Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Jail and Gaol

Jail vs Gaol

Up to this day, it is evident that there is a clear overlapping of terms involving jail and gaol. But, as a matter of fact, these two terms may actually pertain to one same thing. Or is it not?

Jail is the most convenient and most commonly used term that pertains to a place where individuals are confined and, unlike hospitals, deprived of certain personal conveniences and freedoms. In the U.S., jails are the same as prisons. However, the classification system of American correctional facilities has placed the term jail, as well as prison, as minor subtypes of a correctional facility. The prisons are the ones that house the criminal felons who are already convicted of their crimes for long stretched sentences. Jails are similar to prisons but can also house those who await their trial and the convicted persons of acts of misdemeanor. Unlike prisons, jails are places where the said individuals serve for a shorter period of time, usually less than a year.

Gaol is practically the same as a jail. It is just a term that is far more recognized or used in Australia and the U.K.

Jail comes from the Latin word gaviola meaning ‘cage.’ The confusion between the terms jail and gaol may have been rooted in their pronunciation. It was only until 17th century wherein the term gaol was pronounced using a ‘hard g-sound,’ most especially by the Anglo-Norman French denomination. Later on, the term gaol was pronounced, in Old French style, in the same way as how one pronounces jail. Next, the Americans seemed to have simplified the spelling into ‘jail;’ thus making it the more universally acceptable term for a prison.

Nowadays, jail (gaol) is being run by observing the criminal system of individual nations. Under such systems, certain establishments for physical confinements have been designated their own purpose and classification. All of which have their own set of security levels. In the U.S., for example, they classify jails as high, low, and medium among many others. In the U.K., they classify it as category A, B, C, and D.

All in all, the two terms have the same meanings but still differ in the following aspects:

1. Jail is the term used to refer to prisons in American soil and many other jurisdictions around the world while gaol is the term used mostly by British and Aussie (Australian) jurisdictions.

2. Jail is the internationally preferred spelling that pertains to a place where someone receives incarceration. Compared to gaol, jail is the term that’s more commonly used to describe a prison.


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