What are the difference between these two prepositions: "despite of" and "in spite of"?

And what is the general usage of this two: choose in different situation, followed by etc.


7 Answers 7


The only difference between in spite of and despite is the ‘of’.

You don't use "Despite of the reason". You use "Despite the reason"

Despite the pain in his leg he completed the marathon.

It seems to me "in spite of" is a slightly more elaborate form, to be used in more fancy, most formal writing. "Despite" is not informal but not quite that elaborate.

edit: as mcalex mentions, "Despite of" (and even "In despite of") is not incorrect, it's just an almost dead archaic form.


"despite" and "in spite of" are synonyms. As per this reference from Lawless English:

"Despite" means "even though," "notwithstanding," or "regardless of." It's the opposite of "because of/due to," and can be used with a noun or gerund.

  • She had difficulty communicating in French despite all her years of study.
  • We lost the game, despite the fact that we practiced all week.
  • Despite not having an umbrella, I walked home in the rain.

"In spite of" means exactly the same thing and is used exactly the same way as "despite."

  • She had difficulty communicating in French in spite of all her years of study.
  • We lost the game, in spite of the fact that we practiced all week.
  • In spite of not having an umbrella, I walked home in the rain.

So, they can safely be used interchangeably. You may notice that in all the above examples, "despite" has not been used with "of" but it can definitely be used in certain contexts such as this:

  • A large number of ladies, both from this City and abroad, who had come out, despite of the driving rain-storm, were in attendance, and occupied seats in the galleries.

And again here, it is absolutely interchangeable with "in spite of".


To me, while they, in many cases, can be used interchangeably, the choice of wording can imply a subtle shift in meaning.

In spite of has the connotation of doing something with a bit of rebellion or desire to irritate as a motivation.

spite : Ill will or hatred toward another, accompanied with the disposition to irritate, annoy, or thwart; a desire to vex or injure; petty malice; grudge; rancor.

So I would use in spite of in a case like: "I went downtown to the party in spite of my parents' warning that it wasn't safe." In other words, use in spite of when your attitude is: Warning be damned, I'm doing it anyway. I thumb my nose at your so-called warning.

Despite doesn't seem to have that same desire to irritate or be contrary behind it, and can be used when an action is taken that may fly in the face of information which would argue against it.

So I would use despite in a case where I wanted to emphasize the decision rather than the motivation behind it. If I said instead, "I went downtown despite my parents' warning that it wasn't safe." I would be saying that I considered my parents' advice but concluded that either the risk was worth it, or that the risk was overstated or that the three friends I was going with were big enough to protect me, etc.

  • 1
    Actually I don't think this is correct. In your example about the parent's warning, both "despite" and "in spite of" mean exactly the same thing--the person was warned, but went downtown anyway. There's no differentiation there. I think you're confusing "in spite of" with "to spite". If you do something "to spite" someone, you are doing it on purpose just to make them mad. If you do it "in spite of" their warning, you're not doing it to upset them; you're just doing it even though they recommended you shouldn't. No malice involved.
    – WendiKidd
    Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 4:31
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    @WendiKidd- I think we'll have to just disagree here. While the resulting action is the same (they went downtown) I maintain that the motive behind the action is subtly different. I realize that many people don't make this distinction and use the two interchangeably, but if you break it apart, spite means a desire to hurt, annoy, or offend so if you do something in spite it is the same as doing it out of spite and adding the prepositional just clears up who is being spited.
    – Jim
    Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 4:59
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    @WendiKidd I have to go with WendiKidd. "in spite of" is disrobed of all connotations of rebellion or disdain. (And since "despite" is also rooted in "spite", there is no reason why it would not also borrow the same connotation, if it were true.) Fact is, going downtown "in spite of" or "despite" one's parent's warning means exactly the same thing. To express rebellion we would have to say something like "To spite his parents, he dropped out of college to be a musician". "in spite of X" is a canned phrase, not expressing the idea that X is being treated with disdain or rebellion.
    – Kaz
    Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 2:00
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    @Kaz- I will admit that it's a subtle distinction. To spite his parents is not what I'm getting at here- we are not spiting our parents directly, we are, in a sense, thumbing our nose at the warning, i.e., warning be damned, I'm doing it anyway
    – Jim
    Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 4:01
  • @Jim I came here looking to see if my interpretation of this (albeit subtle) difference was correct. Despite the counter-arguments, your explanation and observations on intent make sense. I would say that if we were scholars discussing the use of this phrase in a poem, the difference between the two forms would not be dismissed as easily.
    – Daniel
    Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 10:13

This has been covered in an EL&U question, which pertains more specifically to the sytax of the two, rather than the difference. Basically, they mean the same (both options have been suggested as being the more 'formal'), and general usage says you should only use 'in spite of', or 'despite' (but not 'despite of').

However, the 'despite of' usage is not illegal, though it is fairly rare, and as they suggest in the EL&U answer, something that you only bring up when you get caught out doing it accidentally.


I do agree that the two; 'despite' and 'in spite of', are "interchangeable'. However, the "subtle distinction" mentioned earlier, in itself, makes it a matter of fact that they are not the same because not even the word 'interchangeable" means "the same". 'in spite of', suggests a connotation to a degree of contempt or rebellion. Where as, 'Despite' is usually more of a neutral contradiction within a circumstance. Examples of proper usage:

"I'm going to marry him in spite of his extensive criminal record."

"Due to his extensive criminal record, we will not employ him despite his impressive resume." or simply: "I will not marry her despite the children we have together."

"I will marry him in spite of the amount of times he cheated"

'in spite of' is a preposition to be used in front of a negative instances and 'despite' is used when contradicting a positive instance.

These ought not be confused with the infinitive verb "to spite", which is meant as a direct rebellion: "I punched him in the face to spite him."


I think the two words can be used interchangeably depending on the messege the user intend to send; the 'verb' here connotes the "power" of any fo the two. Spite could mean rebellion in real sense but could also connote courage or boldness depending on the usage


@Jim: I go with WendiKidd and Kaz. In spite and despite have the same meaning and can both be used to express rebellion and/or contempt. So while I understand this differentiation Jim is trying to make with regard to motive - to do something regardless because one can't see a reason for not doing so, against doing something to make a specific point - 'in spite' does not actually convey this motivation any more than 'despite' does. As Kaz says, both words are rooted in the word 'spite'. If 'in spite' does appear to have greater impact then it must be down to the fact that it sounds phonetically harsher, perhaps. And if you are saying, Jim, that 'to spite his parents' is not what you are getting at, then I think you're looking another word entirely. Spite/Despite does not mean to 'thumb your nose' or 'issue a warning'.

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