What's the difference in meaning between “register” and “registry”? Can both be used interchangeably when talking about an official (public) list of items, records?

  • Have you perchance looked the two words up in a dictionary? – coleopterist Mar 1 '13 at 16:56
  • @coleopterist: Yes, the dictionary does not state when to use which one. – liori Mar 1 '13 at 18:18
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    Please add what you found in the dictionary to your question and link to any definitions if you are using an online resource. – coleopterist Mar 1 '13 at 18:22

The online oxford dict says:

  1. Register noun official list or record, for example of births, marriages, and deaths, of shipping, or of historic places. a book or record of attendance, for example of students in a class or school or guests in a hotel.

  2. Registry: noun (plural registries) a place or office where registers or records are kept.

But yeah, it also says that a registry too can mean a list. And I think 'Registry' is used more in the former context than the later. Even while talking in context of computers we say things like 'Windows Registry'. For me, the word register brings along a sense of being finite but registry does not. like when I think of a register of records, I usually get a quantified picture of the records list comes to my mind, like a page, or a notebook. but 'registry' brings along a picture of non quantifiable !! or its just weird with me. Anyone have other thoughts on this?

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No, they can't:

Register - A recording of items, names, or actions;
Registry - A place where you Register
Registrar - One who registers
Registration - the act of registering.

I like to see my words in such easy pattern based on effective usage. I just added the extra to define how I make the difference.

In computer world, Microsoft Windows has a Registry. That's a place where software are registered. I should assume that the actual data listing is the register and the installing program is the registrar. The act should be registration. That's just my wild guess in computer world.

The real English speakers know better

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  • -1 for lack of evidence. Personal preference is irrelevant; actual usage and definition should be cited instead. – jimbotherisenclown Mar 5 '13 at 6:34
  • Well I never knew that was a law here. Use freedictionary.com online or google the words. I don't know what you mean by actual usage when I actually use these words. As a programmer (check on stackoverflow.com) Shouldn't I know what a Windows Registry is? Don't I use it? Maybe I have to post actual usage of Registration. You have a +10 from me for being polite, @jimbotherisenclown – Steward Godwin Jornsen Mar 5 '13 at 6:39

I guess there's probably some crossover and mixed etymology. Today, 'register' has two interpretations. One is the verb or act 'to register' and the the other is taken as the set of records produced in the act, i.e. you can say "I register (a new record) in a register (of records). Extending the act to the artefact of the act has probably just happened over time - and that's how a lot of language happens. Note that the word 'registry' is a lot clearer, it's just a collection or place for records and there's no ambiguity over whether it's an act or an artefact, i.e. I register (you) in a registry (of people).

Personally I prefer to name a list of records a 'registry' as opposed to a 'register'. This is helpful, since without any other context, a computer file named "registry" clearly indicates a collection of data. A file name "register" could be either a data collection or else a program that does some registration... which you might not want. +1 to Microsoft for also making that very same determination.

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Registry is a place of registration or a book or list in which registration is made. Registration is the act of registration, so a registration number is a number under which something such as a company or a person is registered. A registry number, however, is the number given to a place of registration or a book or list of registration, since too many of them may be around, but that number is not large, say, in five digits mostly because there are only a limited number of registration places or books or lists that are in existence for every particular purpose while a registration number involving companies, items, goods or persons may be as large as 16 digits and more and may comprise from letters and digits both, because there a great many numbers of those items or companies or persons who are registered.

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