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Zoo vs. Zoology

One may think that the word ‘zoo’ is an easy, everyday and generally well-known word. Think again! Many native speakers of English may be surprised to know that the word zoo is actually an abbreviated form of the word ‘zoological’, as in, ‘We are visiting the zoological garden today.’ New day, new knowledge, that’s what we love about!

2:31 min read
  Charlotte B  —  Grammar Tips
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If you also feel confused by these two wordsquite similar in both spelling and significance – then this article is for you. Read the explanations and examples below to understand what ”zoo” means and what ”zoology” is, and how these two words are correctly applied in speech.

Zoo vs. Zoology

Both ”zoo” and ”zoology” are nouns, and both are related to the word ”zoological” as they refer to animals. This connection aside, the two nouns have different meanings entirely, and can never be used as synonyms.

Below you will find the specific definitions, explanations and examples to clearly understand each one.

When do we use “zoo”?

“Zoo” is the noun used as the short form for “zoological garden”. Hence, a “zoo” is a place – a professionally designed area – where wild animals are kept for people (visitors or tourists) to come and see.

Example: I’d love a trip to the zoo to see bears and giraffes - I’ve never been before! – “zoo” is the short noun for “zoological garden” and defines the place where wild animals are kept and where visitors can come to see them.

When do we use “zoology”?

Zoo vs. Zoology

Unlike “zoological garden” or “zoo” (which are synonyms), “zoology” is actually not a place, but a science. The common point being of course, that the words “zoo” and “zoology” both relate to animals.

So to define the word clearly, “zoology” describes the scientific study of animals and their behavior.

Example: I am sure you will go on to study zoology in university. – “zoology” refers to the scientific studies of animals and animals’ behavior.


The best way to remember that “zoo” is different from “zoology” is to keep in mind that “zoology” is not a zoological garden, but a science. The etymology of the word is a great key to remembering its meaning. Take a look at it, and you will see the suffix “-logy”, which comes from the Greek “logos”, which means “science”. Hence, most words ending in “-logy” are defining a scientific study of a certain subject (biology studies life – “bios” + ”logos” is the scientific study of life; geology studies the earth – “geo” + ”logos” is the scientific study of earth etc.) Furthermore, it’s interesting to note that “zoology” comes from “zoo” (the Greek “zoion” means “animal”) + “logy” (the Greek “logos” means “science” or “the study of”), and so it refers to the scientific study of animals.

Another great trick to remember which word refers to a scientific study, and which one is a synonym for “zoological garden” is to look at their lengths. Remember that “zoo”, the shortest word, is the shorter version of “zoological garden”. With other words, there exists a longer version for the short spelling “zoo”, whereas “zoology” is already a long word, so there isn’t an even longer one. The lengths, therefore, can be a great clue to remember how to distinguish their meanings. What trick do you use to remember the difference between “zoo vs. zoology”?

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