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The two verbs, delegate and depute seem to be very similar. I am not a native English speaker, though, when I looked carefully at the definitions and example sentences in the dictionary for the two words, I was not able to tell the difference.

The definitions and the example sentences for delegate and depute according to the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary are as follows.

delegate v.

  1. [intransitive, transitive] to give part of your work, power or authority to somebody in a lower position than you, e.g. "Some managers find it difficult to delegate."

  2. [transitive] delegate somebody to do something [usually passive] to choose somebody to do something, e.g. "I've been delegated to organize the Christmas party."

depute v.

  1. depute somebody to do something [often passive] (formal) to give somebody else the authority to represent you or do something for you, e.g. "He was deputed to put our views to the committee."

I see that the first definition of delegate described above is different than depute in three respects:

  1. delegate can be used as intransitive.
  2. delegate can take the delegated task as the direct object, whereas depute only can take the person as its object.
  3. When a task is delegated to a person, the person is in a lower position than the person who delegated it, whereas there is no bound like that for depute.

But when seeing the second definition of delegate, the differences I listed above totally disappear. To check whether there is any difference, I can transpose the verbs in the two example sentences.

(original) Sentence A: I've been delegated to organize the Christmas party.

Sentence B: I've been deputed to organize the Christmas party.

(original) Sentence C: He was deputed to put our views to the committee.

Sentence D: He was delegated to put our views to the committee.

When the sentence A and C are changed into the sentence B and D, is there no difference and error?

Thank you.

  • Should there be any difference?! The "delegate" is a synonym of the "depute". – M. Afrashteh Mar 18 at 19:47
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    @M.Afrashteh: Many things described as synonyms in English have subtle (or not so subtle) differences. If you find two words that can be used identically it's not surprising you might feel like you were missing something. – SamBC Mar 18 at 22:26
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Delegate is a widely used word in modern English.

Depute is not, in my experience. The nearest commonly-used word is deputise.

That aside, you have understood the difference and overlap of the words pretty well.

  • Thank you for answering kindly and the further explanation and confirmation. But can I ask you to check the sentences I listed at the end and to answer the question I made there? – Smart Humanism Mar 19 at 7:33

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