Which Word Wednesday: Laggard vs. Sluggard

By September 25, 2013 language No Comments


As I looked over my workload for today, my first reaction was a sigh. Not because I don’t like my work, but because I was seeing it as a task list—things I had to do, things that were keeping me from other things I wanted to do (read, play, nap, daydream, whatever). My simple prayer was that God would help me not to be a sloth when I have great work ahead me today. That’s why the entry laggard / sluggard caught my eye as I flipped through Rod Evans’s The Artful Nuance: A Refined Guide to Imperfectly Understood Words in the English Language.

So today’s Which Word Wednesday is in honor of my inner-sloth. Let’s look first to the New Oxford American Dictionary:

laggard :: noun
a person who makes slow progress and falls behind others.

sluggard :: noun
a lazy, sluggish person.

Both words refer to a person who is slower than most. Laggard seems to be a neutral term, a description of progress, while sluggard seems to be a judgment of motivation (lazy). Evans explains it like this:

A laggard is a dawdler . . . A sluggard is a habitually lazy, slow-moving person.1

Ouch. There’s that lazy tag again—habitually, at that, so it’s a regular happening. Calling someone a sluggard has a definite negative connotation.

The term laggard also used in marketing to describe the consumers who are the last to adopt new products. Again, this is more of a category and label rather than a character flaw.

What’s my WWW verdict? It’s better to be a laggard than a sluggard (but I’d rather be neither).

What’s your verdict? Are you more of a laggard or sluggard? Do you sometimes fight sloth mentality in your work? Do share in the comments.



Check out previous Which Word Wednesday verdicts here.
1. Rod L. Evans, The Artful Nuance: A Refined Guide to Imperfectly Understood Words in the English Language (New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2009), 136.

Make your mission irresistible to donors. Schedule a 15-minute Change Chat today.