On the up and ut

If you want people to have the utmost respect for your language skills, don’t tell them something is of the upmost importance. When you’re talking about something you hold in high regard, it might seem natural to use a word with “up” in it. But “upmost” and “utmost” are not interchangeable.

“Utmost” originated as a synonym for “outermost,” and it’s still used to mean a distant point. It also means “of the greatest or highest degree, quantity, number, or amount” and is the word you’re looking for in phrases such as “utmost importance” and “utmost concern.” It can also be used as a noun, as in, “She’s doing her utmost to ensure the project is finished on time.”

A screenshot of a message from Stylebot on Slack that reads: "Utmost" and "upmost" are not interchangeable, though they do have similar meanings. "Utmost" means to a great degree or at a distant point: "She said she had the utmost respect for Michelle Obama." Meanwhile, "upmost" is a synonym of "uppermost," meaning the highest position: "The cake's upmost layer resembled snow."

So what about “upmost”? It’s synonymous with “uppermost,” referring to something that occupies the highest position.

Want to stop confusing the two words? Here’s our tip: Do your utmost to eliminate “upmost” from your vocabulary and just use “uppermost” instead.

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