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I came across a person practicing English saying that the Fukushima nuclear plant suffered a disaster after a powerful earthquake and a "resultant tsunami".

I would have normally written it as a "resulting tsunami".

Wiktionary lists both words as adjectives, and I can't see any difference in meaning.

Is it ok to use either word? Does "resulting" sound more natural, possibly because it's more common?

4 Answers 4

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As adjectives, both the words have the same meaning.

Talking of how frequently those words are used as adjectives, this is the result I get from different corpora.

Corpus resultant resulting
Corpus of Contemporary American English 939 (15%) 5135 (84%)
British National Corpus 426 (24%) 1357 (76%)
Corpus of Canada English 180 (17%) 882 (83%)
Time Magazine Corpus 161 (14%) 955 (86%)

The Time Magazine Corpus gives also information different years, and it says resultant has its highest frequency in 1930s (37), and its lowest frequency in 1990s/2000s; for resulting, its highest frequency is in 1960s (210), while its lowest frequency is in 1920s (32). As comparison, resultant's frequency in 1920s is 33.

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  • Those corpora cannot be used for a comparison between each other, as they refer to timelines that are not exactly the same, and they contain a different number of words. They cannot probably be used to see which dialect of English uses a word more frequently.
    – apaderno
    Commented Jan 27, 2013 at 11:35
  • That's a very nice graph! You make a good point about how the numbers aren't directly comparable. You can, though, get rid of the "they contain a different number of words" problem by setting the "per mil" option when you do your searches. That will give you the number of occurrences per million words rather than the raw number of results.
    – user230
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 16:42
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Resultant can both be used as noun and adjective.

Example- 1) The resultant savings were considerable. (Works as ADJECTIVE)

Example- 2) The resultant of mechanical forces pulling in different directions. (Works as NOUN)

Whereas Resulting is only used as Adjective.

Example- His ignorance for his health led him to the resulting fever.

In the context you cite, either of the words can be applied as adjectvie. Both are clear in meaning. As far as the term natural goes, in this case (Comparison between resultant and resulting) there is too tiny a difference between them to label one as more "natural" and it is purely an individual's choice.

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  • When comparing the frequency of the two words I should keep this in mind - maybe present-day usage is dominated by cases where it's used as a noun.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented May 1, 2016 at 0:32
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Both words would have more or less equivalent meanings. "Resultant" sounds more technical, and I don't encounter it often in non-mathematical contexts.

The second definition given by Mistu4u is also pretty obscure; I've almost always heard "vector sum".

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In a political science context, Graham Allison in his Essence of Decision describes a "resultant" as "a mixture of conflicting preferences and unequal power of various individuals - distinct from what any person or group intended."

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    This doesn't answer the question. How can "a mixture of conflicting preferences" be a description of a of tsunami? How is this resultant different from resulting?
    – ColleenV
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 17:21

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