farther, further
1. general.
Further is the older form, being recorded in Old English and probably related to our word forth, while farther is a Middle English variant of further; from this stage the two words came to be used as the comparative of far, and by the 17c had entirely replaced the other Middle English forms farrer and ferrer. Farther is related only coincidentally in form to far, although this coincidence seems to have influenced its use. It is never wrong to use further and furthest, whereas farther and farthest are restricted in use, and in cases where there is a choice further and furthest still tend to be more common.
2. use of farther, farthest.
The principal role of farther is in expressing physical distance, corresponding more closely to the notion of ‘more far’ and ‘most far’:

• The gulls rose in front of him and floated out and settled again a little farther on —Virginia Woolf, 1922

• And now the prince is scouring the farthest reaches of the globe for his bride —J. M. Coetzee, SAfrE 1977

• Most DIY owners find that five to ten miles is the farthest they want to travel —Today's Horse, 1991.

This apparent preference may be carried over into uses that represent degree rather than physical distance, but within the context of a wider distance metaphor:

• ‘Why, Lord, no honey!’ I told her. ‘It's the farthest thing from my mind.’ —Lee Smith, AmE 1983

• Kasparov simply saw farther, ‘much, much farther’, than the machine —New York Times Magazine, 1990.

3. use of further, furthest.
Further and furthest are more usual when the meaning is one of degree rather than physical distance:

• He…found English currency confusing and the driver sought to confuse him further —Evelyn Waugh, 1961

• It seeks the furthest extension of the educationally valuable among the masses —Encounter, 1987

• In the case of her friendship with Flaubert she went one decade further and became a mother-substitute —Economist, 1993.

4. other evidence.
The following examples show that the pattern is not totally consistent, with further (in particular) being used in ways associated with farther and (less so) vice versa:

• This was the lower fountain, furthest from the house —A. S. Byatt, 1987

• ‘You get a lot farther using your nose than your palate,’ Patty says about wine-tasting —New Yorker, 1987

• The New Delhi station which did appear, somewhat further away, was a functional monstrosity in concrete and steel —J. Richards et al., 1988

• One, Lewis Holt, actually worked in Fleming's laboratory, and took the purification a stage farther than any of the previous workers —M. Weatherall, 1990

• The ferryman pointed to a thatched, low-roofed timbered hut further along the shoreline —P. C. Doherty, 1991.

Overall, the evidence shows a somewhat stronger presence of farther and farthest in AmE, but American usage guides do not normally reflect this tendency in their guidance.
5. special uses.
There are some uses that are exclusive to further:
a) When used as a sentence adverb:

Further, shameful as it might be to admit it, the idea of the play had started to interest him rather —Kingsley Amis, 1958


Further, he was not given particulars of the grounds for the committee's decision —P. Leyland et al, 2002

b) When it is an adjective meaning ‘additional’ or an adverb meaning ‘additionally’ or ‘also’:

He wrote for booklets containing further particulars of almost every device he saw advertised —Elizabeth Bowen, 1949


Dundee's modern shopping precinct has now been further decorated with paint-sprayed gang slogansScotsman, 1973


The apartment was further defended by a police lock —J. Aiken, 1975


Hobbs has three further days to find another Triumph Hurdle winnerTimes, 2004

c) In certain fixed expressions in which further is an adjective, e.g. further education.
d) In the formal expressions (1) further to, used especially in business correspondence to refer to matters raised previously: Further to our letter of 20 August…, and (2) until further notice.
e) In the compound adverb furthermore.
f) As a verb meaning ‘to favour or promote (an idea, scheme, etc.)’:

No city has done more than Coventry since the war to further the cause of internationalismTimes, 1973


There has been greater emphasis by unions upon legislative enactment to further their general objectives —R. Bean, 1992


Modern English usage. 2014.


Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Further — Fur ther , v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Furthered}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Furthering}.] [OE. furthren, forthren, AS. fyr[eth]ran, fyr[eth]rian. See {Further}, adv.] To help forward; to promote; to advance; to forward; to help or assist. [1913 Webster] This… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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