphasis of the word is on the subject’s failure to conceal the act. The American Heritage Dictionary chooses “offensively conspicuous” to describe blatant, meaning the wrongdoing or offense is being done right out in the open.

When to Use Flagrant

Flagrant is also an adjective that is used to describe wrong or immoral behavior. It is defined as, “conspicuously offensive, bad, or reprehensible.” For example,

  • The court proceedings were a flagrant miscarriage of justice.
  • The officer arrested the criminal for his flagrant disregard for the law.
  • The President’s executive order was deemed a flagrant abuse of power.

Something is flagrant when it is done brazenly as well as openly. So while blatant refers to something that is “offensively conspicuous,” flagrant refers to something that is “conspicuously offensive.” The emphasis of flagrant is on the serious wrongdoing that is inherent in the offense.

Remember the Difference

As you can probably tell, many offenses can be both blatant and flagrant, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the words can be used interchangeably. It just depends on what you want to emphasize in your sentence. If you want to highlight the offender’s disdain for public scrutiny, you will probably want to use blatant. If you want to highlight the severity of the offense and how abnormal or appalling it is, you will probably want to use flagrant. It just depends on what you are trying to emphasize.

So what’s an easy way to keep track of them?

I like to remember the difference by thinking in terms of sports. In basketball, an especially bad foul is called a “flagrant foul.” This is given out when a player goes above and beyond what is a normal foul and pushes or knocks down another player. In other words, a flagrant foul is a foul that is conspicuously offensive. And obviously a flagrant foul is also blatant because everyone in the stadium can see is, so it is done for all to see. But the emphasis is on the severity of the foul, not how open or easy to identify it was.

Summary

The meanings of flagrant vs. blatant are subtly different and you should know which word emphasizes what.

Blatant means offensively conspicuous.

Flagrant means conspicuously offensive.

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