Council and Counsel

Writers occasionally confuse the words council and counsel.

Council

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).

Examples:
  • 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."

Counsel

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.

Examples:
  • 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.)

A Quick Test

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)