In a court, when a person is convicted but is wrong or misjudged. Do you say:

He/she is wrongfully convicted.


He/she is wrongly convicted.

A Briton writer has used "wrongly", which has made me a bit puzzled because usually, I have seen "wrongfully" as the adverb of choice regarding wrong convictions since my school days.

Is this an example of BrE to AmE here?

  • 1
    It's not a BrE/AmE thing, but wrongfully nowadays is just a less often used variant. books.google.com/ngrams/… – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 3 '18 at 23:14
  • Which of them are you going to use, if you want to sound academic? – John Arvin Nov 4 '18 at 1:21
  • You use the word convicted so I will assume your context is legalistic. The words wrongly and wrongful and wrongfully are used in the law codes, but rather differently. wrongly usually refers to an error in legal argument or decision and wrongful and wrongfully to a tortious action resulting in harm (e.g. bodily harm, economic harm, harm to reputation, etc). So it would depend on which of those meanings you wanted to convey. A person could be wrongfully accused of something by one whose intention was to defame or wrongly accused because of some error. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 4 '18 at 12:05
  • With convicted I'd choose wrongly unless the judge had been bribed or the jury had been tampered with or there had been some systemic bias such as racial bias or something like that, where the primary meaning is that a harm has been done rather than an error committed. A person who has had no contact with law codes and those distinctions might associate wrongfully with legal contexts and always use it there, based on that association. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 4 '18 at 12:13
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    I would not describe it that way. wrongful and wrongfully denote that some harm has been done to a person or other entity as a result of an action or failure to act. wrong and wrongly denote that some error has been committed. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 4 '18 at 14:11

The following extract shows the usage of wrong, wrongly and wrongfully.

In the specific case of “accused”, wrongfully appears to be the more appropriate adverb to use:

It is acceptable to use both wrong and wrongly as an adverb. Here are two instances:

  1. If we want to sound less formal:

    • He pronounced my name wrongly. [more formal] ✓
    • He pronounced my name wrong. [less formal] ✓
  2. Wrong can be used as an adverb instead of wrongly when it comes after a verb:

    • It was spelt wrong. ✓ (also spelt wrongly = more formal)

or after the object of a verb:

  • He spelt the word wrong. ✓ (also spelt wrongly = more formal)

! We cannot use wrong as an adverb before a past participle:

  • His name was wrongly spelt. wrong spelt

or before a clause beginning with that:

  • The newspaper stated wrongly that the company planned to open new offices in Paris.


Wrongfully is used in formal legal statements, as seen in these examples:

  • He was wrongfully accused of murder. ✓ (They accused him but he was found not guilty.)
  • He was innocent, so he was wrongfully imprisoned. ✓ (He was sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit.)

We also use wrongfully with words like convicted and dismissed.

I hope both learners of English and native speakers will find this explanation useful. Feel free to leave a comment below.

| improve this answer | |
  • Good catch re the legal meaning. Compare: A rightful position or claim is one that is morally or legally correct:" rightful – Michael Harvey Nov 4 '18 at 0:34
  • @user70221, you should go over this edited picture taken from your answer. i.stack.imgur.com/UeBeA.png -I want to believe that link, but now I doubt it, right? – John Arvin Nov 4 '18 at 1:51

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