var·i·ous (vârē-əs, văr-)
a. Of diverse kinds: unable to go for various reasons.
b. Unlike; different: flowers as various as the rose, the daisy, and the iris.
2. Being more than one; several: She spoke to various members of the club.
3. Varied in nature or character; not uniform: "The war with Scotland ... was conducted feebly, and with various success" (David Hume).
pron. (used with a pl. verb)
Several different people or things.
[From Latin varius.]
Usage Note: The quantifier various normally modifies a noun directly (as in various members), but at least since the early twentieth century it has also sometimes been used before prepositional phrases starting with of; George Orwell's influential 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language," for instance, refers to "various of the mental vices from which we now suffer." When we first balloted the various of construction in 1967, 91 percent of the Usage Panel found it unacceptable. As recently as 1999, 87 percent disapproved of the sentence Various of the committee members spoke out against the measure. By 2013, the disapproval rate for this same sentence had dipped to 76 percent, with an even lower disapproval rate (46 percent) for a sentence that included the phrase ownership of the lake and various of its tributaries. Linguistically, the various of construction appears defensible, being analogous to similar constructions based on the quantifiers few, many, and several. Besides, one might argue that the lake and various of its tributaries has a slightly different meaning from the lake and various tributaries of it; the former makes the scope of the larger set (the lake's tributaries) seem more definite, while the latter implies that its scope is indeterminate, unknown, or unimportant. But given that the use of various as a direct modifier is completely standard whereas the various of construction is still controversial, it may be advisable to avoid various of except when you want to give emphasis to the specific larger set that the "various" things are part of.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
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