Learn English – Difference Between “Staid” and “Stayed”


What is the difference in meaning between what the following sentences convey?

Although John was very upset, he approached Jack
with a staid hand.


Although John was very upset, he approached Jack
with a stayed hand.

"Stayed" is the past participle of the verb "stay," but you'll see with it that "staid" is, too. Since past participles can be used as adjectives, it stands to reason that using either or both can be used as an adjective.

"Staid," though, is also an adjective on its own, an adjective that may not mean exactly the same thing that the participle of "stay" being used as an adjective would men. I say "may not" because it seems somewhat different but also seems somewhat the same — it's close.

Anyway, I'm having a hard time understanding when to use "staid" and when to use "stayed" adjectivally. Is saying "a stayed hand" even grammatical? Or, when applying a modifier, are we to use the participle/adjective "staid"? I mean, we can write, "I had stayed," so "stayed" is a past participle for sure, but is it to be used as a modifier or is that always "staid"? It seems to me that as a modifier it's usually "staid," but I can't find any data on that.

Also, it kind of seems to me that the first sentence above (i.e., "staid") might indicate a calm hand, John being calm, while the second might not but might indicate that John merely refrained from hitting Jack, which merely keeping yourself from hitting someone can be a far cry from being calm. But, again, while I've looked, I can't find any data to support that.

So, when is one to use "stayed" and when is one to "staid" to modify a noun?

Best Answer

According to the Grammarist, staid is an adjective and its meaning and usage differs from the homophonic stayed:

Staid is an adjective that means settled, unadventurous, sedate, steady of character. Staid is usually employed to signify someone stodgy or dull. The adverb form is staidly, the noun form is staidness. Staid as an adjectival use of the past participle stayed came about in the 1540s, within a decade it came to mean sober and sedate.

Stayed is the past participle of the verb stay, meaning to remain in the same place, to reside in a dwelling, often meant temporarily.

  • In South Africa and Scotland, stay may mean a place where one lives permanently. Stay can also mean to delay leaving.

The word stay appears in the middle of the fifteenth century, meaning cease going forward, halt, detain, hold back. Stay comes from the Old French estare, meaning to stay or stand, by way of the Latin word stare, meaning to stand, stand still, remain standing, be erect, stand firm, stand firm in battle, be unmovable, linger. Stay with the meaning to reside as a guest for a short period is first recorded in the 1570s.

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