Deep-seeded vs. deep-seated

Deep-seeded almost makes sense in a metaphorical way (though seeds sown too deeply won’t grow), but deep-seated is the term you’re looking for. The phrasal adjective (usually requiring a hyphen) simply indicates that something is seated (in the sense fixed firmly in place) deeply in something else. The OED defines it as having its seat far beneath the surface.1


These writers use deep-seated well:

The work of deep-seated, sustainable change remains the hardest work there is. [Harvard Business Review]

The second post was about the nature of conflict in America over deep-seated beliefs. [Joseph Robert Lewis (link now dead)]

But despite that, there are deep-seated problems, says the report. [BBC News]

And, just for fun, here are a few examples of deep-seeded used in place of deep-seated:

If that isn’t true, I at least hope that my deep seeded fascination with pop culture has made you feel better about what you do in your free time. [The Maneater]

Montaner maintains that deep-seeded discrimination and stigma has resulted in decreasing interest in the disease. [Toronto Star]

And when I say resent, I mean resent with a deep-seeded, unhealthy anger that I can’t really explain. [Huffington Post]

We also found a funny instance of deep-seeded that actually makes sense:

In a pair of games between deep-seeded TCC rivals, the Bevier Lady Cat and Wildcat basketball teams played host to a non-TCC match with the La Plata Bulldogs. [Macon Chronicle-Herald (link now dead)]

So deep-seeded is a useful phrasal adjective after all—if we’re talking about sports rankings.


1. ^

Other resources

“Deep-seeded ignorance” at Language Log

40 thoughts on “Deep-seeded vs. deep-seated”

  1. Younger generations are changing words and the meanings of words. When I graduated from high school in 1957, there was no ‘deep-seated.’

    If ‘deep-seated’ had existed – the meaning would have been a person sinking deeply in a couch or chair cushion.

    There was only ‘deep-seeded.’ Example – the seed of an idea was planted very deep and may have been there for a long time – and difficult to erase in one’s mind.

    Now, try to use that definition with deep-seated ….doesn’t fit, does it? Deep-seated is incorrect. Harvard et al,. are wrong.

    If you must list accurate words and phrases – list the original first, and try not to make fun of it. The later generations changed this one – as well as others, I suspect. And not for the better. Please do some research before you willy-nilly accept something because “Harvard” condones it.

    • We appreciate your thoughtful comment, but you are in the wrong on this one. This is not a case of younger generations changing anything. “Deep-seated” is the long-established word, and “deep-seeded” has only begun to gain ground in the last few years. There is abundant evidence of this.

      In historical Google news searches covering all available content up to 1960, there is one instance of “deep-seeded” (see here: against 5,500 instances of “deep-seated” (

      A similar disparity is seen in searches of books published before 1960. There is small handful of instances of “deep-seeded” (, against over a thousand instances of “deep-seated” (

      Also see this Ngram charting the words’ use over the past two centuries: The graph renders the whole issue in visual form. Over the last 200 years, “deep-seeded” barely registers against “deep-seated.”

      So, please, before you impugn what we do here and accuse us of not doing our research, try looking into the issue yourself rather than relying on what you recall from your school days. We actually did do independent research, unlike many similar blogs that cover these topics. (And our take on “deep-seated” has nothing to do with Harvard using it. It just happens that one of the examples we chose, more or less at random, is from a Harvard publication.)

      Of course, we are all free to use the form that we like best. This post merely points out that “deep-seated” is the prevalent form. You are free to use “deep-seeded” if you find it more logical.

      • This is a
        beautifully tactful, elegant, and learned response. I am also very impressed by your use of Google’s
        advanced features of which I was completely unaware. Thank you for a very positive experience on
        the Web rather the usual regrettable waste of time.

      • The need to hold onto deep-seated ideas from the past is like having a stick deep seated in your #[email protected] The truth of the matter is, from the perspective of language deep-seeded makes far more sense, due to the nature of removing it requiring far more work than a shallow-seed.
        Language is fluid and it is changing.. KEEP UP! We’re about to leave you oldies in the dust! Thou shalt not. You will not. See my point? MayB u r 2 stuck n old wayz to understand the current state of english! It’s 2015 and y’all want to act like its 1915!

