‘Council’ or ‘Counsel’?

You can remember how to spell "counsel," the verb, think of the S-E-L on the end as meaning "sell," another verb.

Mignon Fogarty
2-minute read

A picture of a council, not a counsel.

Both “council" and “counsel” ultimately go back to the same Latin word, “consilium,” and Online Etymology Dictionary says people have been confusing these two words ever since the 16th century.

“Council” is a noun that describes a group of decision makers.

The council took months to reach a decision about who should be held accountable for the confetti incident.

“Counsel” is a verb that means "to give advice,” and it’s also a noun describing the advice received as a result of counseling. For example, a lawyer gives legal counsel, or legal advice. Here’s an example of counsel as a verb: 

Squiggly hoped the nutritionist wouldn’t counsel him to give up chocolate.

Here’s a Quick and Dirty Tip: When you’re trying to decide how to spell the verb, think of the “sel” on the end of “counsel” as similar to “sell”—another verb, an action. Salespeople may try to counsel you so they can sell you a certain product. 

More Examples of 'Council' and 'Counsel'

Eric Northman: There are times when I seek your counsel, Pam. Now is not one of those times. — "True Blood”


Robert Langdon: You will counsel him wisely. 

Cardinal Strauss: I am an old man. I will counsel him briefly. 

—"Angels & Demons”


Kel: You just took a council axe from a council van, and now you're tearing up a council road! I'm reporting you to the council! — “Doctor Who”


Brooke Davis: I stopped letting boys define me, and I started believing in myself and in my potential, and I ran for student council president, and I designed a clothing line, and somewhere along the way the lost little party girl became the girl on the wall of honor. — “One Tree Hill” 


  1. We’re holding a [counsel/council] meeting Thursday.
  2. Do you think George will [counsel/council] Margo to apply to Stanford?
  3. I have an appointment with the school [counselor/councilor].
  4. If I know Bob, he’ll seek legal [counsel/council] before responding.
  5. I’ll have to consult with the [counsel/council] before I make a decision.

Answers on the next page.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show.

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