Peruse Definition


Peruse means to examine or to read closely or casually.

What do you think peruse means? Would you say that it’s a superficial activity or an intense one? Let’s find out what peruse really means and how to use it.

Peruse Definition

To peruse means to examine the details of something, to consider it with attention. For example, imagine you were a proud grandparent who placed a birth announcement in your local newspaper. Wouldn’t you peruse the births section carefully so as not to miss the announcement of your grandchild? Peruse, meaning to study closely, appears in literature. Notice how Laurie Horowitz uses this verb in action in The Family Fortune:

Bookstores are, for me, what churches are for other people. My breath gets slower and deeper as I peruse the shelves. I believe that books contain messages I am meant to receive.

Peruse Definition GIF

If that matches your definition of peruse, you might feel vindicated. Did you think it meant the opposite? If so, you’re right (and the ones feeling vindicated right now are surprised.) Yes, peruse can also mean to look over casually or in a cursory way. No need to think of an antonym for peruse—it is its own opposite! To prove it, consider this quote from an online article by Charles Siskin, published in the Chattanoogan:

The fun of Le District was the opportunity to peruse the market while waiting for our food. . .

Can you see them leisurely walking and looking around in your mind’s eye? That’s perusing!

Another Meaning of Peruse

Finally, to peruse means to read. As you might have guessed from the previous definitions, it can mean to read carefully or leisurely. Would you like to see peruse used this way in a sentence? Here’s a final quote from Richard Francis Burton’s The Book Of The Thousand Nights And A Night:

[Shahrazad] had perused the books, annals and legends of preceding Kings, and the stories, examples and instances of by gone men and things; indeed it was said that she had collected a thousand books of histories relating to antique races and departed rulers. She had perused the works of the poets and knew them by heart; she had studied philosophy and the sciences, arts and accomplishments; and she was pleasant and polite, wise and witty, well read and well bred.

So you say that peruse means to examine closely? You are right. Or do you think that peruse means to make a brief examination? You are also right. Even if you say peruse means to read, especially attentively or superficially, you are still right! Why not use this versatile verb today?

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