Which Is it? Visit or Visitation?

As the holidays approach, so do family gatherings. If the relatives are coming to town, the question arises: what should we call the occasion, a visit or a visitation?

I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen the word visitation misused for visit. It reminds me of the times I’ve seen simplistic erroneously used for simple.

We all know what a visit is, right? It’s typically when friends or family come to spend time with you.

Is visitation just another way of saying visit, only dressed up in impressive garb intended to make the writer or speaker sound erudite? Or is it something else altogether? Let’s take a peek inside the Oxford Dictionary. (Note: I’m not giving the various meanings in the same order as the dictionary. No. I’m saving the best for last.)

  • An official visit of inspection, especially one by a bishop to a church in his diocese.
  • A pastoral or charitable visit, especially to the sick or poor
  • The appearance of a divine or supernatural being: the blinding light signified a visitation from God
  • The visit of the Virgin Mary to Elizabeth related in Luke 1:39–56.
  • The festival commemorating the Visitation of the Virgin Mary, on 31 May.
  • A divorced person’s right to spend time with children in the custody of a former spouse
  • A gathering with the family of a deceased person before the funeral
  • An unwelcome or unduly protracted social visit
  • A disaster regarded as divine punishment: a visitation of the plague

Here’s an example of an inappropriate use of visitation from the pen of a marketing genius: Increased repeat visitations from current customer base

So … next time you’re tempted to throw in a couple of extra syllables in an effort to impress your readers, please keep in mind the difference between a visitation from the in-laws and a visit from an old friend.

4 replies
  1. Dr Daniel Howard
    Dr Daniel Howard says:

    Yeah I am just guilty of it myself. I submitted my video to a competition but cannot take back my use of visitation instead of visit. I used visitation for I feared readers would get confused if I used visit. Visit where? It concerns COVID-19 and an algorithm that I devised to proactively plan visits by people to their places of interest: supermarkets, shops, sports clubs, parks etc. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dReCo_E1wc

    • Howard Daniel
      Howard Daniel says:

      Thank you, Dr. Howard. Good luck in the video competition. I doubt that the visit/visitation issue will influence the judges.

      How nice, by the way, to hear from a reader whose last name is the same as my first name, and whose first name is the same as my last. Slim odds, I think. Best wishes to you!

  2. Cyril Fox
    Cyril Fox says:

    When I was growing up, a long time ago, visitation was reserved for the coming of a more ominous variety, almost always in the context of visitations from spirits. Certainly the neighbours and friends came merely for a visit.

    • Howard Daniel
      Howard Daniel says:

      Thank you, Mr. Fox. With Halloween coming up in just a couple of weeks, I hope the visits you’ll likely get from the neighborhood kids are not accompanied by any ghostly visitations.


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