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Inauguration: Word Family & Synonyms

January 18, 2017

With the US presidential inauguration taking place this week, words such as inauguration and inaugural are no doubt being seen and heard more frequently. When phrases such as inauguration ceremony and inaugural ball appear in articles, our students might start wondering when to use the different forms of this word family. They might also wonder when to use synonyms such as commence or usher in. Let's take a closer look at this word family and common synonyms.

Word Family

According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, inaugurate means to induct into an office with suitable ceremonies, to dedicate ceremoniously, or to bring about the beginning of. Its use is common in many countries when referring to a government official taking a new office. Here are the parts of speech for the inaugurate word family:

Word Part of Speech Example
inaugurate verb He will be inaugurated into office on January 20, 2017.
inauguration noun The presidential inauguration will take place in Washington, DC.
adjective position The inauguration chairman spent months planning the event.
inaugural adjective Are any celebrities attending the inaugural ball?
noun They attended the mayor's inaugural.

Since inauguration and inaugural can act as both nouns and adjectives, what should we teach our students to use? The good news is that the meaning will be clear no matter what they use, but here are a few guidelines:

  • Inaugural is not common as a noun. Save it for the adjective position. Use inauguration for the noun.
  • For the adjective position, there are some collocations that students can memorize including inauguration ceremonyinaugural speech, and inaugural address, but tell them that inaugural is the more common adjective form.


What's the difference between beginstartcommenceinitiateinaugurate, and usher inMerriam-Webster has a great synonym discussion that is very handy for English language learners. Here is a summary of that discussion:

  • begin is very common and is the most general word
  • start is also very common and is often used for first actions, steps, or stages
  • commence is more formal than start or begin
  • initiate is more formal than start and is used for the first step of a continuing process
  • inaugurate is very formal and is used for the beginning of something official
  • usher in is less formal than inaugurate



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