In contemporary (media) speech, increasingly one hears the word “hesitancy” instead of the traditional “hesitation,” to the point where one almost never hears the latter. The question why has an answer rooted in the derivational history of the two items though their meaning is identical.

“Hesitation” is a deverbal substantive derived from the verb “hesitate” by adding the suffix {-ion} to the verbal root {hesitate-}. “Hesitancy,” on the other hand is deadjectival substantive derived from the adjectival root {hesitant-}. Since both adjectives and substantives are part of the category of nominals, a deadjectival substantive like “hesitancy” has a more immediate semantic force owing to its derivational history––a force missing from a substantive like “hesitation” that is deverbal. In short, the ascendancy of “hesitancy” vs. “hesitation” is to be accounted for by its greater derivational proximity in comparison to its deverbal counterpart.

This is an example that bears out the general analysis of semantic force in language as being invariably rooted in the language’s grammatical structure.