100 Words Turning 100 This Year

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DavidGrigg/iStock via Getty Images

The word cake is about 800 years old, and you're gonna want to make some for these scrappy newcomers turning 100. Let's celebrate the centennial of all of them. And don't forget the candles (which are at least 1100 years old).

1. World War II

Black and white retro image of Lancaster bombers from Battle of Britain in World War Two
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Did you know that the term World War 2 is essentially turning 100 this year? That's right—in February 1919, just a few months after World War 1 ended, a story appeared in the UK's Manchester Guardian called “World War No. 2.” The Oxford English Dictionary describes it as a "reference to an imagined future war arising out of the social upheaval consequent upon the First World War.” The actual second world war wouldn’t start until 1939.

2. Balletomane

It refers to a ballet devotee. If you love ballet, this is you.

3. Snooty

Don't look down your nose at this one.

4. Fanboy

American football fans cheer on their team
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The term originated to describe young, male baseball enthusiasts, but now it can be applied to just about everything from Batman comics to cricket.

5. Peter-Pannery

This is a rather odd/fantastic way to accuse someone of behaving childishly, and you may need it for the fanboy in your life.

6. Dunk

A woman dunks a cookie into a glass of milk
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The original meaning of dunker had nothing to do with someone who could dunk a basketball—it was someone who dunked cookies. Dunking a basketball wouldn’t come along until a few decades later.

7. DUNKER

Fun fact: The optimal time to dunk an Oreo in milk is three seconds!

8. BIMBO

If you know a snooty fanboy and a dunker, you might also know a bimbo, though sources disagree whether that's from 1919 or 1918. Either way, back then the term would have been used to describe a man.

9. UNDERGRADUATE

Female college students walking to a class
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But if you want an unusual 1919 term for a woman, how about undergraduette, which is the female version of an undergraduate.

10. SPORTS CAR

Henry Ford created the moving assembly line to build automobiles in 1913, and their burgeoning popularity also brought forth a lot of new terms.

11. EXITS

A green highway exit sign with white lettering
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Meaning the kind you take off the road.

12. MOTOR SCOOTER

Before the motors, "scooters" were just people who moved fast.

13. PICKUP TRUCK

Dog in the back of a black pickup truck
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Presumably to haul undergraduates around in.

14. HYDROFOIL

If you’re more into water sports, hydrofoil—the apparatus that lifts watercraft hulls up out of the water to increase speed—also comes from 1919.

15. SUPERSONIC

Speaking of increasing speed, although it wouldn't be applied to transport for a few more decades, supersonic, meaning higher than humans can hear, is also turning 100.

16. COLLAGE

Child tears a red paper into small pieces. Child holds red paper pieces in his hands. Kindergarten art lesson. Set of color paper, pencils, glue stick on wooden background
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It comes from a French word that means “gluing.”

17. PISSOIR

Also from French, and from 1919, pissoir is a public urinal.

18. VINO

The English language also borrowed vino from the Italians that year.

19. PENNE

Plate of penne pasta and wine
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And the penne to go with it.

20. COLD TURKEY

Keeping on the food theme, I think I’m going to go cold turkey—a phrase whose modern meaning is 100-years-young and still has mysterious origins. One theory is that it comes from the phrase talking turkey meaning “to be frank.”

21. SILICA GEL

Moving on to something you probably shouldn’t eat: silica gel.

Here’s a little secret, though: Despite being marked “DO NOT EAT,” chowing down on the packets, if you decided to do it, probably wouldn’t be that bad for you—the warnings are mostly there because silica gel is a choking hazard for children. Plus eating it in large quantities isn’t advisable.

22. POLYPHILOPROGENITIVE

A newborn baby grabs a parent's finger
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It’s believed T.S. Eliot coined the term polyphiloprogenitive in 1919, which describes one who is prolific in making babies.

23. POST-PRIMARY EDUCATION

Those babies will probably need a lot of post-primary education, which is turning 100 just as primary education is turning 201.

24. BEHAVIORAL

Similarly, we’ve had behavior since the 15th century , but behavioral is a 1919 word!

25. ISOLATIONISM

Man sits by himself watching the sunset
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And isolationism is from 1919 versus isolation from 1833 .

26. BLUE NOTE

Although it was circulating in the jazz world earlier, Blue note entered the popular lexicon in 1919. It refers to a type of flattened musical note that often pops up in blues and jazz.

27. JAZZMAN

A saxophone player in front of a festival crowd seated on a lawn
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And on that (ahem) note ... jazzman, meaning jazz musician, also turns 100 this year.

