council and counsel - the difference

A council is a committee elected to lead or govern.
Counsel is advice (usually legal advice).
To counsel is to advise.

Writers occasionally confuse the words council and counsel.


The noun council denotes an assembly of people who serve in an administrative capacity. For example, a committee elected to lead or govern could be described as a council (e.g., a church council, a town council and student council).

  • The emergency session was convened due to the failure of the United Nations Security Council to resolve the instability at the Suez Canal.
  • In December 1046, Holy Roman Emperor Henry III established a church council to reform the papacy.
  • She yelled: "It's not the council's job to sift through your bins for glass."


The word counsel is most commonly a verb meaning to give advice. It is also a noun meaning advice (usually legal assistance) or opinion. Counsel can also refer to a body of people set up to offer advice (usually legal advice), e.g., the Queen's Counsel, the General Counsel of the Army.

  • We are seeking staff who can counsel the homeless on where to attain social services.
  • (Counsel is a verb in this example.)
  • The litigation team offers excellent counsel on a wide range of subjects.
  • (Counsel is a noun in this example.)
  • After bereavement, who counsels the counsellor?
Select the correct version:



Councilors work in a council.  For example:  

          City council sign in
        Aberdeen, Scotland

Counselors work in a counsel. For example:

 Sign of the General Counsel
     of the Army (US Army)

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