How does "productivity" differ from "productiveness"?

In 2002, I asked Merriam-Webster the following question. Kory L. Stamper replied as follows.

Q: How do “productivity” and “productiveness” differ?

A: “Productiveness” is used specifically of the quality or state of being productive, while “productivity” means “the ability or capacity to produce.”

While “productivity” is a synonym of “productiveness,” there is a subtle distinction. “Productiveness” suggests a state already in place or a quality already present, whereas “productivity” suggests the possibility of such a state or quality coming into being.

“Productivity” also tends to have specific business applications that “productiveness” does not. The remainder of the definition in our unabridged dictionary for “productivity” reads:

a: abundance or richness in output

b: the physical output per unit of productive effort

c: the ability of land to produce a given yield of a particular crop

d: the degree of effectiveness of industrial management in utilizing the facilities for production; especially: the effectiveness in utilizing labor and equipment

I also asked this question to my friend, Chris Matthew Sciabarra. He replied as follows.

Productivity is a technical economics term; it usually means, roughly, producing goods that have exchange value. When people talk of maximizing productivity, it usually means producing lots of good quality goods and/or services.

Productiveness is broader. Ayn Rand defined it as “recognition of the fact that productive work is the process by which man’s mind sustains his life.”

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for providing this elaboration! I found it very useful. I tried to explain the differences between produce (as a collective noun), product, and production to my student.

    The Oxford English Dictionary and Webster’s New Dictionary of Synonyms (1984) were very helpful. However, discussion of productiveness and productivity were absent.

    Quentin Pan


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