28. CHARTIST

Speaking of professionals, chartist as a term for market analysts comes from 1919.

29. AIR MARSHAL

Window and wall of an airplane
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As does the job of air marshal, although it meant an officer in the Royal Air Force when it was coined.

30. air commodore

There's also this new-to-1919 rank, which is the equivalent of a Brigadier (one star) General.

31. AIRFIELD

Those words get all the sky-related glory, though. With the post-WWI rise of airplanes, we also got airfield.

32. Air traffic control

If you're gonna have an airfield, you're gonna need this.

33. Air frEIght

A young man and young woman build an airplane in a WWII-era factory
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And if you've got airplanes, you may as well have them haul some cargo.

34. SUPERPIMP

As you might guess, you'd use this word to describe a highly successful pimp in 1919.

35. SUPERAGENT

And if we're just adding super to a title, perhaps the most epic job title ever is superagent, which was a title given to the Golden Ghost, “super-agent of Anarchism” who is surprisingly not a comic book character.

36. SVENGALI

Illustration of a Svengali
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Someone who may have made a good superagent, Svengali is also on our list. Svengali was an evil hypnotist character in the 19th century novel Trilby, and by 1919, it had become a generic term.

37. XANADU

Xanadu became a word meaning “idyllic place” in 1919, but it first entered public consciousness thanks to poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1816.

38. TELEFILM

Some people may think that the movie Xanadu is more telefilm quality, which is a good burn but also a word you wouldn’t have used before 1919.

39. BELL CURVE

A bell curve on graph paper with an equation below
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Also that year, people finally had the good sense to put bell and curve together to get the above.

40. IMMUNE SYSTEM

Now let’s cover some words that are important in the medical field. We got this phrase almost 60 years after Louis Pasteur laid the groundwork for modern germ theory. Thankfully, we've got something to fight them.

41. BLOOD TYPING

There's also blood typing, though blood types have possibly been around since earlier than 20 million years ago. Also according to one survey, nearly 50 percent of people don’t know their own blood type.

42. DIAPER RASH

Baby in a diaper against a blue-green background
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After having been an advertising term for a few years, diaper rash entered the lexicon, and became another issue we needed a word for, in 1919.

43. SWINE INFLUENZA

Staying with medicine: swine influenza dates from 1919, possibly as a result of the Spanish flu that was ravaging the globe at the time.

44. SPLIT PERSONALITY

A statue from the waist up of Roman god Janus
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Split personality is 100 years old, though it was first used to refer to patients with schizophrenia. The term used now to describe someone with multiple personalities is dissociative identity disorder.

45. MUSIC THERAPY

The technique has been used since the days of Aristotle, but it officially became a field during the 20th century, when music was used as therapy for hospitalized veterans of both World Wars.

46. MUSICALIZED

Illustration of an orchestra on stage
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Perhaps thanks to this increased focus on music, things began to be musicalized, which is when a novel or play is set to music.

47. COPACETIC

Copacetic was first found in print in 1919, and its etymology is unknown. There are similar phrases in a few languages, but no proof for any one being the originator of the word. We do know that vaudeville performer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson claimed to have invented it, and that it probably popped up around the 1880s in African-American slang in the south.

48. FEEDBACK

We got feedback in 1919, but only to reference a mechanical process. An example of a mechanism using feedback that existed around that time is an audio amplifier. It wasn’t until around the 1950s that it started to refer to a reaction someone gives.

49. OFFLINE

Train tracks in front of a forest at sunset
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The OED records other modern-seeming words that emerged in 1919—though with odd meanings. For example, offline, which referred to something that was away from a railroad line.

50. BROADBAND

There's also broadband, which referred to a broad band of frequencies.

51. MOONWALKING

A sleepwalker on a roof
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And, 50 years before Apollo 11, moonwalking meant a type of sleepwalking.

52. RUN-OF-THE-MILL

Some fun hyphenated adjectives emerged in 1919. Run-of-the-mill, originally meant the substance that came out of a mill before going through quality control, but it gained its modern meaning around 1919.

53. MIXED BAG

The modern meaning of mixed bag—“a diverse or heterogeneous assortment of people or things,” according to the OED—turns 100 this year. Before that, it was a hunting term for an assortment of game.

54. Preslice

Sliced bread
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Preslice was coined before the invention of sliced bread. It wasn’t until 1928 that Otto Rohwedder’s invention started preslicing bread.

55. Presoak

And if you’re going to preslice something, maybe you should also presoak it.

56. ANTIOXIDANT

Smoothie bowl with fresh berries, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables
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Antioxidant is 100, although oxidant, which came from a French word, has been around since the mid-19th century.

