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Most-Populous vs. Most-Populated

For some reason most-populous just doesn’t sound right when used in a sentence. Most-populated makes more sense to me. Here is the sentence that it’s used in for context.

“BLANK is the public health care system for the nation’s third most-populous county.”

Any help on the usage of these 2 phrases would be much appreciated. Thank you in advance!

  • April 9, 2009
  • Posted by amberb
  • Filed in Usage

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I would think either would work. Note that populated and populous don't mean exactly thie same thing. Any place that has inhabitants at all is populated. Populous means heavily populated. Since you already say third most, you don't need to say populous, but you certainly could if you wanted to emphasize the large number of people (just like saying: "the third most heavily populated ...") By the way, you shouldn't be using a hyphen. It's just "third most populated..." etc.

porsche April 10, 2009 @ 2:02PM

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Populous is the correct word.

"Populous" is an adjective meaning "having a large population." In your sentence it modifies the noun "county."

"Populated" is an inflected form of the transitive verb "populate, which means "to furnish or provide with inhabitants." Using it as an adjective is improper.

Your hyphenation is correct. "Most-populous" is a phrasal adjective; it modifies the noun as if one word.

douglas.bryant August 11, 2009 @ 10:55PM

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Both can also be used depending on what you want to mean.

Populated means the total number of people in the country whereas populous means number of people per square kilo meter i.e population density. Let me explain further:

The most populated country has maximum number of people in comparison to all the countries of the world irrespective of its land or area.
Whereas the most populated country means the it has the maximum population per 1 square kilo meter which makes more citizens to live in less area. Or you can say it has the highest population according to its area Or is the most crowded country. A country may be least populated because it has say only 80 lakh people but is most populous because it has only 10 thousand sq. Km land where everybody has to accommodate.

Both have different meanings and will refer to different countries in the above sentence.
Hope it helped.

Vipasha Sharmaa September 7, 2013 @ 9:05AM

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And may I ask a question out of the topic?

'porsche" has started his reply by this statement: 'I would think either would work." Why did he use "would for a sentence represents present time and has nothing to do with IF clause, main clause.

Can we say "'I think either would work." or ''I would think either work."?

Thank you in advance

Mani September 23, 2013 @ 9:38AM

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@Mani - 'would' has lots of uses apart from in conditionals - here I would say that it softens the statement, makes it a little more tentative - it's often used with words like 'think, imagine, say, suggest, recommend, appear, seem'

In your second example, you still need to keep the second would - 'I would think either would work'

Warsaw Will September 23, 2013 @ 5:27PM

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Populous is the right word.

Unicorn Boy April 27, 2014 @ 9:41AM

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You would not hyphenate "most-populous" just as you wouldn't hyphenate "she is the most popular girl in school." You would however hyphenate something like "Honolulu is an ultra-populous urban epi-center."

Lindsey October 20, 2016 @ 1:40PM

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