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Prevailing vs Prevalent vs Rife vs Current

Prevailing, prevalentrifecurrent are comparable when they mean general (as in circulation, acceptance, or use) especially in a given place or at a given time.

Prevailing applies especially to something which is predominant or which generally or commonly obtains at the time or in the place indicated or implied.

Prevalent applies especially to something which is general or very common over a given area or at a given time. The term, however, does not suggest, as prevailing usually suggests, a predominance in frequency or in favor; rather, it connotes a frequency without necessarily implying that it is the most frequent; thus, the prevailing or usual wind in a region is from the southeast, but southwest winds may, nevertheless, be prevalent there; colds and grippe are prevalent in northern states during the winter; a widely prevalent pronunciation of a word may not necessarily be the prevailing pronunciation.

Rife adds to prevalent an implication such as the rapid spread of the thing so qualified, or a great increase in the number of its instances, or merely its commonness or abundance.

Current applies especially to things (as language, philosophy, or fashion) that are constantly in process of change or development, or to things (as coins or diseases) that circulate constantly from one person or thing to another; hence, current so often describes what is widespread in its use, adoption, or acceptance at the time in question that it has come to imply the present if no other time is indicated; thus, current English is the English language of the present time; a current notion is one that is widely accepted at the moment; banknotes, postage stamps, or coins of the current series are those still being printed or minted for circulation or sale.

However, when the term applies to things (as periodicals) that come out in a series or in installments, current describes the one appearing during the present period (as the week or month) or the latest to appear.

But current is often used in the place of the other words of this group when the time or place is definitely indicated and merely the passing from one person to another is stressed.