Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Licence and License

english wordsLicence vs License

Most of us often get confused between the terms licence and license. There certainly are some major differences between the two words, right from the usage, convention, and form of expression. Sometimes we use them interchangeably, though it is not recommended.

The first and foremost difference between the words licence and license is the convention. Licence is a UK convention, while license is a US convention. In the UK, licence is used as a noun, and in the UK convention, license becomes the verb. In the US version, license is used to imply both the noun and verb forms.

The following are example sentences to differentiate between the noun and verb form in the UK usage.

This shop is licensed to sell diamonds. Here the word licensed is being used as a verb.

John showed me his driving licence. Here the word licence is used as a noun.

In the US usage, both the sentences will have the same word ‘“ license.

As the usage can vary, it might be a bit difficult to remember the correct form of word. So, an easy way to remember whether the word is a noun or verb, is by following the spelling. The alphabet C comes before S, and similarly, N comes before V. So the word licence is a noun, and license is a verb. For better understanding, C denotes noun, and S denotes verb.

Tim has a driver’s licence. This sentence means that Tim has a legally valid document which grants him permission to drive a vehicle.

License your shop. Here the term is used as a verb, and is indicating that the shop must be licensed, or the permission must be obtained.

In some contexts, the meaning of both words can differ drastically. License refers to the permission to do some activity. For example, if you have a medical pharmacist license, you can practice as a pharmacist. This license gives you the permission to be a pharmacist, and in this context it refers to the permission. A license can be granted by a licensor, and the person availing the license is the licensee. It is required for many professions and activities to obtain licenses from the concerned authorities.

In some contexts, licence refers to the document which discusses or grants permission to something. For example, a driving licence is a document which shows that a person is licenced to drive.

In some European universities, a licence is equivalent to an academic or master’s degree. In this case, the person holding this licence is known as a licentiate. In Poland, a licence is awarded before obtaining a master’s degree.


1. Licence is a UK convention, while license is a US convention.
2. The term licence is often used as a noun, while license is a verb.
3. Sometimes, license refers to the permission to perform an activity, such as run a shop, practice a profession, or be a licensed seller; and licence refers to a legally valid document which grants permission for something.

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  1. Summary Item 1 should state that licence is UK convention for the noun, that license is UK convention for the verb and US convention for both noun and verb.

  2. I would like to diffrence between Act and Rule.

  3. Same applies to practice and practise.

  4. Dear Manisha,

    Excellent explanation. Keep it up!

    Thank you.


  5. I have lived in both the UK and the US. In the UK, a permission to drive a motor vehicle is termed a “Driving Licence”. In the US, I have found only “Driver’s License”. To say either expression in the wrong country identifies the speaker as a non-native.

  6. On rereading your article, I realise that what I meant point out was that in neither country would it be correct for Tim to say that he has a “driver’s licence”!

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