English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Possible Duplicate:
What is the correct usage of “while” and “whilst”?

In terms of construction of sentences, can the two words while and whilst be used interchangeably?

share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by Mr. Shiny and New 安宇, Matt E. Эллен, Kit Z. Fox, Mitch, Jasper Loy Apr 25 '12 at 21:02

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

For the first word, do you mean 'while' or 'whiles'? I have never seen 'whiles' before. If 'whiles' do you have a reference where you've seen this used? – Mitch Apr 25 '12 at 18:12
@Mitch - I'm wondering if he didn't mean "wiles" (which is of course a different word entirely). – T.E.D. Apr 25 '12 at 18:17
also among/amongst – JeffSahol Apr 25 '12 at 18:27
@Mitch Whiles is a word, e.g "He whiles away the day in English Language & Usage Chat" – Matt E. Эллен Apr 25 '12 at 19:08
This is no longer the same question. I say, roll back the edit. Esp. because the new version is a duplicate. – Kris Apr 26 '12 at 3:42
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Garner in Modern American Usage has a good entry on this. He says:

whilst, though correct BrE, is virtually obsolete in AmE and reeks of pretension in the work of American writer.
Like its sibiling while, it may be used for although or whereas. But again, this isn't good usage in AmE.

As NOAD say whiles is archaic form of while.

So, whiles and whilst might be interchangeable, but with the above warnings.

share|improve this answer

The entry at World Wide Words says that while and whilst are forms of the same word. He notes:

Both while and whilst are ancient, though while is older. There’s no difference in meaning between them. For reasons that aren’t clear, whilst has survived in British English but has died out in the US. However, in Britain it is considered to be a more formal and literary word than its counterpart.

How did it come to be this way? Like amid and amidst, he adds:

In both cases, the form ending in -st actually contains the -s of the genitive ending (which we still have today, though usually written as ’s, of course). In Middle English, this was often added to words used as adverbs (as while became whiles, which often turned up in the compound adverbs somewhiles and otherwhiles). What seems to have happened is that a -t was later added in the south of England through confusion with the superlative ending -st (as in gentlest).

So you can use them interchangeably, but note that whilst reads as more formal. In American English, it appears extremely rarely so be aware of the audience you're addressing when you make this choice.

share|improve this answer
The word whilst is so extinct in American English that if you have Americans read aloud a sentence containing the word, they’ll often mispronounce it, using the /ɪ/ of sit instead of the /aɪ/ of wise. They just don’t hear it often enough. – tchrist Apr 25 '12 at 18:31
@tchrist I've seen it a few times (I only know Am. E), but it might have been from really old texts. – simchona Apr 25 '12 at 18:46
Whilst is current in UK English, but archaic in American English. I would say that amidst isn’t quite defunct in American English, whereas amongst is getting there, at least in some publications. You’ll also see some US publications banishing the final s on words like towards, even though in fact many American speakers use that form almost exclusively. – tchrist Apr 25 '12 at 21:29

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.