Council and Counsel

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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 and Counsel

Writers occasionally confuse the words council and counsel.


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).

  • 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."


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.

  • 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.)
Select the correct version:


Councilors and Counselors

Councilors work in a council. For example:

City council sign in Aberdeen, Scotland

Counselors work in a counsel. For example:

Sign of the General Counsel of the Army (US Army)