Are we using the terms ‘authenticate’ and ‘authenticate’ correctly?


When carrying out administrative procedures, the user is often asked to authenticate or authenticate what is requested, indistinctly. By using both words, one can consider the influence of the English authenticate or authenticate in the use of these verbs.

However, today the two words are included in the Dictionary of the Spanish language of the Royal Academy, the basis of the standard in terms of lexicon. In this Dictionary they are included without any mark indicating restrictions on their use. In addition to this, the Pan-Hispanic Dictionary of Doubts clarifies:
“Authenticate. ‘Certify authenticity’ (…) This verb is already documented in medieval Spanish and is still fully valid in legal and administrative language, especially in America. With this same sense, the verb authenticate has been created in modern times, which is also considered valid and is the one used with preference in the Spanish of Spain and a good part of America.

As a consultation tool for doubts in the language, the Fundéu insists on the explanation of the Pan-Hispanic Dictionary .

Therefore, the use in current Spanish of the two words with the meaning of ” certify the authenticity ” is correct.

However it was not always so.

Where does each one come from?

To reflect the use and tradition of the two words in Spanish, two corpora provided by the Royal Academy were used: the Historical Dictionary of the Spanish Language , which includes the lexicon from the origins of the language to 2005, and the Corpus del Español del 21st century (CORPES XXI) , as regards the 21st century.

Based on the previous ones, historically, authenticating has a greater tradition in the language, since it is documented in texts from the year 1247. For its part, the first example of authenticating is from 1893, more than 600 years later.

At the same time, it was in the Middle Ages and the 18th century that authenticating became more widely used. With respect to authenticate , the highest frequency occurs in the 20th century, but it is less frequent in this century than that of authenticate .

In the 21st century there continue to be more examples of authenticate .

Presence in academic dictionaries

The Royal Spanish Academy provides as a resource the New Lexicographical Treasure of the Spanish Language , in which nearly 70 dictionaries are compiled, including all the academic ones.

Thus, it is verified that authenticate is already registered in the first dictionary of the Academy, the Dictionary of authorities , from 1726:
“AUTHENTICATE is going to Authorize, legalize, approve and affirm in legal form that something is certain and true”.

Its presence continues uninterrupted until the last edition of 2014.

In relation to authenticate , it is documented for the first time in 1927 (200 years later) within the Manual Dictionary of the Royal Academy with the following definition:
“AUTHENTIFY: Useless neologism to authenticate.”

This negative mark, “useless”, is maintained until the 1984 edition of the Dictionary , when it is incorporated as:
“AUTHENTICATE. authenticate, authorize or legalize something”.

On the other hand, if the 2014 edition of the Dictionary is consulted, authenticate appears as a synonym of authenticate , and it is this that develops the meaning.

That is to say: authenticating has been admitted in the educated norm since 1726, as opposed to authenticating, correct in the educated norm since 1984.

Current geographic preferences

Despite the fact that the use of the two verbs is correct, it is interesting to verify if there are preferences according to different geographical areas, as indicated by the Pan-Hispanic Dictionary of doubts .

Thus, in CORPES XXI it is verified that in Mexico, Central America, the Continental Caribbean and the Río de la Plata there is a clear preference for authenticating , compared to Spain and Chile where authenticating is mainly prioritized .

In a less marked way, in the Andes, the Antilles and Equatorial Guinea, authenticating is also preferred , in the same way that in the United States authenticating registers more frequently .

Theme preferences

Another of the resources provided by CORPES XXI is to classify the appearances of the terms by thematic areas.

On this occasion, the largest number of examples of authenticating occurs in issues related to science and technology and, secondly, to politics, economy and justice. Regarding the verb to authenticate , it obtains more representation in matters of art, culture and entertainment, as well as in social sciences, belief and thought.

Specialization by areas or topics?

The use of the two verbs is correct with the meaning of “certify the authenticity” since 1984. Authenticate has more historical tradition, and greater frequency of use; Compared to this, authenticate is of a much more recent creation.

The coincidence with English can favor that a voice appears more, but in this case the two words are correct and with tradition within the language. Will specialization in geographic areas or in themes intensify? Time will tell.

Author Bio: Amalia Pedrero Gonzalez is Professor of Spanish Language at CEU San Pablo University