Learn English – What’s the difference between ‘just’ and ‘fair’


What's the difference between 'just' and 'fair'? OED gives slightly different definitions, but they are not distinct enough as to be clear (to me). Is the difference simply idiomatic, or is there a semantic difference that I am not aware of?

Best Answer

Because there's a lot of overlap between the two words, in many contexts they're interchangeable. But in some specific idiomatic forms (i.e. - "It's a fair cop", "We fight a just war") only one is used.

To the extent that there's a semantic difference, I would say that a fair settlement, for example, is one where the parties directly involved feel a satisfactory compromise has been reached. But to me at least, a just settlement is one that meets external criteria of correctitude (opinions of outsiders, formal moral/legal codes, etc.).