tr.v. pe·rused, pe·rus·ing, pe·rus·es
1. To read or examine, typically with great care.
2. Usage Problem To glance over; skim.
[Middle English perusen, to use up : Latin per-, per- + Middle English usen, to use; see USE.]
Usage Note: Peruse has long meant "to read thoroughly," as in He perused the contract until he was satisfied that it met all of his requirements, which was acceptable to 75 percent of the Usage Panel in our 2011 survey. But the word is often used more loosely, to mean simply "to read," as in The librarians checked to see which titles had been perused in the last month and which ones had been left untouched. Seventy percent of the Panel rejected this example in 1999, but only 39 percent rejected it in 2011. Further extension of the word to mean "to glance over, skim" has traditionally been considered an error, but our ballot results suggest that it is becoming somewhat more acceptable. When asked about the sentence I only had a moment to peruse the manual quickly, 66 percent of the Panel found it unacceptable in 1988, 58 percent in 1999, and 48 percent in 2011. Use of the word outside of reading contexts, as in We perused the shops in the downtown area, is often considered a mistake.
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