What does 'amend' mean?

As Jamie points out here the verb amends means ‘to add’. At least that’s what he says. So, are these dictionary definitions wrong?

  1. to alter, modify, rephrase, or add to or subtract from (a motion, bill, constitution, etc.) by formal procedure: Congress may amend the proposed tax bill

  2. to change for the better; improve: to amend one’s ways

  3. to remove or correct faults in; rectify[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEFL listening discussions: A stereotypical toy means?[YSaerTTEW443543]

Hi Torsten,

There’s you and me over the last 10 years using ‘amend’ quite happily and now we’re being told that it means ‘add’! I think I’ll stick to what I have always believed it to be, coming from Old French to mean ‘improve’ ‘make better’ and in a general sense ‘edit’ with a view to improving something. I have always preferred to use ‘amend’ when referring to a piece of English written by someone for whom it isn’t a first language because ‘correct’ has too much of the schoolmarm about it. And with that I rest my case. Perhaps I should plead the fifth amendment! Now, is that an addition or an improvement? Let’s not split hairs.


As an American familiar with Constitutional amendments, I must admit that my gut feeling about the verb means ‘to add to and thereby change or improve’.

Hope this helps!!

Hi Torsten,

Sorry for the intrusion but I am interested in what you and Alan pointed out, which has let me think of the word in such a way as “amend” is to improve, or in fact to correct and consequently leave a favorable result such as improvement by means of, most likely, addition and/or subtraction: to add what is good thereto and/or to subtract what is bad therefrom. I’d think “amend” is pro-improve but neutral to both addition and subtraction, which are, on the other hand, inbuilt conceptions and means to embody the function of the word.

All the best,


I believe “amend” applies to both situations, but as I pointed out in a previous thread, it does seem to be more commonly used where something is changed through insertion or addition. I believe “edit” or “revise” would be more commonly used for more basic editing.

Thank you for the information about the recent trend, Mordant. As I have been involved in translations of legal documents, it is more than common to come across, or oftentimes have to make amendments in such a fashion:

To amend the contract by deleting the whole Clause Three of Article Two.

On this occasion, only subtraction is involved, and the usage of “amend” in this manner as a legal term would be too common to be ignored in that the word per se is so characterised (as a neutral term) in comparison with “add”, “insert”, and the like.

Just my two cents.