af·​fec·​ta·​tion | \ ˌa-ˌfek-ˈtā-shən How to pronounce affectation (audio) \

Definition of affectation

1a : speech or conduct not natural to oneself : an unnatural form of behavior meant especially to impress others His French accent is just an affectation.
b : the act of taking on or displaying an attitude or mode of behavior not natural to oneself or not genuinely felt speaking honestly without affectation mocked his piety as affectation
2 obsolete : a striving after

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Choose the Right Synonym for affectation

pose, air, airs, affectation, mannerism mean an adopted way of speaking or behaving. pose implies an attitude deliberately assumed in order to impress others. her shyness was just a pose air may suggest natural acquirement through environment or way of life. a traveler's sophisticated air airs always implies artificiality and pretentiousness. snobbish airs affectation applies to a trick of speech or behavior that strikes the observer as insincere. the posh accent is an affectation mannerism applies to an acquired eccentricity that has become a habit. gesturing with a cigarette was her most noticeable mannerism

Affectation and Affection

Affectation looks a lot like a much more common word, affection. But the two are used very differently.

The more familiar word, affection, in modern use means "a feeling of liking and caring for someone or something," as in "They show their dog a lot of affection."

Affectation, on the other hand, refers to a form of behavior that's unnatural to the person engaging in it, and that is meant to impress other people. A phony accent someone uses to sound more sophisticated, for example, can be considered an affectation, as can pretending to know all about some obscure band in order to seem cool.

The words don't have much in common in their use, but their similarity in appearance is not coincidence. Both have to do with one of the trickiest words in the language: affect.

Affect is one of the most frequently looked-up words in the dictionary, primarily because of its regular confusion with effect. The short rationale that you often hear when it comes to distinguishing the two is that effect is usually a noun and affect is a verb. The breakdown isn't all that simple, however, and what makes things even more confusing is that there are two verb entries for affect.

One affect entry is for the sense meaning "to produce an effect upon (someone)" or "to act upon (a person, a person's mind or feelings, etc.) so as to effect a response." This is the sense that connects to affection, as in "We were affected by the young woman's heartfelt speech." Being affected by something in this way doesn't necessarily result in affection, but it can.

The other verb affect is defined as "to make a display of liking or using : cultivate" or "to put a pretense on : feign." It is used when talking about things like styles or mannerisms, as in "He affected a British accent and tweedy look after reading nothing but Sherlock Holmes stories for months on end."

The two verbs affect took different etymological paths from the same origin. The "put on a pretense" sense of affect derives via Middle English and Anglo-French from the Latin affectāre, meaning "to try to accomplish, strive after, pretend to have." Affectāre is a derivative of afficere, which means "to produce an effect on, exert an influence on"; the affect related to affection is from a variant of afficere.

Examples of affectation in a Sentence

His French accent is just an affectation. a woman of great affectation at social gatherings
Recent Examples on the Web The Passport is more an affectation for inclement weather or the occasional unpaved road. Tribune News Service, cleveland, "The 2020 Honda Passport’s excellence shines through its benign demeanor (review)," 25 Jan. 2020 Wright adopted a new middle name, the first of many Welsh affectations. Christopher Benfey, Harper's magazine, "Burning Down the House," 25 Nov. 2019 Apart from economic and other incentives, any such action would flatter Erdogan’s affectations of great-power status. Conrad Black, National Review, "Trump’s Wise Turkey Policy," 9 Oct. 2019 Fun but not dumb, and arty without a trace of affectation, the Cars are one of those rare rock groups whose work entertains without becoming condescending. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Ric Ocasek of The Cars spoke candidly in our 1984 interview," 16 Sep. 2019 The rules for those posts are simple: Post like a boomer — which could mean deploying any number of gently technologically inept affectations that serve as telltale indicators of boomers on phones (again, just reporting here!). Michael Andor Brodeur,, "In Facebook groups, becoming who you aren’t," 4 July 2019 Holsinger gives them and their husbands a range of upper-middle-class careers, attitudes and affectations. Paul Gleason,, "These insufferable parents will do anything to get their kids into 'The Gifted School'," 3 July 2019 Among Democratic operatives in Washington, Harrison’s Senate race is also inspiring more affectation than gung-ho support. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "Lindsey Graham’s “Achilles Heel”," 9 July 2019 Despite the conspicuous presence of a tour publicist who took the unusual step of taping the conversation, Linda, 48, spoke with unmistakable warmth, candor and a refreshing lack of pretense or affectation. San Diego Union-Tribune, "From the Archives: Revisit our 1989 Linda McCartney interview: ‘I do what I want to do.’," 21 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'affectation.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of affectation

1548, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

History and Etymology for affectation

borrowed from Middle French & Latin; Middle French affectation, borrowed from Latin affectātiōn-, affectātiō "striving after, strained manner (in rhetoric)," from affectāre "to strive after, try to accomplish, pretend to have" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of action nouns — more at affect entry 3

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Learn More about affectation

Time Traveler for affectation

Time Traveler

The first known use of affectation was in 1548

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Statistics for affectation

Last Updated

5 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Affectation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

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More from Merriam-Webster on affectation

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for affectation

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with affectation

Spanish Central: Translation of affectation

Nglish: Translation of affectation for Spanish Speakers

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