Word Pairs that Repeat Themselves

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He grew by leaps and bounds.

We searched every nook and cranny.

You will have to pick and choose.

English is replete with redundancies. There is little to no difference between leaping and bounding, nooks and crannies, picking and choosing. Some language purists advocate the elimination of all redundant expressions, but I not only disagree, I think it’s a terrible idea.

There are good reasons to repeat the same idea in different words. It adds emphasis. And, more importantly, it sounds nice. Some words just belong together. They are sometimes alliterative (e.g., dribs and drabs, house and home, prim and proper, vim and vigor) and always nicely rhythmic. I believe it’s this pleasing aural quality that makes these idioms so sticky.

Certainly, if you are aiming for concise, cliché-free writing, you’d do well to avoid the following. But there’s no reason to get pedantic about it. Style isn’t always economical.

Redundant word pairs particularly abound in legal writing. This derives from the old custom of using both the French/Latin word and the English/Anglo-Saxon synonym in order to ensure the widest understanding. Wikipedia refers to these expressions as legal doublets.

Common Redundant Word Pairs:

  • cheek by jowl
  • dribs and drabs
  • each and every
  • forever and ever
  • hale and hearty
  • house and home
  • kith and kin
  • leaps and bounds
  • neat and tidy
  • nook and cranny
  • over and above
  • over and done with
  • peace and quiet
  • pick and choose
  • plain and simple
  • prim and proper
  • rant and rave
  • six of one, half a dozen of another
  • so on and so forth
  • various and sundry
  • vim and vigor
  • yea and amen

Legal doublets:

  • aid and abet
  • all and sundry
  • alter or change
  • appropriate and proper
  • bind and obligate
  • care and attention
  • cease and desist
  • covenant and agree
  • deem and consider
  • due and payable
  • final and conclusive
  • fit and proper
  • free and clear
  • from now and henceforth
  • furnish and supply
  • goods and chattels
  • have and hold
  • heirs and successors
  • hue and cry
  • indemnify and hold harmless
  • kind and nature
  • law and order
  • legal and valid
  • let or hindrance
  • lewd and lascivious conduct
  • liens and encumbrances
  • make and enter into
  • null and void
  • part and parcel
  • perform and discharge
  • power and authority
  • sale or transfer
  • sole and exclusive
  • successor and assigns
  • terms and condition
  • true and correct
  • will and testament

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About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. n o
    n o08-21-2016

    “part and parcel” doesn’t belong here; they mean two different things, and together they have a precise meaning (which is rarely used correctly). If something is “part”, it is entirely contained by, and if it is “parcel”, it entirely contains; so something that is “part and parcel” is exactly the same thing as.

  2. joy
    joy08-01-2015

    Though my redundant word pairs are in a way very limited, I love using them for color and vividness.
    Thanks for this page.

  3. Merri Larsen Bryant
    Merri Larsen Bryant07-02-2015

    Everyone who knows me at all sees my vim and vigor in my work as a Write at Home coach. I’m also a freelance legal assistant who values the true and correct place of synonym word pairs in language….and life.

  4. Elaine
    Elaine06-24-2015

    far and wide
    spic and span
    fast and furious
    big and tall?
    by and far
    trial and temptation

  5. Paul Schwarz
    Paul Schwarz06-24-2015

    This reminds me of a college professor whose syllabus told us students that the course would “hone and sharpen certain analytical and critical skills.” He packed two redundant word pairs into one clause!

    • Merri Larsen Bryant
      Merri Larsen Bryant07-02-2015

      What a fun and thrilling way to teach!

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