Councilor Vs. Counselor: What’s The Difference?

Homophones can be very confusing when writing in English, and councilor vs. counselor is one of the trickiest pairs. Here’s how you can differentiate them.

Certain words are misused when writing in English because of similar pronunciation. Councilor vs. counselor is one such pair of words that often trips up English writers. 

While both councilor and counselor are rooted in the same Latin word, the two terms developed separately through time and now mean distinct things. So using them incorrectly in a sentence will make it hard for your readers to understand your writing.

Use councilor when referring to someone who is a member of a council. On the other hand, use the word counselor when referring to a person trained to give guidance on different matters.

This guide will discuss the difference between the two words and different spellings based on regional variants.

While you’re here, check out our article on common English spelling mistakes to strengthen your writing. Now, let’s dive in.

Councilor Vs. Counselor: Which One Is Right?

Both councilor and counselor are pronounced /ˈkaʊn.səl.ɚ/. However, they’re spelled differently and have different meanings, which makes them homophones. 

Using councilor and counselor correctly will help your writing become clearer and more comprehensive. The first step towards that is understanding what these words mean. Let’s look at the meanings and etymology of each word individually.

What Does Councilor Mean?

A councilor is an elected representative representing the division and people, like in a local or city council

The word councilor is a noun that refers to a member of a council, or one who serves as part of a professional organization, typically a governing body. It’s a gender-free noun, meaning it replaces both councilman and councilwoman.

A councilor is an elected representative representing the division and people, like in a local or city council. Some of the duties and responsibilities of this role include:

  • Providing leadership and guidance to the community
  • Initiate and review policies 
  • Govern local government finances
  • Manage local assets

The English word councilor is derived from the Latin word conciliarius, which is a second-person singular present passive indicative of the noun concilium. Now, the word concilium combines the prefix con- the word‎ calō, followed by the suffix‎ -ium, which stands for:

  • Con- – from the preposition cum, indicating completeness
  • Calō –  from Proto-Italic kalō, meaning “to call, shout”
  • -ium – from -ius, which acts as a nominal suffix 

Together, they create a word representing an assembly, such as the Plebeian Council in Ancient Rome. However, it’s worth noting that the word conciliarius was also used to derive counselor, which is why the two nouns are commonly mistaken.

Regional Variants Of Councilor

If you encountered the word councillor, you might have wondered whether that’s a different word. However, councilor and councillor are just different variants of the word – the former being standard American English and the latter being British English. 

How Do You Use Councilor In A Sentence

Here are some examples of the word councilor used correctly in a sentence:

  • Many councilors have full-time jobs while also being members of the Council.
  • The primary role of a councilor is to represent their community and the people who live in it.
  • The elections for local councilors are tomorrow, but I’m not voting.
  • He began his career as a councilor in his local community, and now he’s running for Senate.

What Does Counselor Mean?

The word counselor can also be used when referring to a professional who listens to a person’s problems, advises, and encourages them

The word counselor is a noun that means “a person who gives advice.” A counselor is a professional who helps people gain insights, develop strategies, and find real solutions to their problems and challenges in certain aspects of their lives. 

As we already established, the word counselor is also rooted in the Latin word conciliarius, the same word as councilor. In Roman times, the people in the council gave advice, so there was no need to have two words for practically the same function.

Today, however, we need both words, as they have different meanings in different contexts.

Types Of Counselors And Their Roles

According to the Collins English Dictionary, the word counselor can refer to several distinctive positions.

First, a counselor can be a person in charge of giving legal advice and dealing with issues in legal matters. The term counselor-at-law is sometimes used when referring to those who conduct cases in court.

The word counselor can also be used when referring to a professional who listens to a person’s problems, advises, and encourages them. However, it’s worth noting that this role is not synonymous with a therapist or a psychologist.

While a therapist can help with overcoming an emotional, behavioral, or social concern, a psychologist mostly deals with chronic mental health conditions. A counselor, on the other hand, is a professional to turn to for short-term intervention. In other words, a counselor can help you overcome a specific, immediate concern, such as career choice, addiction, family therapy, or abuse.

The word counselor is also often used when referring to a diplomatic rank. In that context, a counselor is an official of an embassy or legation, ranked below an ambassador or minister. This professional performs advisory functions for those ranked above and diplomatic functions in their section or specialty.

Then, there’s also a school counselor, a certified professional who provides academic, career, and social/emotional development opportunities for students.

Last but not least, the term counselor is sometimes used when referring to an assistant at a children’s summer camp. This is usually either a high school or a college student, who supervises the children, acts as a mentor, and communicates with parents, among other things.

Regional Variants Of Counselor

If you’re writing in American English, then counselor is the correct spelling. On the other hand, counsellor – with double L –  is predominantly used in British English.

However, there are exceptions to the rule. As you know, many countries use English as an official language. But some of the countries where the English language is based on a standard of British English prefer the American spelling of counselor. That’s the case with India, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago.

How Do You Use Counselor In A Sentence

Here are some example sentences to show how you can use the word counselor in your writing:

  • After passing the bar, John can finally start his career as a counselor-at-law.
  • Talking to a marriage counselor may help you solve the issues and mend the relationship with your partner.
  • The diplomacy counselor is responsible for developing policies and supervising the embassy section’s staff.
  • This weekend camp visit is a great opportunity for Tomas to acquire the supervisory skills necessary for becoming a future camp counselor.


  • Viktoria is a journalist and content writer with years of experience writing magazine and newspaper articles, web copy, and blog posts. When not immersed in words, Viktoria enjoys the tranquility of the outdoors, where she finds inspiration and rejuvenation in hiking and camping.