The word "ilk" and its abuses

Joanna Sheldon cjs10 at
Thu Aug 31 18:18:46 PDT 2000

At 02:24 01-09-00 , Doug wrote:
>JKSCHW at wrote:
>>Doesn't the wrong version become the right version if it is
>>embedded? "Specious" meant "plausible" in Hume's English, but it
>>acquired the meaning of " . . . but false: in ours. So Ilk means
>>"same" in Scotland but"kind" in America. --jks
>Says the American Heritage Dictionary, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98:
>>ilk (îlk) noun
>>Type or kind: can't trust people of that ilk. See synonyms at type.
>>The same. Used following a name to indicate that the one named
>>resides in an area bearing the same name: Duncan of that ilk.
>>[Middle English, same, from Old English ilca.]

I think, Daniel, the battle's been lost on this one, though you have my sympathy. (I still stiffen at the wrong (i.e., post-WWII, derived-from-German) use of "hopefully" but that, too, is a lost cause.) For the record, though, jks, the use of "ilk" to mean "same" is not confined to Scots. It should be pointed out that Fowler's in agreement with our Welshman. He puts "ilk" in the category of "popularized technicalities", on which he says, "Two general warnings will suffice: first, that the popular use more often than not misrepresents, and sometimes very badly, the original meaning; and secondly, that free indulgence in this sort of term results in a tawdry style. It does not follow that none of them should ever be used".

But on "ilk" he is quite firm, saying that it: "means same; it does not mean family or kind or set or name. "Of that ilk" is a form constructed for the case in which proprietor and property have the same name; "the Knockwinnocks of that ilk" means the Knockwinnocks of Knockwinnock".*

*Henry Fowler, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage -- still and always the Bible.

cheers, Jo

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