Garnish vs garnishee

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Garnish and garnishee are two words that people often find confusing. We will examine the definitions of garnish and garnishee, where these two words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

There are two very different definitions for the word garnish. First, the word garnish may mean to decorate something or adorn something, especially food. In this case, the word garnish may may be used as a verb or a noun. For instance, parsley is often a garnish used on plates in restaurants. The word garnish was first used in the 1300s, taken from the French word garnir which means to fortify or reinforce. Related words are garnishes, garnished, garnishing, garnishment.

The second definition of garnish is to seize money owed to a debtor, usually by confiscating property or deducting a set amount from one’s paycheck. A garnishment order is often used to satisfy a legal action or to make restitution, or to pay off money owed when federal, state or local taxes are in arrears. In the United States, unpaid federal taxes or state taxes or any other tax debt that is delinquent may be deducted from one’s wages until the taxes are paid off. The IRS or Internal Revenue Service may have monies deducted for repayment from your wages without a court order. A court order may lead to garnishing a paycheck for unpaid spousal support or alimony,  for child support, or to satisfy student loans which have been defaulted upon. Under garnishment laws, other reasons that an employer may be ordered to withhold earnings are to repay credit card debt or for other debt collection or loans, for paying social security fees that were not previously withheld, or to satisfy the unpaid judgement in a lawsuit. The employer must collect the monies you owe in a payroll deduction taken before your paycheck is issued for every pay period, and send them directly to your debtor, creditor, or the appropriate government entity. Sometimes, one’s bank account may be subject to being garnished. When concerning money, the word garnish is only used as a verb.

Garnishee is a synonym of the word garnish, only in the legal or monetary sense, meaning to seize money owed to a debtor. There is much debate as to whether the word garnish or garnishee is more properly used as the monetary term. In fact, the word garnishee has only been in use since the 1700s, and was originally a noun used to mean someone who was being garnished. Over time, garnishee came to be used as an adjective, and in the 1800s it came to be used as a verb. Whether to use the term garnish or garnishee is a matter of personal preference, though many style guides and dictionaries prefer the word garnishee to be used as a noun, and the word garnish to be used as the verb. Related words are garnishees, garnisheed, garnisheeing.


Shake for 30 seconds, double-strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with star anise. (Cosmopolitan Magazine)

PTPTN chairman Wan Saiful Wan Jan told a press conference earlier that a directive will be issued to employers to garnish wages where needed, with the system to emulate the Inland Revenue Board’s (IRB) monthly tax deduction (PCB) system. (The Malay Mail)

Though the exact timing of when a lender or federal agency may garnish wages may be unexpected, if it happens, it’s unlikely to be an event you didn’t see coming. (U.S. News & World Report)

Barely 24 hours after, a Makurdi High Court, presided over by Justice Morris Ikpambese, on Wednesday, granted an ex-parte motion brought by the Benue State Government praying it to vary the garnishee order it made on all state government accounts until the sum of N842,193, 213.19 was paid to United International Technologies Nigeria Limited. (The Sun)

Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) yesterday said it has obtained an ‘order nisi’ from a Federal High court sitting in Abuja, to garnishee money belonging to Niger a nd Kogi state governments domiciled in eight different banks located in the two state capitals. (The New Telegraph)