Approbation vs approval

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Approval is a noun that means deeming something or someone as good, acceptable, or within one’s requirements. It can also mean to give permission.

Approbation is a mass noun that means praise or approval. It is a direct synonym for the first definition of approval. It has two adjective forms, approbative and approbatory.

Approbation is much more formal than approval, rarer, and less likely to be understood. Interestingly, as widely known as approval is now, that is how popular approbation was at the turn of the nineteenth century. It then goes on a steep decline while approval’s popularity rises slowly. About 1870 the two trends cross each other.

Approbative and approbatory are used in about the same frequency, which is almost never.


A federal judge on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a $10 million settlement of a lawsuit brought by customers of Target, which experienced an online attack involving confidential customer data during the holiday season in 2013. [The New York Times]

The change means that hundreds of thousands of civil servants will face the sack if they talk to journalists without approval of the government. [The Telegraph]

Over on the Tory benches, Ms Davidson banged her desk in solemn approbation while a colleague placed a sympathetic hand on her shoulder. [BBC]

Her words were followed by an outburst of applause- the only sign of approbation in an otherwise tense and ugly public meeting. [Ithaca]

The diversity of the companies that make up this list is a testament to the incredible opportunities and approbative business climate North Texas offers. [Dallas Business Journal]

David Cameron’s long-awaited speech on Europe and immigration finally arrived on Friday, heralded by approbatory headlines and a sense of relief in the Tory press. [Financial Times]