He is entitled to define a word however he likes but this is a most confusing definition.

Is the use of 'a' here instead of 'the wrong ?

2 Answers 2


This is an interesting and rather subtle distinction.

When used with "the," the adverb most is in fact a superlative. "The most confusing definition" means the definition which is least understandable, or most confusing. There is no definition less understandable than this one. Wiktionary lists this meaning as adverb, 1.

When used with "a," the adverb is no longer a superlative! It only means "very" or "extremely," not actually "the most" as you would expect. Wiktionary lists this meaning as adverb, 2.
For another example, see the Simon & Garfunkel song "A Most Peculiar Man." They are not saying he is, categorically, the most peculiar man in the entire world—only that he is, relatively speaking, more peculiar than his neighbors.


'a most confusing definition' is correct.

We usually use the before a superlative.

the most boring, the most confusing, the most interesting, the most exciting, the most willing, the most beautiful, the most famous, the most expensive, the most intelligent, the most helpful, the most useful, the most reliable, the tallest, the strongest, the nicest, the cheapest etc.

This is the most confusing definition. (=This definition is more confusing than any other definition./No other definition is so confusing as this one.)

Sometimes we use most before an adjective. 'Most' means very.

most interesting= very interesting, most confusing= very confusing, most generous= very generous

This is a most confusing definition. (= This is a very confusing definition.)

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