Because "résumé" or "resume" as a noun is a false cognate with the French equivalent, I tend to avoid using "résumé" to mean "summary", and only reserve it to mean "that document people bring to interviews."

Is the use of "résumé" to mean either "summary" or "document describing work experience" localized to certain areas of the world? Is it more British English, American English, Canadian English, other, or is is used widely (in all English around the world)?

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    I suspect that the answer is actually the other way round and the use of résumé to mean CV (curriculum vitae) is localised to North America/AmE. Other areas use it in the "summary" sense. But I don't have much data to back that suspicion up; hence the comment. – Andrew Leach Jul 18 '13 at 13:20
  • @AndrewLeach Good idea, I broadened the question accordingly. – MPelletier Jul 18 '13 at 13:32
  • @Yve According to some answers to this question: english.stackexchange.com/questions/61338/…, a CV is used more in the academic context and supposed to be more detailed and broader, whereas a résumé is for applying for work. But they're often used interchangeably. – MPelletier Jul 18 '13 at 13:34
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    Anyway, when speaking of a summary précis (“A concise or abridged statement or view”) seems far better than résumé. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Jul 18 '13 at 14:24

Collins has:



1 a short descriptive summary, as of events

2 (US & Canadian) another name for curriculum vitae

whereas Webster's has:

ré•su•mé or re•su•me or re•su•mé


1 summary.

2 a brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience, as that prepared by a job applicant.

Assuming they've done their research,

a the summary sense is more common both in the UK and the US

b Webster's seems to go with J Lawler's second definition - a shorter alternative to the CV - as the US usage. Collins seems to disagree, but one wonders whether they're really qualified to speak on the US practice.


In academia, the complete listing of one's professional experience is called a Curriculum Vitae (CV)
which is Latin for 'the course of a life'.

A shorter (ideally 2-page) version of this, with only selected highlights, is often called a Resumé, French instead of Latin, and therefore lower status, suitable for practical things like business.

For comparison, my CV is 4 pages long, and my Resumé is 2.
That's all, really, at least in academia.
Outside the University, of course, there are other conventions.

  • And other universities. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 19 '13 at 9:03
  • While truthful in itself, this answer does not address my question. – MPelletier Jul 19 '13 at 11:20
  • That's the way it's understood in US universities; others have their own data to report. When you get all of it, you can crunch it. Sociolinguistic surveys are expensive. – John Lawler Jul 19 '13 at 15:15

Ngrams is an excellent tool.

If you compare the incidences of résumé and curriculum vitae in British English, that résumé is fairly flat, and curriculum vitae increases fairly steadily over time. (Résumé used to be more common until the mid-1960s, when curriculum vitae took over). It looks like the use of résumé is increasing fairly steadily now, but is still some way behind.

The figures for American English are also interesting. Both terms are roughly equal until 1970, when curriculum vitae starts to pull ahead. Résumé stays fairly flat until the mid-1990s, at which point its use increases sharply so that by 2008 it beats curriculum vitae hands down.

So I guess in answer to your question: yes, the word résumé describing "a document used in support of a job application" is strongly regional (at least when comparing British and American usage).

As far as using résumé to mean summary, I don't know. I've never heard it used in that way, but of course anecdote != data.

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    Ngrams is an excellent tool. If used correctly. There is consistently a far higher incidence of the unaccented "a resume" than of "a résumé" in both British and American English. The singly-accented variant should also be taken into account in a fair comparison - and perhaps the initialism CV. And how have you distinguished which sense of résumé is being referenced in the Ngram stats? – Edwin Ashworth Jul 19 '13 at 19:34

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