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I have researched a lot and unfortunately, didn't find any source that could provide me with reasonable advice so that I could chose between the two nouns triumph and victory. I really have no idea where to use each one and why. In order to clear it (at least a little) I had to make some examples. Please let me know which choice (doesn't) work(s) in these examples and why:

In business/politics:

1- Signing of this contract was a great ................ for (me / our company.)

a. victory
b. triumph

2- That agreement was a tremendous diplomatic............. for France.

a. victory
b. triumph

In sports:

3- The team returned home in..........

a. victory
b. triumph

4- Do you remember the Spain’s 3–2 ............ (over / against) Russia in last night’s game

a. victory
b. triumph

  • 1
    You aren't really comparing apples to apples here. "Victory" and "triumph" do not mean the same thing, so which you use depends entirely on what information you want to convey. – Andrew Aug 19 at 22:32
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For all of these examples except the fourth, I would choose victory. The reasons why are a little different for each, so I'll do my best to explain them individually. The differences between these words are few and relatively minor, but one to take note of is that a triumph is very explicitly made against something or someone in particular, whereas a victory can be achieved in a much more broad sense, often with no specific, discernible enemy. When in doubt, remember that a victory can be shared by all parties. A triumph could too, but usually that's not how it's used.

1) The signing of this contract was a great victory for our company.

For both the above and below examples, as well as most political/economic settings in general, it can be seen as rather inappropriate to use triumph. In many contexts, a triumph requires a very specific winner and loser -- someone comes out on top, and the other will likely suffer for it. In business, this outlook would be rather frowned upon, especially given the context: two companies sign a contract together, mutually agreeing upon a set of terms and forming a legal bond to uphold them. If either one "triumphed" over the other, then something has likely gone wrong.

2) That agreement was a tremendous diplomatic victory for France.

Similar to the above question, though triumph probably has a little more leeway. If the other party here is another country, this may be very inappropriate, but if they are, say, a terrorist organization, it could be a very fitting word to use. Without more context, though, victory makes for a better blanket term.

3) The team returned home in victory.

Personally, I think that with some added information this could much better suit the use of triumph, but at the moment it is too vague. As stated earlier, a triumph often requires a specific other party, whereas none are specified here. Had the sentence read "in victory against their long-standing rivals," then I'd switch my vote to triumph.

4) Do you remember Spain’s 3–2 triumph over Russia in last night’s game?

Similar to the above, now that there is a very clear distinction between opponents, there is no harm is calling the win a triumph. In most sports, the entire purpose is to beat one another, for a clear winner to be designated -- so this word works rather well here.

  • In my opinion, "triumph" works far better in the third example. But all of these are based on what exactly you want to say. As you point out, the two words do not mean the same thing, and so each conveys a different nuance. Either works in any of the examples. – Andrew Aug 19 at 22:31
  • triumph may suggest (as in ancient Rome) a ceremonial parade celebrating a victory, rather than the victory itself. A team may return in triumph – to the applause of their neighbors – even if their opponent is impersonal. I'd clearly prefer triumph over victory if the team is the crew of Apollo 11, say. – Anton Sherwood Aug 20 at 0:22
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  1. Signing the contract was a great victory / triumph for me.

Both are figurative in meaning, and the choice depends on how much you want to emphasize your emerging as victor. I'd prefer the former over the latter because in this particular instance, a triumph is already great enough, so a victory is what I think would be the usual choice.

In an example (provided by user Andrew in a comment) like

After extensive negotiations, we signed a recording contract with Taylor Swift, a triumph for our label.

triumph sounds completely acceptable.

  1. That agreement was a tremendous diplomatic triumph / victory for France.

Again, depends on how much you want to emphasize your victory. And again, tremendous triumph would be dispreferred due to alliteration and the same reason as above. For some reason greatest triumph sounds fine (see this chart).

  1. The team returned home in triumph.

I choose triumph here over victory because I think sense 2 of the noun is intended (see this chart)

  1. Do you remember Spain's triumph over / victory against Russia?

This again depends on how much you want to emphasize their struggle, or the importance, etc., of their victory, except here both sound fine.


Note: LDOCE says in the thesaurus section here that triumph is mostly used in writing. It labels it as formal elsewhere. I would heed those caveats if I were you. (I.e., the word's pretty much restricted to writing, and thus more literary and formal stuff.)

Newspapers are notorious hyperbolists and will readily opt for triumph; that doesn't mean every measly victory is a triumph. As MW reports, the word has military and war connotations, and victory little less so, so that's the imagery you're evoking, if you ask me.

  • Thank you, but I wonder what exactly you mean by "how much you want to emphasize it)? Which one is more emphatic? – A-friend Aug 19 at 16:19
  • @A-friend Triumph. It's obvious from the fourth example I mean exactly that, because I say newspapers often use hyperbole (slammed immediately comes to mind) and therefore use the former (in that case triumph). The dictionary definition you linked to defines it as "a very great success, achievement, or victory". – userr2684291 Aug 19 at 18:53
  • Looking at the examples again, tremendous diplomatic triumph isn't as mellifluous, but only because of the alliteration. Diplomatic triumph definitely works, however (see the Google Ngram Viewer chart if you want). If you use greatest instead of tremendous you'll see what I mean. So yeah, maybe a little dispreferred there, but otherwise it's fine, at least meaning- and usage-wise. – userr2684291 Aug 19 at 19:04
  • I think it's improper to definitively say one is "better" than the other. The two words don't mean the same thing, so either works in any of the examples. I'm not going to downvote, but I can't quite bring myself to upvote either. – Andrew Aug 19 at 22:35
  • @Andrew I chose those which I believe would be commoner. In examples 2 and 4, both are fine. In example 3 I prefer triumph because of its second meaning to which I linked (and that's what I think is intended here). I have no idea where the other answerer got their definition of triumph, but it doesn't need to include a third party at all. In my first language, the same word exists (with the same two/three meanings), and this is how it's used. In example #1, you could say triumph if you really wanted, but even victory is a stretch since you're not beating anyone by signing a contract. – userr2684291 Aug 19 at 22:53

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