Bloc or Block?

by Craig Shrives

The difference between "Bloc" and "Block"

"Bloc" and "block" are easy to confuse.
  • "Bloc" is a group or an alliance (usually of countries) united by a common interest. For example:
    • The East African Community (EAC) is a bloc of six countries from the African Great Lakes region.
  • "Block" has many meanings. As a noun, "block" usually suggests a large box shape (e.g., block of flats, cheese block, engine block, chopping block). As a verb, it usually means "to prevent by interruption" (e.g., to block the light).
bloc or block?

More about "Bloc" and "Block"

The words "bloc" and "block" are homonyms (more specifically, homophones) because they sound identical. The word "block" has several meanings, one of which is close in meaning to "bloc," and this is often the source of the confusion. When it means "a collection of things," "block" is similar in meaning to "bloc" (which means "a group" or "an alliance").


The noun "bloc" means "a group or an alliance united by a common interest." The members of a bloc are willing participants. "Bloc" most commonly refers to a group of nations, but it can be a group of anything that has decided to form a team.

Example sentences with "bloc":
  • Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Chile have removed all trade tariffs among them, cementing a bloc that the four hope will encourage free trade between Latin America and the rest of the world.
  • The combined economies of the Eurozone countries grew by 0.3% in the second quarter of this year, taking the bloc out of recession after 18 months, according to figures published today.

Block As a Noun

As a noun, "block" has many meanings. Here are the nine most common meanings:

(1) A large solid piece of material (e.g. stone, wood), typically with flat surfaces.

For example:
  • When building the pyramids, they lifted the granite blocks using counterweights.
  • Have you eaten that whole block of cheese already?
(2) A place where someone's head is rested prior to beheading or a small slab (often wooden) for cutting and preparing food.

For example:
  • Without saying a word, she placed her head on the chopping block.
  • You'll be for the chopping block.
  • (In this example, "chopping block" is also figuratively. This means you'll be in trouble.)
  • Use a chopping block for those onions so you don't mark the table.
(3) A frame with footrests used by sprinters to improve their start (usually "blocks").

For example:
  • He is exceptionally quick out of the blocks for such a large man.
(4) The main part of an internal combustion engine that houses the pistons.

For example:
  • The oil leak has caused the engine to overheat. I am afraid you have melted the engine block.
(5) A building comprising flats (or apartments).

For example:
  • It's an ugly block of apartments, but the views are amazing.
(6) A group of buildings bounded by four streets.

For example:
  • There's a shoe shop in the next block.
  • We only live a few blocks away.
  • (Note: Often there are no "blocks" involved. The term "block" has come to mean a rough distance, which is usually between 100-400m.)
(7) A large quantity of things regarded as a unit (i.e., a collection).

For example:
  • I have purchased a large block of shares.
  • If the Business Improvement District (BID) was as good for business as they claim, it would not have required the council's block of votes to force through its renewal.
Note: This is the meaning which is closest to "bloc," which means a "group" or an "alliance" (usually of willing participants).

Block of Voters or Bloc of Voters?

It is possible to have a "block of voters" and a "bloc of voters." Here's the difference:
  • With a block of voters, the voters would be grouped according to a common factor (e.g., the way they voted, their age, their class).
  • With a bloc of voters, the voters would have actively grouped themselves in order to have an effect towards a common interest.
(8) An act of blocking someone or something.

For example:
  • If it were not for that stunning block from Wells, it would almost certainly have been a goal.
  • The sun reflects off the sea too, so apply plenty of block.
(9) An area of colour/color (usually on a flat surface).

For example:
  • The spiral effect radiates from a large block of blue in the middle of the painting.

Block As a Verb

As a verb, "to block" means:

(1) To obstruct or prevent movement or flow.

For example:
  • The debris from the crash blocked the traffic for 10 hours.
  • The mixture of hair and grime will block the drains.
  • You are blocking the light.
  • It has already blocked the overflow pipe, and it is now blocking the main outlet.
(Note: The past participle is "blocked," and the present participle is "blocking." They come from the verb "to block.")

(2) To prevent an activity or planned activity.

For example:
  • You can get as many signatures as you like. The boss will block your proposal.
  • Don't block my path, you horrid little cretin.

Writers' Bloc - A Play on Words

There is a website called "Writers Bloc." This is a play on words. It denotes a group of writers who have come together to help each other.

("Writers' block" is a condition with which an author loses the ability to produce new work.)

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See Also

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