57. Putsch

Then we have putsch, which we got from the Swiss German language. According to Merriam-Webster, it’s a “secretly plotted and suddenly executed attempt to overthrow a government.”

58. BINOCS

There's no better way to watch out for attempted putsches than with binocs, a slang term for binoculars from 1919.

59. ELECTRON TUBE

Glowing electron tubes
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On the technological front, electron tube is 100. Versions of these devices—which basically control electron flow in electronics like radios and computers— had been around since the 17th century, but it wasn’t until 1904 that John Ambrose Fleming invented a working one.

60. CRITICAL MASS

We also got critical mass in 1919, which nowadays is used to describe something very science-y: how much fissionable stuff you need to keep a chain reaction going. But Merriam-Webster simply defines it as “a size, number, or amount large enough to produce a particular result.”

61. MELTDOWN

Nuclear power plant behind a field
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If you do reach critical mass, watch out for a meltdown, which originally was just used for anything that melted down, before referring to nuclear materials in the 1950s.

62. RADIOBIOLOGY

And on that radiation note, we got radiobiology in 1919—the type of biology that focuses on radiation and radioactive materials.

63. SPECIAL RELATIVITY

An artistic rendering of a black hole warping the stars around it
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A few more science related terms also come from 1919, like special relativity, even though the theory was formulated 14 years earlier.

64. DIODE

They used to be called rectifiers, but William Henry Eccles crafted the term diode to delineate from tetrodes when they were invented.

65. COVALENCE

You can bond with your friends over this 100-year-old word during your science trivia night.

66. DIOXIN

The rise of 20th century industrialization also gave us a need to name these harmful environmental toxins.

67. WHITE ROOM

Two scientists in clean room suits look through microscopes
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A lot of science at the turn of the century was probably done in a white room, which is a 1919 term for what we now call a clean room.

68. MINIMETER

And things in the white room might have been measured with a minimeter, an instrument that could get accurate readings down to one millionth of an inch.

69. ELECTRODESSICATION

And one more science term: electrodessication, which the OED defines as "destruction of abnormal tissue or sealing of blood vessels using a monopolar high frequency electrical current.

70. ENCODE

Woman entering code onto a laptop computer
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Encode has a few meanings nowadays, but in 1919, it meant “convert ... from one system of communication into another.”

71. CODE NAME

Code name is a word that was used before 1919 to describe a moniker given to a ship or company so you wouldn’t have to write out the full name in Morse Code. But a 1919 newspaper says infantry commanders would use codenames to avoid giving their position away to the enemy, which appears to be when it started getting its modern usage. They're also pretty handy for superagents.

72. BULL SESSION

A longhorn bull standing in a field beneath a cloudy sky
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Bull session, meaning “an informal discursive group discussion,” is officially 100, which should give you something to chat about at your next bull session.

73. REMILITARIZE

Just like it sounds, this word means to resupply a formerly demilitarized nation or organization.

74. POKEY

Pokey officially became slang for jail in 1919.

75. RITZY

A pair of stylish couples sit at a table and chatx
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On the other end of the spectrum, ritzy also became slang for stylish that year.

76. POSH UP

And hopefully this list can posh up your vocabulary a bit.

77. PAXMAS

And if you want to make your last minute Christmas gift card sound ritzy, maybe call it a paxmas, which is a word coined in 1919 meaning “a telegraphed money order written and sent at any time but delivered on Christmas morning.”

78. BEAVERTAIL

Beavertail cactus with pink blooms in front of a field of yellow flowers
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Beavertail got its name in 1919. It ’ s a type of cactus found in the southwestern US and northern Mexico. So ... not animal-related.

79. BATS

Another animal-but-not-animal phrase, the word bats joins our list, though only to mean batty. The cute animal had already gotten its name by 1600.

80. HORSE AROUND

A laughing horse
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Another animal term we humans have made about ourselves: horse around. We don’t know exactly who came up with the phrase, but experts say it’s probably a spinoff from horseplay, a word from 1589.

81. DEFANG

While we're at it, defang started being used in a figurative way.

82. DELOUSE

And delouse started being used in a literal way.

83. DEMOBBED

Artist rendering of Scottish WWI troops fighting in a trench
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Delouse became a word thanks to WWI solders going through a delousing process after they demobbed, short for demobilized.

84. PRERETURN

And they demobbed and deloused while completing prereturn, or what was required before returning to daily life.

85. SKIVVIES

This one also may have a military connection: One story goes that the slang term for underwear came from the U.S. Navy.

