Using Council vs Counsel

Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
Council and counsel are similar sounding words that have different meanings. Used incorrectly, they can cause confusion. In this lesson, you will learn the meanings of both words and their proper usage.

Harvard University

Most people have heard of Harvard University, but did you know that everyone who attends, works for or is associated with the university agrees to an Honor Code? This code, administered by the Harvard Honor Council--a group of students, faculty and administrators-- sets high standards for conduct. Most importantly, rather than punish, the code represents counsel on how to deal with problems and learn from issues.

Council can function as a noun or an adjective. Counsel can be a noun or a verb. It has the same meaning as advice. Council and counsel are pronounced exactly the same way.


Council means a group of people who meet to decide things or to give advice.

Council As A Noun

When council is functioning as a noun, it means a group that meets.

  • My sister has been elected president of the student council. (the group that meets and give advice on student government)
  • Our city has grown so big that it now has its own elected council. (a group that decides matters about the city)
  • Democratic countries usually do not have secret councils. Decisions and discussions are open to public viewing. (a group that decides things)

Council As An Adjective

Council as an adjective is used to describe things related to the council.

  • We were given a tour of the council chamber. (the room where the council meets)
  • He is the official council secretary. (a person who records the decision of the group)
  • She is a city council member. (she sits on the government body)

Baltimore, Maryland City Council


Counsel is a tricky word. Counsel can mean a person who gives advice, the actual advice that is given, or the act of giving the advice.

Counsel comes in all shapes and sizes.

Counsel As A Noun

When counsel is a noun, it can mean an attorney or lawyer, or advice.

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