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The difference between STATIONERY and STATIONARY

The difference between STATIONERY and STATIONARY

What's the top search term with 0 results in our store?


Search for "stationery" though and you'll get about 280 results.

It's not obvious, but there's just a one letter difference separating these two outcomes. What's up with that?

Well, reference any dictionary and you'll see... 

Stationary is an adjective. Stationery is a noun. 

The adjective stationary means 'not moving or not intended to be moved' and describes something that doesn't move or isn't currently moving.  

The only kind of driverless car I want to be in is a stationary one!

The noun stationery is what we specialize in: ‘writing and other office materials.’ 

I just KonMari'd my stationery collection and I still have 10 blank notebooks I didn't want to part with.

Yet if we dig deeper, we find that both words seemingly evolved out of one another, originating from the early 14th century Latin stationarius. Back in Europe's medieval times, peddlers usually traveled around, and anyone selling out of a fixed spot (stationary) was apparently a book seller (stationer) licensed by a nearby institution to be there. 

So the two words are interrelated after all! Do they sound any different when you pronounce them? No. Do we see people mix them up? All the time. Like we'd be rich by now if we had a dollar for every time.

But does it matter if you mix them up? That's up to you. While we find grammar snobbery a bit overbearing, we do think it's worth recognizing, since stationary is an adjective and stationery is a noun. Many commonly mixed-up and misused words (e.g. "alright" vs "all right") are more about issues with official spelling than parts of speech. When it comes to stationary/stationery, we think knowing the difference demonstrates someone who is able to discern details that others may overlook. But hey, we specialize in the stuff.

Isn't the English language... great?


If you're stationary right now, would you like to shop our – stationery?

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  • Alexi Firth

    A little trick is to remember they papER is stationERy and stationAry os to stAnd still it works

  • Secret Envelope

    A little trick is to remember that papER is stationERy and stationAry is to stAnd still. It works!

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