Strangely, this word has also come to mean two opposite things: to conduct a superificial examination or to conduct an in-depth examination. I quote from

Main Entry: pe·ruse
Pronunciation: p&-'rüz
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): pe·rused; pe·rus·ing
Etymology: Middle English, to use up, deal with in sequence, from Latin per- thoroughly + Middle English usen to use
Date: 1532
1 a : to examine or consider with attention and in detail : STUDY
b : to look over or through in a casual or cursory manner
2 : READ; especially : to read over in an attentive or leisurely manner

Note definition 1b. I even wrote a haiku on September 12, 1998 to commemorate this dual meaning:

Peruse This Haiku

To peruse something
Can mean to inspect briefly
Or to scrutinize.

'Peruse' is a favourite word amongst job seekers, viz:
To whom it may concern:

I am writing in response to your advertisement for the position of XXX in your organisation. XXXing is something that I hold dear to my heart, and I believe I will be an effective and loyal employee.
I am enclosing a copy of my resume for you to peruse at your convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Joe Schmoe.


What is perhaps forgotten is that some employers and human resources cogs might wonder - consciously or sub-consciously - why the applicant has chosen this word, and not instead something more simpler, like 'read'. Am I going to be hiring a snob or pedant who will confuse or annoy the co-workers? Will their habit of using obtuse language over vernacular expressions impede their ability to write clear safety instructions? Does his lordship really think this word is gonna impress me?

Personally speaking, the word 'peruse' is ugly. It sounds like many other words with unpleasant meanings like 'purge', 'bruise', 'pierced' and 'ruse'.

An even worse word to find in a job application letter is the three-syllable 'perusal', as it can only be uttered in passive voice.

Pe*ruse" (?), v. t. [imp. & p. p. Perused (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Perusing.] [Pref. per- + use.]


To observe; to examine with care.


Myself I then perused, and limb by limb Surveyed. Milton.


To read through; to read carefully.



© Webster 1913.

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