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Yesterday, I went to my friend's art exhibition and heard people using the word exhibit instead of exhibition. I told him

I like your exhibition

with which I meant that I loved his show and pieces, but later when I heard native speakers using

I love your exhibit, it is amazing

that makes me wonder which is the correct word to use here.

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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Hmm, were those people you spoke to Americans?

In American English, Exhibit = Exhibition and they both mean the show of painting, photograph, or other artwork.

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There were native american english speakers. –  Tarik Sep 2 '11 at 16:01
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One obvious difference is that exhibit can also be used as a verb, but exhibition can't.

Although there are contexts where the two words are synonymous as nouns, I think most people would accept "exhibits shown at an exhibition", but not "exhibitions shown at an exhibit".

In short, an exhibit is far more likely to mean a single item being displayed, whereas an exhibition is more likely to be an event where many different things are displayed.

Having said that, this distinction is something of a Briticism. Americans don't use exhibition so often anyway, so for them exhibit tends to have both noun meanings, as well as being a verb.

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It seems so they looked at me weirdly when I used "Exhibition" and I found this very weird. –  Tarik Sep 2 '11 at 17:17
    
@Braveyard: US Usage probably varies by region/social grouping, but I don't think any of them would say, for example, "Don't make an exhibit of yourself –  FumbleFingers Sep 2 '11 at 17:32
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The FreeOnline Dictionary does give the following definition of exhibit

exhibit

n. 1. The act or an instance of exhibiting.

  1. Something exhibited: studied the dinosaur exhibits at the museum.

  2. A public showing; an exhibition: spent the afternoon at the space exhibit.

  3. Law Something, such as a document, formally introduced as evidence in court.

Judging from the third definition, exhibit and exhibition are synonyms (apart from some quite specific meanings)

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