In a written paper, my teacher pointed out a mistake I made, which was using

... problems which flourish ..

Apparently problems can't flourish , I forgot to ask why but I'm assuming because flourish has a positive connotation.

So my question is: What is the pejorative counterpart to the word flourish (which would be appropriate for my example of course)?

  • Also; is counterpart to correct or should it be counterpart of? Jun 12, 2013 at 16:00
  • It doesn't fit the specific usage here, but in other contexts, brandish can be a more negative version of flourish. Jun 12, 2013 at 22:32

3 Answers 3


Personally, I don't think using 'problems that flourish' is actually bad here. I would actually use it in non-work writing. But she is correct that it is a positive word.

Maybe you can use 'proliferate': which means to increase quickly and is more negative.

If you can include more of the sentence I can tell you if that would fit well..

  • Keep in mind I'm still a rookie so it's not quite Shakespearean, but it was: 'The aim of this report is to describe the various problems which flourish in the city of ...' Jun 12, 2013 at 16:10
  • Gotta say, I think your teacher is wrong on this one... I would have written this sentence. I would suggest "The aim of this report is to describe the various problems plaguing the city of..."
    – Meeka
    Jun 12, 2013 at 16:12
  • 2
    It would certainly not be the first time. I however agree that plaguing is more fitting/elegant. Jun 12, 2013 at 16:15
  • I feel the appropriateness of using flourish in this instance depends on the tone and intent of the writing overall, is it satirical or factual? In either case I feel the correctness would be based on the overall purpose and intended audience of the writing- seeing only this sentence takes it out of context. Jun 12, 2013 at 17:11
  • @Practice4CPE: You could consider words like bedevil, plague, etc., but you might think they're a bit "flowery" for a [technical?] report. Only you know if you want to emphasise the fact that they [continue to] adversely the inhabitants, or that pre-existing problems are becoming more acute, or that there are more [different] problems arising, etc. Jun 12, 2013 at 23:31

The word flourish means to grow, spread, or develop in a prosperous way. So you wouldn't say a problem is flourishing, unless you are saying that the problem spreading is a good thing (or maybe telling the story from the problem's point of view as the protagonist — grin).

You need a word that suggests something is spreading, but in a negative (or at least neutral) way.

A few suggestions: infecting, permeating, contaminating, infiltrating.

But you can also change the context a bit by describing the causal effect on the city — hurting, plaguing, distressing, troubling, poisoning — in a way that take it away from trying to make the act of spreading pejorative.


A problem that continues to get worse over time until it is dealt with could be described as festering (sense 2: to putrefy or rot).

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