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Material vs. Materiel

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  Angbeen Chaudhary  —  Grammar Tips
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English, like any written language, has countless words that changing even one letter will spell an entirely different word. No writer is immune from these mistakes, and their presence has the potential to alter the meaning of your sentence to something other than what you intend. Material and materiel, both of which have related meanings and similar spellings, are two words that cannot be freely interchanged. While most readers will interpret your error as a simple misspelling and move on—after silently judging you—there are contexts where using material in place of materiel could have serious consequences.


The word material originated from late Middle English (in the sense ‘relating to matter’): from late Latin materialis, adjective from Latin materia ‘matter’. The word materiel originated from early 19th century: from French materiel which is used as a noun.

Material as noun:

Material is used as a noun in English language where it means the matter from which a thing is or can be made.

Goats can eat more or less any plant material.

Information or ideas for use in creating a book or other work is also known as material.

His colonial experiences gave him material.

Material also refers to a cloth or a fabric as a noun.

She bought a piece of dark material.

Material as adjective:

Material is used as an adjective too which means denoting or consisting of physical objects rather than the mind or spirit.

He has no interest in this material world.

Material vs. Materiel

Something that is significant or important is also termed as material.

The insects did not do any material damage to the crop.

Materiel as noun:

Materiel is also used as a noun in English language where it means military materials and equipment.

The shipping of materiel south into the battle zone is very dangerous at the moment.


He said the administration should provide any provisional government with equipment and materiel. [Wall Street Journal]

Perhaps the first sign of real Iranian involvement will come when protesters look across the Gulf for materiel to fight off the government and foreign forces. [Guardian]

In Benghazi’s southern neighbourhoods and outskirts, destroyed buildings and captured Gaddafi military materiel could be seen all around. [ABC News]

Material or materiel:

Material and materiel are nouns that refer to resources. Material refers to goods and substances used to make something, or something’s constituent substances. Materiel refers to military equipment. Remember that personnel and materiel, two words that refer to, respectively, human and inanimate resources used by the military, both end in -el. This shared spelling is a useful memory tool that can help you remember this word’s usage case. Raw goods used for military construction projects could be a case where materials are used to make materiel.

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