What is the difference between ‘fatal’ and ‘fateful’?
(Vivek Kumar, Nagpur)
The word ‘fatal’ is always associated with something negative; its use suggests death or disaster. If you say that your neighbour had a fatal heart attack last week, it means that he died of a heart attack last week. Similarly, when you say, ‘Ram struck the robber a fatal blow’, what you mean is that Ram’s blow killed the robber. A sentence like, ‘Ganeshan took the fatal decision to marry Rima’, suggests that Ganeshan’s decision had disastrous consequences.
Unlike the word ‘fatal’, ‘fateful’ need not always be associated with something bad. ‘Fateful’ means controlled by fate, and in this case, the result can be either good or bad. You may make the fateful decision to join the police force: you may have some luck, and quickly become a DIG, or you may end up getting killed in a shootout on your first day at work!
“Punctuality is the virtue of the bored.” — Evelyn Waugh
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