Which Word Wednesday: Podium vs. Lectern

By September 8, 2010 language No Comments

If you’ve ever given a speech—for work, class, church, etc.—then you’ve likely encountered the words selected for today’s Which Word Wednesday post.

So here’s my question for you: When giving a speech, do you stand behind the podium or the lectern?

These words are often used interchangeably, but careful speakers will follow the definitions. Let’s look at the Oxford American Dictionary:

Podium :: noun
a small platform on which a person may stand to be seen by an audience, as when making a speech or conducting an orchestra.

Lectern :: noun
a tall stand with a sloping top to hold a book or notes, and from which someone, typically a preacher or lecturer, can read while standing up.

These nouns describe elements of a stage area used for addressing an audience. One refers to what the speaker stands upon (the podium); the other refers to what the speaker stand behind (the lectern).

[polldaddy poll=3734383]

I often use podium when I mean lectern—for some reason, podium is a word that sits higher on my word stack than lectern.

To remember the difference between the two, I have associated lectern with lecture, and because lecture reminds me of my university teaching days behind the lectern (I did not teach on a podium), it makes sense in my brain. The test is whether my brain will make sense of that when I need to quickly access the word!

My verdict in this WWW? Podium and lectern describe two different aspects of a stage area where speakers stand. These words are associated, but not synonyms.

What’s your verdict? Take the poll and share your thoughts in the comments.

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