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inquiry definition


This page has two definitions of inquiry in English. Inquiry is a noun. Examples of how to use inquiry in a sentence are shown. Also define these 0 related words and terms: .


Alternative forms


From Middle English enquery, from the Old French verb enquerre, from Latin inquīrō, composed of in- (in, at, on; into) + quaerō (I seek, look for), of uncertain origin, but possibly from Proto-Italic *kʷaizeō, from Proto-Indo-European *kʷeh₂- (to acquire). Later respelled to conform to the original Latin spelling, as opposed to the Old French spelling.



inquiry (countable and uncountable, plural inquiries)

  1. The act of inquiring; a seeking of information by asking questions; interrogation; a question or questioning.
  2. Search for truth, information, or knowledge; examination of facts or principles; research; investigation
    Scientific inquiry

Derived terms

  • freedom of inquiry
  • line of inquiry

Usage notes

According to Fowler's Modern English Usage (1926), inquiry should be used in relation to a formal inquest, and enquiry to the act of questioning. Many (though not all) British writers maintain this distinction; the Oxford English Dictionary, in its entry not updated since 1900, lists inquiry and enquiry as equal alternatives, in that order. Some British dictionaries, such as Chambers 21st Century Dictionary [1], present the two spellings as interchangeable variants in the general sense, but prefer inquiry for the "formal inquest" sense. In Australian English, inquiry represents a formal inquest (such as a government investigation) while enquiry is used in the act of questioning (eg: the customer enquired about the status of his loan application). Both spellings are current in Canadian English, where enquiry is often associated with scholarly or intellectual research. (See Pam Peters, The Cambridge Guide to English Usage, p. 282.)

American English usually uses inquiry.