Council or Counsel?

by Craig Shrives

Council or Counsel?

What is the difference between "council" and "counsel"?
  • "A council" is a committee elected to lead or govern.
  • "Counsel" is advice (usually legal advice).
  • "To counsel" means to advise.
council or counsel?

More about "Council" and "Counsel"

Writers occasionally confuse the words "council" and "counsel." "Council" and "counsel" are homonyms (specifically homophones) because they sound the same. However, their meanings are quite different.

Council

The noun "council" refers to 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, student council).

Example sentences with "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."
In the UK, the adjective "council" often refers to services run by the state. For example:
  • Why do people living in council housing estates pay council tax?
  • This is council parking not private parking.

Counsel

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.

Example sentences with "counsel":
  • We are seeking staff who can counsel the homeless on where to attain social services.
  • (Here, "counsel" is a verb.)
  • The litigation team offers excellent counsel on a wide range of subjects.
  • (Here, "counsel" is a noun.)
  • After bereavement, who counsels the counsellor?
  • (Here, "counsels" is a verb.)

Councilors and Counselors

Councilors work in a council. For example:

councilors work for the council
City council sign in Aberdeen, Scotland

Counselors work in a counsel. For example:

councilors work for the council
Sign of the General Counsel of the Army (US Army)

Common Terms with "Council" and "Counsel"

Common terms with "council":
  • council members
  • council voters
  • council tax
  • council housing
  • council jobs
  • council area
Common terms with "counsel":
  • counselling courses
  • counsellor
  • counsel and care
  • counsel in court
  • to counsel opinion
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? cannot or can not? who's or whose? What are nouns? What are verbs? List of easily confused words