Respectfully Versus Respectively

Commonly Confused Words

Group of office executives meeting after an event.
Bowing and shaking hands respectfully. GCShutter / Getty Images

Although the words respectfully and respectively are derived from the same root, they have different meanings.

Definitions

The adverb respectfully means (to act or speak) with respect, courtesy, or high regard. The adjective form is respectful.

The adverb ​respectively means one by one in the order stated. The adjective form is respective.

See the usage notes below.

Examples

  • "He looked her right in the eye when he asked a question, listened respectfully as she answered, and never told her she'd be such a pretty girl if only she'd lose a few pounds."(Joy Fielding, Heartstopper. Atria, 2007)
  • "At the moment his Majesty appeared, a universal, delighted, enthusiastic smile ought to break out like a rash among the passengers—a smile of love, of gratification, of admiration—and with one accord, the party must begin to bow—not obsequiously, but respectfully, and with dignity."
    (Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad, 1869)
  • "Almost 80 percent of New York's millennials reside in three counties: New York County, Queens County and Kings County, where Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn respectively are located."
    (Victoria Stilwell and Wei Lu, "These Are the 13 Cities Where Millennials Can't Afford a Home." Bloomberg Businessweek, June 8, 2015)
  • "I respectfully disagree with you. Francesco, Marta, and Diego were a dentist, an architect, and a surgeon, respectively."
    (Sue Sommer, The Bugaboo Review. New World Library2011)

Usage Notes

  • "Respectively means in the order designated or mentioned; respectfully means characterized by or showing respect or deference. Even though, in Shakespeare's day, respectively apparently meant respectfully, the word in that sense has long been obsolete."
    (Robert Hartwell Fiske, The Dimwit's Dictionary. Marion Street Press, 2002)
  • The adverb respectively is used to indicate segregatory meaning, and also tells us which constituents go with which when there are two parallel coordinate constructions. For example, if there are two sets of conjoins [A] and [B] . . . [C] and [D], respectively makes clear that [A] goes with [C], and [B] goes with [D]. It can be added to the front or end of the second coordinate construction. Some illustrations follow:
    John, Peter, and Robert play football, basketball, and baseball respectively.
    [= John plays football, Peter plays basketball, and Robert plays baseball.]
    Arnold and his son were respectively the greatest educator and the greatest critic of the Victorian age.
    [= Arnold was the greatest educator of the Victorian age, and his son was the greatest critic of the Victorian age.]
    Smith and Jones are going to Paris and to Amsterdam respectively.
    The respectively construction is generally limited to formal discourse. In other contexts it smacks of pedantry."
    (Randolph Quirk et al., A Grammar of Contemporary English. Longman, 1985)

    Practice Questions

    (a) Anne, Dan, and Nan--a sixth grader, a fourth grader, and a third grader  _____--begin every day with one hour of schoolwork.

    (b) The best teachers always speak _____ about their students, even when the students are not around. 

    (c) "John had _____ waited for his mother to finish her remembrances."
    (Maya Angelou, The Heart of a Woman. Random House, 1981)

    (d) "A couple other non-debuts finished right behind Adele, with Justin Bieber and Rihanna locking in the second and third spots _____."
    (Khari, "Adele, Rihanna, and Justin Bieber Reign Supreme in This Week's Music #Wrapsheet." The Source, February 23, 2016)

    Answers to Practice Questions

    (a) Anne, Dan, and Nan--a sixth grader, a fourth grader, and a third grader respectively--begin every day with one hour of schoolwork.

    (b) The best teachers always speak respectfully about their students, even when the students are not around. 

    (c) "John had respectfully waited for his mother to finish her remembrances."
    (Maya Angelou, The Heart of a Woman. Random House, 1981)

    (d) "A couple other non-debuts finished right behind Adele, with Justin Bieber and Rihanna locking in the second and third spots respectively."
    (Khari, "Adele, Rihanna, and Justin Bieber Reign Supreme in This Week's Music #Wrapsheet." The Source, February 23, 2016)

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    Your Citation
    Nordquist, Richard. "Respectfully Versus Respectively." ThoughtCo, May. 2, 2017, thoughtco.com/respectfully-and-respectively-1692777. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, May 2). Respectfully Versus Respectively. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/respectfully-and-respectively-1692777 Nordquist, Richard. "Respectfully Versus Respectively." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/respectfully-and-respectively-1692777 (accessed November 25, 2017).