Course or Coarse?

What Is the Difference between "Course" and "Coarse"?

"Course" and "coarse" are easy to confuse because they sound identical (i.e., they are perfect homonyms).


"Course" means rough or crude. For example:
  • This sand is too coarse for the cement mix. correct tick
  • There are children present. Stop being so coarse! correct tick


"Course" has three common meanings:

(1) A series of educational lessons

For example:
  • I have signed up for an online French course. correct tick

(2) Part of a meal

For example:
  • I can't eat nuts, so I will skip the third course. correct tick

(3) A direction

For example:
  • That's an odd course to take. correct tick
There are more meanings for "course" below.
coarse or course?
The word "course" is far more common than "coarse." This flow diagram checks that you don't need "coarse" before advising you to use "course."

More about "Coarse" and "Course"

The words "coarse" and "course" sound identical, but their meanings are very different. The most common query regarding "course" and "coarse" relates to meals. Meals are made up of courses not coarses. For example:
  • a three-course meal correct tick


The adjective "coarse" means rough, crude, of low quality, or not fine in texture. For example:
  • The sand is coarse.
  • (The sand is not fine, i.e., gritty.)
  • She has coarse manners.
  • (Her manners are crude or rough.)
  • These are coarse fish.
  • (This refers to freshwater fish like perch. If it helps, think of them as not as refined as trout or salmon, which are classified as game fish.)

Top Tip

Arse Is Coarse

The British word "arse" is quite vulgar. In fact, it is coarse.
Let it remind you of the meaning for coarse.

small British flag arse small American flag ass


The word "course" has many meanings. It can be an adjective, a noun, or a verb. Listed below are the nine meanings of "course":

(1) Education delivered in a series of lessons

  • I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia. correct tick (Actor Woody Allen)
  • English course correct tick

(2) The students who attend the education

  • You have been an excellent course. correct tick

(3) A direction

  • A southerly course correct tick
  • The river changed course. correct tick

(4) A series of events

  • The government took an unexpected course. correct tick
  • A course of action correct tick

(5) To move (of liquids and ships)

  • The German ships coursed the Baltic. correct tick
  • The stream coursed through the peat bog. correct tick

(6) Part of a meal

  • We're having a three-course meal. The first course is white bait or mussels. correct tick

(7) To hunt with dogs

  • To course after hares. correct tick

(8) Naturally

  • of course correct tick

(9) Area of land (or water) for sport

  • Golf course correct tick
  • Skiing course correct tick
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This page was written by Craig Shrives.