apropos -- is this a common word in English?



Is this word part of your active or passive vocabulary? Do you ever use it at all? If yes, could you please give me some real-world examples related to how one would use this word in conversational English? I assume this is not a very common word to use, but at the same time it's very difficult to make sense of the definition lists they've got in the dictionaries because all the definitions there seem to be slightly different from one another.

Michael Rybkin

Posted 2015-05-30T10:45:27.780

Reputation: 37 124



It is part of an educated (university-level) vocabulary, and can be used as a segue in a meeting, when the topic is going to change abruptly.

[Let's assume we've been talking about sales in the Euro Zone up to this point]

Apropos the Pacific Rim, we've appointed Cookie Monster head of emerging markets.


Posted 2015-05-30T10:45:27.780

Reputation: 116 610


Apropos is not a very common word in English. But it's not rare either.

Short and sweet meaning of apropos is appropriate.

You can learn this by saying

"How apropos!" when you mean to say "How appropriate!" (when you agree with someone on something)


Posted 2015-05-30T10:45:27.780

Reputation: 731


I disagree. Adverbial apropos meaning with regard to is a little bit high-falutin, but not that uncommon (particularly in the now-ubiquitous apropos of nothing). Usage in the adjectival sense (appropriate) has been practically unknown for at least a century.

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2015-05-30T16:07:05.500

@FumbleFingers I disagree. Appropriate is the only meaning of apropros that I have heard before. – James – 2015-05-30T16:12:23.740

2Well, we can only vote according to what we personally understand to be common usage, and I suppose it's possible this is one of those cases where AmE has retained a usage that's fallen out of favour in BrE. Or maybe I just don't read the right sort of book, or interact with the right sort of speakers. But my first impression on reading your answer was That's a positively Victorian usage. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2015-05-30T16:18:07.423

2@FumbleFingers Canada here, and appropriate or fitting is definitely one normal usage of the word here. Lived in UK for five years...never heard it used that way there. You may be correct in that it is a regional usage. – J... – 2015-05-30T21:54:30.317

@J... : When I asked a friend earlier today if he knew the "fitting" sense, jis first reaction was Sounds like a malapropism for "appropriate" (he hasn't read as much pre-1900 literature as me! :) Checking NGrams, I see no significant difference in the decline of "very apropos" between US & UK corpora, and that collocation would invariably be the sense in question, so I still think my point holds to at least some extent...

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2015-05-31T00:39:21.917

... (after all, it is declining, relative to my "apropos of nothing" sense). But obviously it is used, so although I stand by my comments, I'll cancel my downvote.

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2015-05-31T00:42:50.433

@FumbleFingers I'm not a native English speaker (living in New Zealand), and I, similar to you, never heard of apropos being used as appropriate, how ever I've definitely came across examples such as one you gave in your answer, so you are not alone =) – Andrew Savinykh – 2015-05-31T01:46:04.257

@FumbleFingers Fair. That said, it is not a commonly used term - from time to time I hear it, and usually among very specific demographics in the somewhat older generation. The meaning is not simply "appropriate" or "fitting", but usually implies further a degree of either irony, poetic justice, or perhaps poetic synergy. Bill Gates' interactive tombstone, powered by windows, suffers a BSOD... how apropos! (for example) – J... – 2015-05-31T03:08:41.947

@J... : I suspect that nuance isn't really "inherent" in *apropos. But it's probably the default assumption when people wonder [Why didn't he use appropriate, apt, or fitting?*](https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=how+apropos%2Chow+appropriate%2Chow+fitting%2Chow+apt&year_start=1900&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chow%20apropos%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Chow%20appropriate%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Chow%20fitting%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Chow%20apt%3B%2Cc0) for the adjectival context. Irony/poeticism are obvious candidate explanations.

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2015-05-31T13:25:09.927

+1 It is used in this way in the US as well, for example, in situations where a malefactor receives his "just desserts", such as when a hypocrite public official is exposed. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2018-08-08T10:34:45.157


"apropos" is a foreign word; I believe the most common use of this word is to indicate that someone has said something that sort of comes out of nowhere---hence the common expression "apropos" of nothing"--meaning--even tho we had been talking about X, Stella opened her mouth to comment on Y.

Terrin Misty Haley

Posted 2015-05-30T10:45:27.780

Reputation: 11

apropos is actually two foreign words, not one. The full, original version of the expression that you quoted is a kind of half-translation from the french expression a propos de rien. – JavaLatte – 2017-04-05T18:33:32.717