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Downright vs. Outright: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on November 12, 2023
"Downright" is used for emphasis to mean thoroughly or absolutely, while "outright" means completely and instantaneously.

Key Differences

"Downright" is often used to intensify the degree of an adjective or adverb, implying that something is completely or to an extreme extent. For instance, one might say "the weather is downright cold," emphasizing that it's not just cold, but extremely so. "Outright," on the other hand, can imply that an action or a state is done or occurs openly, without hesitation, or is complete in its entirety. An example is "he rejected the offer outright," indicating a total and immediate rejection.
While "downright" serves to emphasize the absolute nature of a trait or situation, it's often subjective and used in a descriptive manner. It has a qualitative aspect, making it a popular choice in contexts where emotional reactions or personal assessments are expressed. Conversely, "outright" has a tone of finality and can imply that no more discussion is needed or no ambiguity exists. It is decisive and conveys an unqualified state.
In expressions of opinion or feeling, "downright" can be seen as a word that adds force to the expression. It suggests that the speaker is making a strong, sometimes personal, judgment: "That movie was downright boring." "Outright," however, is more factual or absolute in nature. When something is said to be "outright illegal," it's understood to be illegal without question or qualification.
The use of "downright" can convey a sense of exasperation or awe, depending on the context: "The complexity of the theory was downright astonishing." It underscores the speaker's reaction to the subject. "Outright" lacks this emotive aspect and instead gives a sense of immediacy or totality to the action or characteristic it's describing: "The company was outright sold within days."
In literary or rhetorical contexts, "downright" is a useful adverb for writers to express intensity or a high degree in a somewhat informal manner. It's akin to saying 'very' or 'extremely,' but with more force. "Outright," conversely, communicates an unambiguous, direct, and often prompt characteristic or action. It can signal that something is so clear or complete that it requires no further elaboration.

Comparison Chart


Enhances degree or extent
Indicates completeness or immediacy


Often with adjectives/adverbs
Often with actions or states


Subjective or emotional
Decisive or factual


Conveys exasperation or awe
Conveys clear finality


Less formal, colloquial
Neutral, used in both formal and informal contexts

Downright and Outright Definitions


To an extreme degree.
It's downright impossible to ignore.


Immediately, completely.
He won the race outright.


Point-blank; straightforward.
He was downright honest about his feelings.


Total; absolute.
It was an outright success.


Utter; absolute.
Her statement was downright offensive.


Without reservation or concealment.
She condemned the act outright.


Thoroughly; completely.
The place was downright deserted.


Openly; bluntly.
He outright refused to participate.


Frankly direct; blunt.
She gave me a downright answer.


Without any delay or qualification.
The rumor was denied outright.


Thoroughgoing; unequivocal
A downright lie.


Without reservation or qualification; openly
Finally responded outright to the question.


Forthright; candid.


Completely and entirely; wholly
Denied the charges outright.


What does 'outright' mean?

'Outright' means completely and immediately, with no hesitation.

Is 'outright' indicative of speed?

Yes, it can imply something happens immediately or without delay.

Is 'downright' used for emphasis?

Yes, it's used to emphasize the degree of something.

What does 'downright' mean?

'Downright' means completely or to an extreme degree.

Is 'outright' associated with decisiveness?

Yes, it implies a clear, decisive action or state.

Do 'downright' and 'outright' have the same etymology?

No, they come from different historical uses and contexts.

Can 'downright' be used in formal writing?

It's more colloquial and less common in formal writing.

How might one use 'downright' in a sentence?

"The solution to the problem was downright ingenious."

Can 'outright' refer to partial actions?

No, 'outright' refers to complete or total actions.

What's the difference between 'downright funny' and 'outright funny'?

'Downright funny' emphasizes the degree, while 'outright funny' suggests it is funny without question.

Can 'downright' and 'outright' be synonyms?

They can overlap in meaning but are not always interchangeable due to different connotations.

Is 'downright' a modern English word?

Yes, though it has older roots, it's commonly used in modern English.

Does 'downright' always mean something negative?

No, it can be used for positive emphasis as well.

Does 'downright' imply honesty?

It can, especially when referring to someone's frankness.

Can 'outright' mean legally absolute?

Yes, as in "outright ownership" of property.

Is 'outright' a compound word?

Yes, it's formed from "out" and "right," signifying complete or immediate action.

How might one use 'outright' in a sentence?

"They outright bought the entire company."

Can 'downright' modify nouns?

No, it modifies adjectives or adverbs, not nouns directly.

Can 'outright' be an adjective?

Yes, as in "an outright lie."

Can both 'downright' and 'outright' express bluntness?

Yes, both can describe a manner of directness.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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