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According to online translators "usually" and "customary/customarily" mean the same.

Since I've encountered them in different usages, I assume that there is actually a difference. It seems to me like "customary" is a more formal version of "usually".


Is there a difference? If so, what is it?

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"Customary" is derived from the word "custom". Customs, sometimes synonymous with traditions, are a construct of humans. You would use the word "customary" (or "customarily") in connection with a pattern of behaviour established by a person, or people. As it is quite specific to say something is a person's custom, you would use this about a specific person or group of people. You can't really generalise about the customs of people you don't know or do not identify in your statement.

What is "usual" can be determined by many things beyond human control. For example, it is "usually" cold in winter. You can use this word in connection with just about anything that has a consistent, but not rigid, pattern. You can also use it in a broader sense than "customary", such as in a generalisation about people you don't know, for example, "tourists usually visit the Eiffel Tower when they go to Paris").

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  • Thanks a lot. So, e.g. "In this area, it's customarily warm" doesn't work, but with "usually" instead it would? And, "My best friend customarily eats two cereals every day" would be good? In the latter case, would "customarily" also fit better than "usually"? One last example: "That's my wife's customary behavior in such situations." Would "customary" fit here better than "usual"? – Lukas Nießen May 4 at 10:08
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    @LukasNießen You've got it exactly right with your two examples! Perhaps I should add that "customarily" isn't used as often as you might think - "usually" covers everything and tends to be the default choice. But "customary" is by no means an unusual word, and a good choice to make writing more interesting. – Astralbee May 4 at 10:16

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