Adjective – Tantamount
Take the word “tantamount” and break it apart to see its two Latin roots:
1. The “tant” part comes from a Latin word meaning “as much, of such size.”
2. And of course, the “amount” part means “amount.”
So “tantamount” literally means “amounting to as much: adding up to the same thing.”
Starting in the 1620s, we used the English phrase “tant amount” to mean “to be equal, or to be the same thing.”
We don’t say that exact phrase “tant amount” anymore. (We’ve squished it into one word and added the preposition “to.”) Today, we say “tantamount to,” and it means “equal to,” usually in a bad sense.
When one thing is tantamount to a second thing, the first thing is pretty much the same thing as, or just as bad as, the second thing.
Part of speech:
adjective: “this is tantamount to that,” “doing this is tantamount to doing that.”
none are used today.
how to use it:
The word “tantamount” helps you connect the dots between two things, showing how they’re the same.
It’s a formal word, with a critical tone.
So, when you need to argue that one bad thing has the same effect or the same significance as some other thing that’s even worse, use the phrase “Thing 1 is tantamount to Thing 2.”
Like this: “The assassination was tantamount to a declaration of war.” “Silence is tantamount to an admission of guilt.” “Ignoring a crime is tantamount to excusing it.” “Letting someone cut in front of you in line is tantamount to cutting in front of every single person behind you.” “Stepping on a Lego is tantamount to stepping on a fistful of knives.”
So, we most often use “tantamount” to connect two dots. To draw an equals sign between two things.
But we can also use it to stop people from connecting two dots: to slash through the equals sign they’ve drawn. We do that by saying that one thing is not tantamount to another. “Silence isn’t tantamount to permission.” “Wearing leather isn’t tantamount to slaughtering animals.” Here’s Scientific American: “Removing firearms from a home for four to six weeks during the high-risk period following a hospitalization is not tantamount to stripping someone of their right to bear arms.”
“Controlling the river became tantamount to controlling the people, and… state and society became trapped in an increasingly unsustainable hydraulic infrastructure.”
— Andrea Janku, Nature, 4 August 2016
“Root scratched his chin. ‘I don’t know. We’re on shaky ground here legally.”
‘Not at all,’ argued Cumulus. ‘It’s elementary grammar. The human specifically stated that entry was forbidden as long as he was alive. That’s tantamount to an invitation when he’s dead.'”
— Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl, 2001