Divers vs. diverse

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The archaic adjective divers means various or many. Diverse means having great variety. For instance, a group of three can be called diverse if all three elements differ from one another, but we wouldn’t call the group divers because three are not many. Still, divers (usually pronounced DIE-verz) has given way to diverse in the sense meaning various, and in the many sense it gives way to other synonyms. The word has not been widely used in over a century, and even in the 19th century it was mainly a poeticism.


We have to resort to old texts to find examples of the adjective divers:

And if I did divers times successively shut and open the same eye, I should see the adventitious Colour, (if I may so call it) changed or impair’d by degrees. [Experiments and Considerations Touching Colours, by Robert Boyle (1664)]

And from her womb children of divers kind / We sucking on her natural bosom find … [Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare (1597)]

I proposed, that not only should my jacket keep me warm, but that it should also be so constructed as to contain a shirt or two, a pair of trowsers, and divers knick-knacks. [White-Jacket, by Herman Melville (1892)]

In modern writing, we use diverse where some writers might once have used divers—for example:

With global expansion have come associated challenges of diverse languages. [Washington Post]

With their diverse passions, they open doorways into the magic and mystery of the natural world. [Telegraph]

Below are excerpts from an AP report on the diverse reactions from the US public. [News.com.au]