Upmost vs. utmost

  • When you need an adjective meaning (1) of the highest or greatest degree or (2) most extreme, the word is utmost. When you need an adjective meaning situated at the top, highest, or most upward position, the word you’re looking for is upmost. The latter is an old, almost archaic word that now mostly appears where writers obviously mean utmost.





    Clearly, the Panthers are doing their utmost to entice people to visit the rink. [Regina Leader-Post]

    You can feel that the developers thoroughly enjoyed their work and each step was made with the utmost care. [Battle Creek Enquirer]


    After reversing the door, the operator shall return the door to, and stop at, the full upmost position. [Code of Federal Regulations, LSA]


    1. “No” in the third sentence above should read “now.”

    2. Thank goodness. Someone actually knows (and cares) about the difference. It drives me insane when upmost is used incorrectly.

    3. In the definition, “utmost” is described as an adjective, and in the first example that follows it is used as a noun: “doing their utmost” :/

      • Asdfpersonguy says

        “Utmost” is a superlative noun (the only way to define it is to use other superlatives; therefore, it’s a superlative).

        In English, at least colloquially, you can use a superlative without a noun, as if the noun is implied. “Do your best (work)!” “I am the fullest (one here).” “I drank the tastiest (one).” “The tallest (tree) is west.”

        • Chris Johnston says

          Surely, you mean a superlative adjective. Historically at least, and in some senses still, it’s the superlative of “out”; the comparative is utter. Out, utter, utmost.

          • Asdfpersonguy says

            Wow, yeah, my mistake. I can’t believe I typed that, haha. I didn’t realize “out” was an adjective in that sense. Must be out-dated.

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