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15 / 12 / 2006

DELETE vs. ERASE: meaning and examples

Good morning.

The objective of Today's Daily Vitamin is to answer Pilar Naranjo's question that she sent us in October about the difference between two verbs in English: erase and delete:

Can you explain the difference between "to delete" and "to erase" to me (for me the second is a new word). Thank you. Pilar Naranjo

Delete means: to remove or cross out something that has been written, or remove information stored on a computer.

Meaning 1 Erase : to eliminate information stored on a computer disk or all the sound or pictures recorded on a tape.

Meaning 2 Erase : to remove writing, drawing, or marks made by a pencil or pen by rubbing it off with an eraser.

So you see, Pilar, these words can be completely synonymous (for example, when talking about deleting or erasing information on a computer), but the second meaning of erase (to rub out writing) is different, and cannot be replaced with delete.

Example 1:
I can't believe Mary did that. When she lost her job, before she left, she completely erased the hard drive of the computer. She deleted everything! 

Example 2:
Can you please erase the blackboard when you are finished with class. I'm tired of finding it full of text when I arrive to teach my class.

Example 3:
Does deleting a keyword erase it's history?

My personal feeling about these two synonyms is that Delete indicates more of a feeling of removing information from something (like a cassette) and erase indicates rubbing out text or information. However, as you can see, they can often be used interchangeably.

Please post any questions about today's Daily Vitamin in the Daily Vitamin Plus! forum section on our website.

Have a great weekend!