stationary vs stationery

What is the difference?

stationary
definition: not moving or not intended to be moved
Examples:
  1. a car collided with a stationary vehicle
Synonyms:
motionless, parked, halted, stopped, immobilized, immobile, unmoving, still, static, stock-still, at a standstill, at rest, not moving
stationery
definition: writing and other office materials
Examples:
  1. a range of stationery
  2. a stationery supplier
Synonyms:
No synonyms available

stationary vs stationery

The words stationary and stationery sound the same, but they mean very different things. That's because they're homophones! There's only one letter difference between them, an “e” and an “a.”

Homophones can be confusing, but don't worry! We'll explain the key points and give you some examples below.

1. stationary

adjective

Stationary with an "a" is an adjective, and it describes something that doesn't move or change.

  • Fixed
  • Immobile,
  • Unchanging

For example, things in stationary positions stand still. If a car is stationary, it stays in one place.

A car that is not moving

Origin of stationary

The word stationary derives from the Latin word; "stationarius," which refers to someone at a post or station, like a soldier. This, in turn, comes from the Latin verb “to stare,” which means “to stand.” If something is standing still, it’s not moving. From there, we get stationary or immobile.

Examples for stationary

There are many stationary bikes in the gym I go to, but no one ever uses them.

The train is stationary right now, but it could start to move at any moment.

People used to think the Earth was stationary, but now we know that it revolves around the sun.

2. stationery

noun

Stationery with an “e” is a type of collective noun that refers to many different items bunched together.

  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • Envelopes
An open notebook

Origin of stationery

Stationery shares a Latin root with stationary, but this word for writing materials comes from the 17-18th century. People who sold books and paper were called “stationers,” Their products eventually became known as stationary.

Examples for stationery

My mother bought me some beautiful stationery for my birthday, so now I can write letters to all of my friends.

She needs to go to the stationery shop because she just ran out of envelopes.

Could you buy some more stationery? We're running out of paper and other office materials.

Takeaways - Tips

These homophones might seem tricky, but there are a few ways to remember the critical differences between stationary and stationery.

Stationary

For stationary, you can think about the Latin root “stare” or its meaning of “to stand.” Both have “a's” in them, just like stationary.

Stationery

For stationery, you can remember the “stationers” who sold the paper products since that's spelled with an “e.” Or you can think about the “e”s in pens and pencils.

Remember

Just keep practicing, and you'll be able to use these words perfectly! 👌 And be sure to check out the other grammar pages on our site. There are lots of valuable resources to help you feel more confident about your English skills!

FAQs

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Commonly Confusing Words

Spell checkers don't always have you covered. Sometimes your word might be spelled correctly, but it could be the wrong word. In English, there are lots of confusing terms that look alike but are spelled differently, and many terms that mean the same thing but are easily misused.

Here are the most commonly confusing word pairings, with definitions and examples of their usage.

Check it out!