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Is there a difference between subsidy and subvention? If yes, what is it? When should I use either?

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My advice is to use subsidy every time, the same as nearly everyone else does...

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It's worth pointing out that the original sense of subvention was...

(OED) 1. An extraordinary tax levied by the state; the payment of this tax. Freq. in France, or in French contexts. Now hist.

...not that many people would be confused by that, since they probably wouldn't be familiar with the later meaning either.

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The word subsidy translates into the French subvention. – The Frog Mar 18 '13 at 1:15
@The Frog: I'm not going to trace the etymology back through its obviously French route into English, but my guess would be the original meaning in French was also the tax itself, rather than the subsequent redistribution thereof which led to the current sense. – FumbleFingers Mar 19 '13 at 1:54

Looking at Dictionary.com, subsidy and subvention are explicitly listed as synonyms for each other; their definitions appear to be pretty similar, too. So for practical purposes, there's not much difference between them.

From personal experience, I would say that subsidy is more commonly used.

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While the definitions of "subsidy" and "subvention" are equivalent, the less common familiarity with "subvention" allows for usage of that word with less of a "discounted" connotation. "Subvention" can be utilized in a more technically obfuscating manner ...

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Subsidy is the "English" word. Subvention is a word used in Latin languages such as French and Spanish, that has "crossed over" into (uncommon) English usage.

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