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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The usage by schools of the word incursion, may be considered incorrect uage by some.

I first heard the term 'incursion' at Templestowe Park Primary School. To me there just seemed to be something wrong with the usage. I now see the usage has continued for over a decade.
Many words can have multiple meanings and I have in the past been quite surprised when I've found a word I thought I knew well, that actually had other meanings I was not aware of. Is this the case with incursion?

The word incursion according to The Australian Oxford Dictionary , Second Edition, means 'an invasion or attack, especially when sudden or brief'.

Now when a bunch of school children all board a tram at once it certainly feels like an incursion, but in this case schools are using the word to mean an excursion which takes place at the school. That is, 'in' is replacing 'ex' to mean of an activity held at the school, as compared with outside of the school.

The online Oxford dictionary makes no reference to incursion with regards to an educational activity. The Australian Oxford Dictionary doesn't make such a reference either. However, the Macquarie dictionary does include the additional meaning for incursion as, 'an educational activity in which an artist, educator, etc., visits a school to give a demonstration, etc., of their specialty'.

Could it be that what was once a simple play on words has become another meaning for the word?

Care should be used when using the word referencing an internal activity, because that usage would normally not be considered correct.

What is interesting, is we now have a generation of students who have grown up using the word and when that happens, and enough people know the alternate meaning for a word, that word and the new meaning becomes part of the vernacular.

Kelvin Eldridge
Online Connections
Call 0415 910 703 for computer support.
Servicing Templestowe, Doncaster, Eltham and the surrounding area.


  1. Thank you for this. I do not believe we should be taking this lying down. It is not the place of the education system to propagate misuse and error! I have written to my son's school in this regard. The logic applied to the misuse of the word "incursion" is the same as that applied by many member of the Aboriginal community, who insist that "ab" + "original" means "away from original". Word aetiology is seldom so simple and allowing the educational system to get away with this is appalling! I have instructed my son never to use the Macquarie dictionary and it clearly has no standards and propagates error as well - as if the internet alone doesn't give us a hard enough time with erroneous interpretations and discourses!

    1. Thank you for sharing your interesting view on the word. I understand your view with regards to the Macquarie dictionary, but I also understand Macquarie's role as a descriptive dictionary and document the usage of words and not be prescriptive. I feel there is a need for both prescriptive and descriptive dictionaries.

      It is also good to see you took action and wrote to the school sharing your concern. Most people don't take action. I have taken action on a number of occasions with schools. Has it made a difference? Sometimes in a small way, but that is still better than making no difference.


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