I read a sentence in Word by Word by Kory Stamper which was:

We must turn to the dictionary for answers to these questions. What does "vulgar" mean when used of words?

I strongly believe that there should've been "for" instead of "of" in the latter sentence. But the excerpt is from a lexicographer's book so I doubt my take.

  • To me, used of words sounds more British than American.
    – Ron Jensen
    Oct 4, 2019 at 15:20

1 Answer 1


Kory Stamper is a careful writer, as her occupation, and the theme of her book, would suggest. I don't know if the same question asked on English Stack Exchange makes this a 'duplicate' - however the verdict in that case was that it's an OK usage, not poor writing, but more usual in UK than American English.

As an answer to that question said, Oxford Dictionaries have no qualms about using it:

The word was used of Irish peasants dispossessed by English settlers and living as robbers, and extended to other marauders especially in the Scottish Highlands. (Definition of Tory).

Does "to be used OF" mean "to be used FOR"?

  • 1
    In this context, "of" means "about" in the sense of "to describe".
    – Valkor
    Oct 4, 2019 at 19:05

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