I recently asked for input on words people commonly confuse, and someone said that she often hears people say anyways, presumably instead of anyway.
Most dictionaries and grammarians will indicate that anyway is the proper form and that anyways is the slang version of it.
In Middle English, anyways was considered an adverbial genitive, a word with an S tacked onto the end to indicate that it was an adverb. Other adverbial genitives were always, towards, backwards, and besides. We generally don’t have adverbial genitives anymore, but the practice of including an S persists for a few words; although more so for Commonwealth English speakers than American English speakers.
While people might generally treat anyways as slang — or even as incorrect — it has been in use for centuries. Merriam-Webster, for example, claims that it has been around since at least the 13th century. Google Books shows a 1579 book as the earliest use.
Regardless of how old it actually is, anyways has been around for a long time. Calling it informal or slang — as most dictionary tend to do — is a bit presumptuous at this point. It’s at least 500 years old.
Granted, the usage of anyway is much higher than anyways:
So much so, in fact, that anyways barely appears on the graph. But if you get rid of anyway from the graph, we can see that anyways has actually been on a bit of a resurgence in literature:
It’s still not anywhere near where it was last century or in the 18th century.
So, back to the question of this post’s title: Is it okay to use anyways? In short, yes. However, you need to be aware of your audience; a lot of people consider it slang, so you may get some pushback.
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