Yes, “Irregardless” Is a Word
Let’s be clear. Just because something is a word doesn’t mean you should use it. There are plenty of four-letter words, for example, that I don’t recommend using. In fact, I forbid my children to use them. I don’t pretend they aren’t actual words. I just put them in the category of words that shouldn’t be uttered.
Irregardless isn’t a four-letter word — literally or figuratively — but the way some people react to its use it might as well be. I understand the objections to it. It is redundant since the prefix ir- serves no logical purpose. It is unnecessary, since it is used to mean the same as regardless. Both true and good reasons for avoiding it.
But it’s nonsense to argue that irregardless isn’t a word. It is clearly “a speech sound or series of speech sounds that symbolizes and communicates a meaning without being divisible into smaller units capable of independent use.” It was first used in spoken English in the early 20th century, most likely as a confusion of the synonyms irrespective and regardless (an understandable mistake, certainly). It has also appeared, albeit infrequently, in print. It has a part of speech (adjective) and is recognized by most, if not all, current dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster, American Heritage, Dictionary.com, and the Oxford English Dictionary.
That said, all of these dictionaries are careful to note that the use of irregardless is nonstandard and not recommended.
Please hear me out. I am not endorsing the use of irregardless, but it’s silly to suggest it isn’t a word. It might be a useless word, a redundant word, even an unpleasant word, but it is a word.
One further appeal. Let’s all resist the temptation to assume that people who use irregardless are ignorant knuckle-draggers. It’s common, and when words are often heard, they tend to worm their way into our personal lexicons. In fact, I am writing this post because I used the word in a conversation the other day without even noticing. A friend pointed it out. He wasn’t offended, and I wasn’t horrified, by the way.
Feel free to instruct your children or students that regardless is a better option than irregardless and explain why. But there’s no reason to correct or insult people who either intentionally or unintentionally use the latter.
The video below by the editors at Merriam-Webster expresses the same view:
We welcome all comments irregardless of your opinion!