Careened vs. careered

I originally wrote this post in May of 2014.  My love for words and the English language has prompted me to revisit it – as this is something that I am still encountering.  I just finished a novel that (mis?)used this word on several occasions.careened

Over the past years I have encountered this specific misuse of words on myriad occasions in over thirty different novels!

(e.g. The car careered off the road and into a lake) 

When I read a sentence such as the one above, it interrupts the flow of the narrative for me.  It just sounds SO wrong!

‘ed’ denotes past tense of the word it follows

Following this logic:

ed after the word walk would suggest you had exercise sometime in the past

ed after the word career would suggest that you had a career now it is in the past

ed after the word careen would suggest that you moved swiftly in an uncontrolled way in the past

Really…. why don’t proof readers/editors notice this and correct it?  As you can see it drives me batty.

Is this particular misuse used so commonly that it is now accepted as correct?

From Merriam-Webster:

career   careen





You will note that in the above example career is listed as a synonym for careen!
From the Cambridge Dictionary (January 6, 2017):


In the mid-16th century the archaic meaning of the word career meant:  At full speed.  I assume this is where the confusion arises.


From Grammarphobia Blog:

“In practice, most people use “careen” to describe a vehicle lurching around out of control. Copy editors always change this to “career,” which understandably looks very odd to the ordinary reader. Dictionaries of course reflect common usage, which is why they almost unanimously accept interchangeable meanings for these words. Many stylebooks for the lay reader, including Bryan A. Garner’s Dictionary of Modern American Usage, still make the old distinction and recommend “careering out of control,” not “careening.” The newest edition of the New York Times Stylebook also continues to maintain the distinction.”


I’d love to hear your opinions.  Am I fighting a losing battle?

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
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2 Responses to Careened vs. careered

  1. Thomas J Knight says:

    New Yorker 2-13-2023 uses careering not careening. I’m not taking a position, just reporting the usage.

    Liked by 1 person

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