Pet Peeve of the Week: It's 'Oriented, Not 'Orientated'!

This one has been driving me crazy for years. I’ve often heard someone say they need to ‘get orientated with’ their new job or new surroundings. Other uses include ‘results-orientated’ or ‘family-orientated’. Sorry. Those are just wrong to my eyes and ears.

The noun is orientation. The verb is orient. That’s it. No ‘ate’.

People have been using the verb orientate from back formation of the noun orientation. It may not look right to add ‘ation’ to orient, but it’s correct. For example, elevation as a noun comes from the verb elevate. That doesn’t mean that every noun that ends in ‘ation’ comes from a verb that ends in ‘ate’. Inflammation doesn’t come from inflammate, it comes from inflame. Improvisation doesn’t come from improvisate, it comes from improvise. We do have conversations, but we don’t conversate, we converse

Here is the Google top result on orientate:

The noun form of this kind of orienting is orientation. Sometimes people in their speech will form an imagined verb from orientation and say orientate. At best, orientate is a back-formation used humorously to make the speaker sound pompous. The correct word is the verb orient.

To be totally fair, this is only one Google result. Many others will yield links to articles that are less harsh. The general consensus is definitely that orient is older and more commonly used than orientate, but both are technically correct. What makes a word a real word? Usage. The fact that people say orientate more and more, eventually makes it a real word, even if it looks and sounds so wrong. According to Grammar Girl, orient is the more commonly used verb in both American and British English, but orientate appears a little more frequently in British English.

Stick with orient and oriented.