86. OVERBREATHING

Stressed out man breathing into a paper bag
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We got overbreathing in 1919, but you probably just refer to it as hyperventilating.

87. NON EXPLOITIVE

And non exploitive, just 61 years younger than its friend exploitive.

88. INTERROGEE

To be fair to interrogees, there’s currently debate in the legal and grammar worlds about whether they should be called interrogees or interrogatees.

89. OVERREACT

A man looking shocked with his hands against his face and mouth wide open
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But that's nothing to be too alarmed about.

90. BELTLINE

Beltline is 100. It means the “line of an automobile body along the side of the vehicle just below the windows.”

91. SElf-validation

Self-validation comes from validate, which has been around since the mid-17th century. Go ahead and do it to yourself.

92. OUTGAS

But don't try this on yourself. Outgas might not mean what you initially thought. It’s just used to refer to taking gases out of an area, typically with heat.

93. Blimp

A blimp flying over snow-covered mountains
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While not technically coined in 1919, a lot of very familiar words were added to the dictionary that year, like blimp.

94. CONVERtible

Convertible falls under the same category as blimp.

95. HOOVERIZE

As does Hooverize, which meant to be economical with regard to food. It was named after then head of the US Food Administration Herbert Hoover, who suggested economizing on food for the war effort.

96. AIR TAXI

Yellow taxi hovering above the ground
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You may need one to make quick trips between your private islands.

97. AIRFOIL

Remember hydrofoil? This is basically the same thing but for air. You can thank an airfoil every time your air taxi takes off.

98. ANTI-ALLERGY

Another thing to cheer, especially in the spring, summer, fall, and winter.

99. Anti-stress

A black and tan Dachshund with cucumber slices on its eyes
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It turns out the people of 1919 were as focused at battling stress as we are.

100. Activated charcoal

Last but not least... activated charcoal, which came to public attention thanks to its use in World War I gas masks and is now found in every hipster cafe in America!

30 Words and Phrases From Victorian Theatrical Slang

An 1884 illustration of spectators in the theater
An 1884 illustration of spectators in the theater
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In 1909, the English writer James Redding Ware published a dictionary of 19th-century slang and colloquial language called Passing English of the Victorian Era. Relatively little is known about Ware’s life—not helped by the fact that much of his work was published under the pseudonym Andrew Forrester—but among the other works attributed to him are around a dozen stage plays, many of which were first performed in the theaters of London in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

It was this firsthand experience that undoubtedly helped Ware to flesh out his dictionary with a host of slang words and expressions used by Victorian actors, actresses, theatrical producers, and backstage workers. From nicknames for incoherent actors to mooching companions and noisy babies, although many of the entries in Ware’s Passing English have sadly long since dropped out of use, they’re no less useful or applicable today.

1. Agony Piler

An actor who always seems to perform in weighty or sensationalist parts.

2. Back-Row Hopper

An audience member who visits bars frequented by actors and flatters them into buying him a drink.

3. Blue Fire

“Blue fire” was originally the name of a special effect used in Victorian theaters in which a mixture containing sulfur would be ignited to create an eerie blue glow on stage. The effect astonished audiences at the time, who had never seen anything like it before, hence "blue fire" came to be used to describe anything equally amazing or sensational, or that astounded an audience.

4. Bum-Boozer

A heavy drinker.

5. Burst

The sudden swell of people out onto a street when a play ended.

6. Button-Buster

A terrible comedian.

7. Celestials

Also known as “roof-scrapers,” the celestials were the audience members in the “gods” or the gallery, the highest tier of seats in the theater.

8. Charles His Friend

A nickname for any uninspiring part in a play whose only purpose is to give the main protagonist someone to talk to. The term apparently derives from a genuine list of the characters in a now long-forgotten drama, in which the lead’s companion was listed simply as “Charles: his friend.”

9. Deadheads

Audience members who haven’t paid to get in (as opposed to those who have, who were the livestock). Consequently, a nickname for journalists and first-night critics.

10. Decencies

A term referring to an actor’s strategically padded costume, defined by Ware as “pads used by actors, as distinct from actresses, to ameliorate outline.”

11. FLABBERDEGAZ

A fluffed line, a stumbled word, or a mistimed joke. Also called a Major Macfluffer.

12. The Ghost Walks

A reference to the famous opening scene of Hamlet, saying that “the ghost walks” (or, more often than not, that “the ghost doesn’t walk”) meant that there was (or that there wasn’t) enough money to be paid that week.

13. Gin And Fog

Hoarseness caused by heavy drinking the night before.

