Word Choice: Council vs. Counsel
  • 2-minute read
  • 8th June 2020

Word Choice: Council vs. Counsel

Ever been confused about spelling when using “counsel” or “council” in your writing? It’s easy to mix up these terms as they sound similar, but they also have different spellings and meanings. So to make sure you can avoid errors, check out our simple guide below to learn the differences between them.

Counsel (Advice)

“Counsel” can be a verb or a noun. As a verb it means “advise”:

My sister was counseled against flying while pregnant.

As a noun, meanwhile, it refers to the advice itself:

I’ve come to seek counsel from the King.

In addition, someone who provides counsel, especially someone who provides guidance on personal or psychological problems, is known as a “counselor” (e.g., a relationship counselor).

Less commonly, “counsel” can refer to a legal practitioner (e.g., an attorney):

The counsel for the defense strode into the courtroom.

The meaning of “counsel” varies by country and legal system. In the US, people use “counsel” as a general synonym for “lawyer,” but a “counselor-at-law” is an attorney admitted to practice in all courts of law.

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Council (An Administrative Group)

“Council” is always a noun and refers to a group of people who have been chosen to make decisions for a group or organization (e.g., a town council or student council). We could use it in a sentence as follows:

The local council voted to build a new road.

The United Nations Security Council advised caution.

Someone who is chosen to be part of a council is known as a “councilor.”

Summary: Counsel or Council?

When you’re trying to work out which spelling to use, remember:

  • As a verb, counsel means “advise.” As a noun, meanwhile, it can refer to the advice itself, or in some cases to a type of lawyer.
  • Council is always a noun and refers to a group of people who have been chosen to make decisions for a larger population or organization.

If you need a trick to tell them apart, remember that:

A council is a collective, whereas to counsel is to say something.

The first letters of “collective” and “say” here should remind you how to spell each term. To ensure that your writing is always error free, though, why not submit a document for our expert editors to proofread today?

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