    • The Grammarist responds patiently and kindly. I respond with a sigh and a roll of the eyes. Why do people think their personal conjectures are factual without doing any due diligence? We all remember certain things as being true that are simply false. Facts exist and they are readily available—now more than ever! So, you know, look ’em up!

    • SoonerAlfie – I think grammar is extremely important. But having said that, I find that many terms were used by tradition, rather than Webster. So I truly don’t know where the term “deep-seeded” originated. But having said that…I always thought that “deep-seated” was simply a misspelling or misunderstanding, or at the least, incorrect. I can say, however, that when I was growing up in the 50s we also used the term “deep-seeded” to describe “feeling” words like “hatred” or “anger” – precisely for the metaphorical impact. When we believed that something had planted a “seed” of hatred, for instance, that festered, bloomed and grew until it became so all-consuming that it defined a person, we called it a deep-seeded hatred. And, whether grammatically correct or incorrect, to me it makes much more sense than “deep-seated”. Now that I know that it should be “deep-seated” which, for me, does not convey the same intensity, I will probably not be writing it anymore.

    • “1849 G. Grote Hist. Greece V. ii. xliv. 340
      Causes, deep-seated as well as various.”

      This is the earliest known use of the phrase in print, courtesy of the Oxford English Dictionary.

    • No, I just read “deep-seeded” on another website. I immediately looked it up. Clearly if it had seemed correct to me I wouldn’t have come to this site. Deep-seated it what I’ve read again and again.

  2. Stumbled on your blog because because I was about to write deep-seeded and it didn’t quite seem right. Although I have to admit, deep-seated doesn’t feel right either. At least I now know which is actually correct. :)

  3. A lot of mistakes nowadays are made by people who know not how to communicate with the written word. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a member of the “younger” generation. The accused in all probability blew off English in school and didn’t care about writing at all and then — BAM — all of a sudden there is the internet. A medium that began as a mostly-written communication medium. And then here come people who don’t know how to communicate the written word. I literally pull my hair out whenever I read many “professional” articles and, worse, their appending comments. People are “spelling” by how a word sounds: As in, “WONS upon a time” instead of ONCE. Differents instead of difference. Dieing instead of dying. I could go on — because this is a HUGE hair-puller for me — but won’t.

    • “And then here come people who don’t know how to communicate the written word.” Let he who is without sin cast the first stone…

      • That’s why I cast the first stone. And YOU have a guilty conscience, since you took so much time to not make a point by commenting.

          • Oh. So few seem to care a whit about splitting infinitives. It still drives me to distraction. Knowing many of the reasons why it is considered acceptable does not assuage the ensuing cringes. By the way, witsend, do you literally “literally” pull out your hair or just figuratively “literally”? I do take your point, though. It is one thing for us to recognize that English is a “living” language; but something else entirely for us to shrug and watch its misuses quietly.

    • “know not how”, “the accused”, “the written word”. Are you serious? Dude, your comment is very awkward to read. If the goal of language is to be understood you aren’t doing a very good job at it.

      • His diction is a tad raised, yet anyone with a decent education should be able to comprehend the entire statement with great accuracy, dude.

        • I’m a physicist. I’m well educated. I think you all are elitist pricks who have no idea that the challenge most intelligent people face is making complex things easier to understand. Instead you indulge in this ridiculous demarcation of language so you can feel artificially superior to anyone who doesn’t adhere to your rules despite those people, ironically, being better at communication than you day to day. Language is about communication and self expression. Grow up.

      • I’m a physicist. I’m well educated. I think you all are elitist pricks who have no idea that the challenge most intelligent people face is making complex things easier to understand. Instead you indulge in this ridiculous demarcation of language so you can feel artificially superior to anyone who doesn’t adhere to your rules despite those people, ironically, being better at communication than you day to day. Language is about communication and self expression. If it works, it is right. Grow up.