14. Greedy Scene

A scene in a play in which the lead actor has the stage all to him or herself.

15. Joey

To mug to the audience, or to lark about to attract someone’s attention.

16. Logie

A fake gemstone, or fake jewelry in general. Supposedly named after David Logie, an inventor who manufactured fake jewels out of zinc.

17. Matinée Dog

A nickname for the audience of a matinee performance. To "try it on the matinee dog" meant to test a new act or a new reading of a scene during a daytime performance, as the afternoon audiences were considered less discerning than the more seasoned and more demanding evening audiences.

18. Mumble-Mumper

An old, inarticulate performer whose lines cannot be easily heard or interpreted by the audience.

19. On The Pross

If you’re on the pross then you’re looking for someone to buy you a drink or a meal—pross is a shortening of “prosperous,” in the sense of searching for someone wealthy enough to buy you dinner.

20. Palatic

Very, very drunk. Probably derived from a deliberate mispronunciation of “paralytic."

21. To Play to The Gas

To make just enough money to get by—literally just enough to pay your gas bill.

22. Scorpions

An actor’s nickname for babies, whose constant noise could ruin a performance.

23. Star-Queller

An inferior actor whose terrible performance ruins the excellent performances given by everyone else.

24. Swan-Slinger

The playwright Ben Jonson famously called Shakespeare “The sweet swan of Avon” in a memorial poem published in 1623. A swan-slinger, consequently, is a Shakespearean actor.

25. To Take a Dagger And Drown Yourself

To say one thing but then do another. To stab yourself and pass the bottle, meanwhile, meant to take a swig of a drink and then pass the bottle onto the next person.

26. Thinking Part

A role in which an actor is required to say little or nothing at all. Likewise, a feeder was any role in which an actor was only required to “feed” lines to the more important character.

27. Toga-Play

Also called BC-plays, toga-plays were either classical period dramas, like Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, or plays by classical-era playwrights.

28. Twelve-Pound Actor

A child born into an acting family.

29. Village Blacksmith

“The Village Blacksmith” is the title of a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the third verse of which begins, “Week in, week out, from morn till night, / You can hear his bellows blow.” It was the “week in, week out” line that inspired this expression referring to a performer or worker who isn’t a complete failure, but whose contracts rarely last longer than a single week.

30. Whooperup

A terrible singer.

[This list first ran in 2015 and was republished in 2019]

What's the Difference Between a College and a University?

Chinnapong/iStock via Getty Images
Chinnapong/iStock via Getty Images

Going off to college is a milestone in any young adult’s life. The phrase itself conjures up images of newfound independence, exposure to new perspectives, knowledge, and possibly even one or more sips of alcohol.

In America, however, few people use the phrase “going off to university,” or “headed to university,” even if they are indeed about to set off for, say, Harvard University. Why did college become the predominant term for postsecondary education? And is there any difference between the two institutions?

While university appears to be the older of the two terms, dating as far back as the 13th century, schools and students in North America have embraced college to describe most places of higher learning. There is no rigid definition of the words, but there are some general attributes for each. A college is typically a four-year school that offers undergraduate degrees like an associate or a bachelor’s. (Community colleges are often two-year schools.) They don’t typically offer master’s or doctorates, and the size of their student body is typically the smaller of the two.

Universities, on the other hand, tend to offer both undergraduate and graduate programs leading to advanced degrees for a larger group of students. They can also be comprised of several schools—referred to as colleges—under their umbrella. A university could offer both a school of arts and sciences and a school of business. The University of Michigan has a College of Engineering, for example.

While many of these traits are common, they’re not guaranteed. Some colleges can be bigger than universities, some might offer master’s degrees, and so on. To complicate matters further, an institution that fits the criteria of a university might choose to call itself a college. Both Dartmouth College and Boston College qualify as universities but use the college label owing to tradition. Schools may begin as colleges, grow into universities, but retain the original name.

People tend to think of a university as being more prestigious or harder to get into, but there are too many variables to make that determination at a glance. Some colleges might ask more of applicants than universities. Some universities might be smaller than certain colleges. Either one can be public or private.

Things get a little more convoluted abroad. In the UK, students go off to university (or uni) instead of college. The British version of college is typically a two-year program where students either focus on learning one particular skill set (much like a vocational school) or use the time to prepare for exams so that they can advance to university. Language matters, too; in Spanish, colegio usually refers to high school.

While the terms aren’t strictly interchangeable, there is enough of a difference between the two to try and make the distinction. Keep in mind that some states, like New Jersey, have rules about how institutions label themselves. There, a university has to have at least three fields of graduate study leading to advanced degrees.

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