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Council vs. Counsel—What’s the Difference?

Updated on May 22, 2019Grammar
  • A council is a group of people convened for advice or consultation.
  • Counsel means advice or instruction.

Counsel and council are confusing words. They sound the same, yet they are spelled differently. What’s the difference between council and counsel?

What does counsel mean?

The word counsel can be defined in many ways. In general, counsel is advice or instruction. However, it can also include opinion or deliberation about a matter. In law, it refers to a legal adviser or an advocate. As a verb, counsel means to advise.

I should have listened to the counsel of my parents.

Will the counsel for the defendant please rise?

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What does council mean?

A council is a group of people convened to advise, consult, or deliberate a matter. Often, these assemblies convene to address administrative or legislative issues. Unlike counsel, which can serve as a verb, council is always a noun.

The council met to determine what course of action to take.

Before making renovations to your house, you must submit your plans to the city council .

Examples of council vs. counsel

Only lies offend me, never honest counsel.
George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords

Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.
J. R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

You have witchcraft in your lips, Kate. There is more eloquence in a sugar touch of them than in the tongues of the French council, and they should sooner persuade Harry of England than a general petition of monarchs.
William Shakespeare, Henry V

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