        • You then as much, if not more than anyone, should know the importance of precision in thinking which is expressed in first thought then language. Precision in thinking is desired by any employer, especially by those seeking candidates for high paying positions in non – technical and technical jobs, such as a physicist with a PhD, which is a rather elite position, is it not? Odd that someone in rarefied air educationally lashes out against elitests, rather hypocritical, don’t you think? But you may, like many on the Internet, simply be trying to win, or at least find equality if not one upmanship, by simply using the I’m-smart card, which I assume to be true, since your statements are not those of a highly disciplined mind.

  4. well… fooled me. I stand corrected after checking this.
    I had a ‘deep-seeded’ notion that ‘seeded’ was the correct word…. must must have had a deep-seated inner doubt to match.

  5. It has to be deep-seated because deep seeded does not make grammatical sense. “Seeded” is a verb in this case (as in “I will seed your brain with these ideas”) so the descriptor here would have to be an adverb, namely “deeply”. “Seat” on the other hand, is a noun here, and therefore it is OK to use an adjective like “deep” in this case. The addition of -ed here makes it appear to be a past passive participle when in fact it marks the phrase as an exocentric compound, meaning a compound whose referent is outside the compound itself. We would parse the phrase “a deep-seated idea” as “An Idea whose seat is deep”.

    • That’s a good guess, but it’s far more simple and frankly I’m surprised that such a commonly used term has so many people wondering and confused…

      people who work with parts like bearings, bushings and valves (just to name a few) know that the fixed portion of a mechanical device that works with or holds these parts is its “seat”, and that the act of installing and fitting a bearing or bushing into its hole as far as it can go is referred to as “seating” it.

      They also know that when a bearing or bushing is pressed into a very deep hole it is far more difficult to extract than if it sits in a shallow one…thus a “deep seated” belief or prejudice is one that is firmly fixed and extremely difficult to remove or reverse.

  6. It seems to be a very prevalent mispronounciation amongst North Americans. It probably comes down to the flattening of the ‘t’ in ‘deep seated’ that, in a US accent does sound more like a ‘d’ similar to ‘whaddya know’ as opposed to ‘what’ do you know. Maybe both uses are equally acceptable now as language is organic but it’s a bit annoying for the pedants among us that the new spelling is a result of mispronounciation!

    • have you considered the possibility of mishearing as opposed to mispronouncing? not that it makes a lot of difference, though it would take the blame off the original ‘offenders’

      • I think my comment was quite clear in that the origin of the misuse lies in sound, the flattening of ‘t’ in speech. This mishearing then leads to mispronunciation and misspelling.

    • I pronounce them both the same, but when I think of the term, it looks like deep seated. I read a lot, so I think in terms of written words.

      • I know this is such an old comment, but I am so happy there are people like me out there. I’ve read way more words than I’ve heard. Even the simple ones like “plow” come out of my mouth with the wrong sounds and inflection! And pronouncing “rural” is just impossible for me!

        Like you, I’m far more capable of spelling a word than I am of pronouncing it!

  7. Our nation’s food-growers plant actual seeds deep in the ground to grow their crops …. this could be called ‘deep seeded;’ however, definitely not sporty nor amusing. Could this be one of those folks who believe their foods come only from the grocery stores?

    • This is a rather lame attempt at getting back at the author for refuting your previous argument. Three years later and here you are, wrong again: maize, soybeans, wheat, and other such staple crops that make up the majority of US agricultural output are planted at a depth of about 2 inches. Perhaps you’re accustomed to hearing that two inches is “deep” in your bedroom, but I doubt any one else thinks so. You might want to take your ad-hominem attacks and uneducated prejudices elsewhere; your opinions about things about which you know little are quite outsized.

  8. Language is not stagnant. Meanings and word usage changes over time. The only important factor is whether we understand each other. If I were to say that a tv show was sick, you would not assume it has an illness. If I said you are cool, you would not assume that means temperature. Someone can be standing naked in the snow and we’d still say they were hot. Yes I realize this is slang to you, but it is the modern language to us.
    Language is not stagnant. if it were we’d have nothing but grunts and pointing.


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