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Council vs. Counsel – Pick the Correct Word

Council vs. Counsel – Pick the Correct Word

Something about how these two words are spelled has made me dizzy just writing this article! Perhaps it is because cil, sel, cel, and sil are all viable spellings for the sound at the end of council or counsel.

It’s certainly challenging to remember how these two words are spelled in the first place, much less which word means what.

Short and Sweet: Council vs. Counsel

Both words can be nouns, but only counsel can be a noun or a verb.

  • A council is a group of people.
  • Counsel is another word for advice; to counsel is to give advice.

Continue reading for more thorough definitions, example sentences, and a fun way to remember how to spell counsel or council.

What Does Council Mean?

Meaning of Council: A council is an assembly of people, usually delegates in a governing body. A council meets to have discussions and make decisions, generally about civil matters.

Generally, members of a council represent of a variety of people and have equal power and authority.

  • The council convened to discuss what to do about the problem at hand and then voted on a solution.
  • The town is holding a meeting to elect new council
  • Student council is an institution intended to give students a voice on certain issues that affect the student body.
  • The governor consulted her council of advisors before making a decision.
  • Council can only ever be a noun.

What Does Counsel Mean?

Meaning of Counsel: Counsel, on the other hand, can be both a noun or a verb. It is a more formal word for advice.

For example, a council could give its counsel to a more powerful authority, as in our example with the governor above. In this sense, a group of people, (the council) is giving its counsel (or advice) to another person (the governor).

Counsel can be used in many contexts. Governmental, legal, and psychiatric are a just few examples.

Often, counsel is a noun, where the subject of the sentence is either seeking or providing counsel.

  • Thank you for your counsel, but I have decided against it.
  • I refuse to answer any questions before receiving legal counsel.

Sometimes, counsel is a verb, when it means “to give advice.”

  • Can you counsel me on what to do in my relationship?

Counsel is related to the word consult, and they show opposite sides of a coin.

If you consult with someone, you are often seeking counsel.

For example,

  • I need to consult a financial planner.
  • My financial planner counseled me to create a will.

In the first example, someone is seeking advice. In the second example, someone is giving advice.

Counsel vs. Council: How to Remember the Difference

Counsel ends in sel. This looks like the word “sell.” You can sell advice if you are a specialist. Clients pay you for your counsel.

Council ends in cil. This looks like the word “civil.” A council is a group of people who make decisions on civil matters.

Recap: When to Use Council and Counsel

Council and counsel are both nouns, but counsel can also be a verb.

  • A council is a governing body made up of a group of elected or appointed members.
  • Counsel is advice that one person provides to another.