Irregardless… Is that even a word?!?
When I was a senior in high school, I had Mrs. Krieser for my English teacher. She had been teaching for at least 30 years by the time I was in her class and was probably the most eccentric faculty member at my small town high school. I remember a lot of things about Mrs. Krieser, but what I’ll never forget about her was her quirky use of the English language. Yes, even long-term English teachers don’t have perfect grammar.
The most memorable of Mrs. Krieser’s quirks was her frequent use of the word “irregardless.” Now, I’ll be upfront about this: you will be able to find this word in some dictionaries. But it will always be marked as “non-standard,” and here’s why.
If you break down the word into its parts, you have “ir,” “regard” and “less.” “Regard” can be a verb or a noun, but in this case, we’re using it in the sense of “with/in regard to,” which is often used as a substitute for “about” or “concerning.”
The other two parts, “ir” and “less,” are a prefix and suffix that are used to negate the word they are joined with.
EXAMPLES: add “ir” to “rational” and you get “irrational,” which means “not rational.” Add “less” to “cheer” and you get “cheerless,” which means “without cheer.”
Back to “regard”… Let’s start by adding back just one of the other parts: “regard” + “less” = “regardless,” which means without regard or having no regard.
EXAMPLE: “Regardless of the weather, we are going to eat outside.” So it doesn’t matter what the weather is like – you’re eating outside.
But if you also add “ir,” which is also a negative, you have two negatives: “ir” and “less.” Shift gears to math for a minute and think back to that commonly taught phrase: two negatives make a positive. It’s the same with language. So “ir” and “less” cancel each other out, and now you’re back to being concerned with the thing you were trying to say didn’t matter.
EXAMPLE: “Irregardless of the weather, we are going to eat outside.” So whether you’re eating inside or outside is dependent on the weather… not what you intended to say.
There are two takeaways here: “irregardless” doesn’t actually mean what you might have thought it did, and everyone – even English teachers – can mess up sometimes!
Check out more grammar tips. Grammar: Nauseated or Nauseous (or Just Plain Sick)?
Rachel is a full-on, hardcore grammar freak. Her favorite punctuation marks are parentheses, em dashes, and ellipses. She still loves adverbs but is trying to wean herself off of them. And she truly believes that it’s okay to split an infinitive. In addition to her grammar obsession, Rachel writes light contemporary romance – occasionally with a paranormal twist – and is published in short fiction.