Most of us know what material is (i.e., it's what things are made of), but many of us are unsure what materiel is.


The word materiel means the equipment and supplies in military or commercial supply-chain management. So, a forklift truck (which is equipment used in the supply chain) and a can of petrol (which is one of the supplies) would both be classified as materiel. In other words, materiel is the things a military force or a business needs to do its job.

  • I need more men and materiel if I am to defeat the enemy. 
  • The Minister for Defence and the Minister for Defence Materiel announced that the Government will buy a fleet of new vehicles.
  • The fire in our distribution centre has damaged so much materiel, we will be unable to trade for at least six months.


Material means matter, fabric, substance, or cloth. It is the matter from which a thing is made. As an adjective, material denotes that something is physical. (You might have material needs as opposed to physical needs or emotional needs, e.g., "I have material needs. I need a car not a hug."

  • Her tablecloths were made of fine material such as silk or linen. 
  • (as a noun)
  • We are living in a material world, and I am a material girl. (Madonna)
  • (as an adjective)
  • Television is now so desperately hungry for material that they're scraping the top of the barrel. (Gore Vidal)
  • (as a noun)
  • The quality of American life must keep pace with the quantity of American goods. This country cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually
    poor. (John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963)
  • (as an adverb meaning rich by physically owning lots of things)

Let the last e in materiel remind you that it means equipment.