"enzymic" vs "enzymatic": A summary of responses

Marc Roussel mroussel at alchemy.chem.utoronto.ca
Fri Feb 19 16:22:29 EST 1993

     Last week, I asked this group whether there was any distinction to
be made between the words "enzymic" and "enzymatic" and, absent this
distinction, which one people preferred.  This article presents a
summary of the survey results.
     Only one person (Jonathan Burbaum, msdrl!burbaum at uunet.UU.NET) recognized
a nuance between the two words:

	The word 'enzymic' pertains to the enzyme molecule
	itself, whereas 'enzymatic' pertains to the actions of the enzyme on
	other molecules--Hence CTWalsh's book is 'Enzymatic Reaction
	Mechanisms', but you might hear of 'enzymic denaturation' [...]

Paul Berti (Paul.Berti at BRI.NRC.CA) informed me that he had heard of such
a distinction, but did not himself believe it to be a worthwhile one.
     Dale Webb (dwebb at unlinfo.unl.edu) provided two pieces of useful

	  1. Veterinary journals strongly prefer "enzymic".  They even
	     replace occurrences of "enzymatic" with "enzymic" before
	     going to press.
          2. Stedman's medical dictionary lists these words as

After reading Dale's letters, I consulted the ACS Style Guide.
Unfortunately, it does not address this question directly.
     Among the remaining correspondents, only one expressed a preference
for "enzymic".  Six preferred "enzymatic"; some of these respondents even
wrote that they had never heard the alternative.  There was no obvious
geographic bias to the responses.  The ACS Style Guide does recommend
that one should use the most usual form of a word whenever possible; on
this basis, "enzymatic" should be the preferred form.  Of course, this is
too small a sample from which to draw definitive conclusions on word
     At the end of this exercise, I'm still not sure how I should use
these words.  The distinction made by Jonathan seems to be unsupported
by common usage, although I must admit that I find it attractive.  If I
decide that I should use these words synonymously, I tend to agree with
the point of view of Bill Purves (purves at jarthur.Claremont.EDU) who
wrote, in support of "enzymic",

	My favorite parallel example is the pair of synonyms "interpretive"
	and "interpretative."  The second of those really grates on me.  The
	extra syllable adds NOTHING to meaning.  Sounds almost as if it had
	been filtered through a second language, as is the case with the fungal
	metabolite fusaric acid--a plant growth inhibitor that was isolated
	along with gibberellin some decades ago.  When it was first mentioned
	in English, it was called "fusarinic acid."  The reason was that the
	German name was Fusarinsa"ure--that should translate directly as
	fusaric acid, but the folks that first worried about it called it
	fusarinic acid to retain the Germnan "in."

     I shall have to reflect on this matter carefully.  In the meantime,
I hope this summary will prove useful to others.  If anyone has anything to
add, by all means do.  This newsgroup should be an appropriate forum for
further discussion and, of course, I welcome email on this matter.
     In addition to the contributors named above, I would like to thank
the following individuals for sharing their opinions with me:

	jeffs at elsie.nci.nih.gov (Jeffrey Alan Silverman)
	samodena at csemail.cropsci.ncsu.edu (S. A. Modena)
	"Belinda J.F. Rossiter"  <rossiter at BCM.TMC.EDU>


				Marc R. Roussel
                                mroussel at alchemy.chem.utoronto.ca

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