According to the OED, 'reform' is defined as,

[mass noun] the action or process of reforming an institution or practice.

The same definition appears in its entry for 'reformation'.

In terms of usage, is there any difference between the two words? Are they completely interchangeable, or is one preferable over the other?

Would 'Progressive reforms" mean the same as 'Progressive reformations'?

  • 2
    While synonymous, the word 'reformation' is often reserved to refer to specific historical periods and actions (i.e. protestant reformation); it's use to refer to contemporary changes is largely archaic/uncommon. Jun 13, 2013 at 23:37
  • Looks like another politically loaded question Jun 13, 2013 at 23:49
  • 1
    I might go slightly further than @LessPop_MoreFizz and say the word 'reformation' is usually reserved to refer to specific historical periods and actions, at least in British usage.
    – TrevorD
    Jun 13, 2013 at 23:52
  • @TrevorD In American usage as well (at least in this American's experience). Jun 14, 2013 at 9:54
  • @batpigandme Thanks. I didn't want to assume!
    – TrevorD
    Jun 14, 2013 at 10:00

1 Answer 1


I would suggest that reform is frequently used to refer to a specific change itself, whereas reformation is more often used to denote the set of changes made.

In the sentence above, "Would 'Progressive reforms" mean the same as 'Progressive reformations'?" the phrase 'progressive reforms' would be used to chronicle the specific changes, and would be more appropriate than the alternate phrase, 'progressive reformations.'

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