I was writing a sentence the other day that included the sentiment that something was of “the utmost importance.” And I paused. Was it utmost? Or was it upmost? I was pretty sure it was “utmost,” but I was also pretty sure I’d seen/heard “upmost” at some point in my life. What’s the difference?
Utmost was the word I needed because I wanted to convey that it was of the “greatest,” “most urgent” or “most extreme” importance.
You use “utmost” as an adjective in phrases like “I have the utmost respect for her.” It can also be used as a noun that means “the greatest or most extreme extent or amount.” For example: I am doing my utmost to explain this to you.
Upmost is a (fairly uncommon) variation of “uppermost,” which is an adjective or adverb that indicates the highest position in place, rank or importance. You need to hire someone to clean the uppermost/upmost windows on the building, for example.
Once you know the difference, as I now do, it’s easy to remember that up/upper means highest. But now that we know, we can ditch “upmost” completely because uppermost is both more common and more easily understood. Of course, you can also never go wrong with “highest;” highest is a classic that will never go out of style.
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