v. com·pared, com·par·ing, com·pares
1. To consider or describe as similar, equal, or analogous; liken: Is it right to compare the human brain to a computer?
2. To examine in order to note the similarities or differences of: We compared the two products for quality and cost. The article compares the recent recession with the one in the early 1990s.
3. Grammar To form the positive, comparative, or superlative degree of (an adjective or adverb).
1. To be worthy of comparison; bear comparison: two concert halls that just do not compare.
2. To draw comparisons.
Comparison: a musician beyond compare.
To exchange ideas, views, or opinions.
[Middle English comparen, from Old French comparer, from Latin comparāre, from compār, equal : com-, com- + pār, equal; see perə-2 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Usage Note: A common rule of usage holds that compare to and compare with are not interchangeable. To implies "in the direction of" or "toward a target," and so comparing Miriam to a summer's day means treating the summer's day as a standard or paragon and noting that Miriam, though a different kind of entity, is similar in some ways to it. With implies "together" or "side by side," and so comparing the Senate version of the bill with the House version means treating them symmetrically, as two examples of the same kind of entity, and noting both the similarities and the differences. It's a subtle distinction, and most writers accept both prepositions for both kinds of comparison, though with a preference that aligns with the traditional rule. The 2014 Usage Survey presented He compared the runner to a gazelle, where the items are in different categories and the first is likened to the second; the Panelists found to more acceptable than with by a large margin (95 percent to 55 percent). The margin of acceptability was slimmer for a sentence about assessing the similarities and differences between two comparable items: The police compared the forged signature with the original. The acceptability of with was only slightly greater than that of to (84 percent to 76 percent), and with might have been even more acceptable had the sentence been about two forged signatures.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.