Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: visit, n.; visitation.

visit, n.; visitation. Dictionaries have long labeled these nouns synonyms, and for the most part their senses overlap. “Visitation,” for example, may denote simply the act or an instance of visiting — e.g.: “Visitation is seasonal; few guests come in winter.” Jay Clarke, “Up Close with Six Florida Islands,” Chicago Trib., 21 Jan. 2007, Travel §, at 10. But often, the words’ connotations suggest a distinction. A “visit” is, in general, a casual or recreational meeting {a social visit}. “Visitation” connotes (1) the number of visits collectively; (2) a visit with a formal purpose or authorization, or (3) a supernatural or divine appearance. E.g.: o Sense 1: “Daily temperatures can exceed the century mark in the summer months, when visitation is lowest.” Tom Uhlenbrock, “Desert Park an Eco-tourist Playground,” Star-Ledger (Newark), 29 Apr. 2007, Travel §, at 9. o Sense 2: “There is one particularly amazing moment — a tribute to the subtlety of this film’s writing, directing and acting — during his first allowed visitation at the nursing home.” Barry Paris, “Love and Loss Among the Ruins of Alzheimer’s,” Pitt. Post-Gaz., 18 May 2007, at E1. o Sense 3: “Dancers regularly trot onstage to freeze as if overtaken by a sudden visitation of imagination or vibe.” Apollinaire Scherr, “Morris Dances for the Sublime,” Newsday (N.Y.), 21 Jan. 2007, Weekend §, at B7. Without some suggestion of collectivity, formality, or transcendence, ‘visitation’ often just sounds like a highfalutin substitute for the simpler word — e.g.: “[David] Bell is a gifted director and his fluid, lovely work here is extraordinary. This is a production that deserves visitations [read ‘visits’] from Broadway producers.” Chris Jones, “Chris Jones Recommends,” Chicago Trib., 11 May 2007, On the Town §, at 9. Language-Change Index — “visitation” misused for “visit”: Stage 1. For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ————————————— Quotation of the Day: “Long sentences are generally inconvenient, and no one will be apt to use them who has his thoughts in good order.” Adam Smith, Lectures of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres 20 (1963).
Scroll to Top