What is the general difference between the words 'rest' and 'remainder'?

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    Both (taking just the relevant homonym of rest) have quite a few meanings; 'remainder' has some rather more specialist senses. Looking at just one situation where there is an obvious choice: The rest of the day is the normal, unmarked expression. The remainder of the day sounds either more formal or serious - or just more pretentious. Care should be taken to keep to Orwell's second rule unless one has a good reason not to. Perhaps 'the remainder of the holidays' and 'the rest of the holidays' suggest different things - one week remaining, and three occasional days left this year. Sep 27, 2013 at 8:32
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    The only difference is that lawyers like to use them both in special phrases like the rest, residue, and remainder, just in case there might be some differnence. Sep 27, 2013 at 16:38

2 Answers 2


The word "remainder" can be used as a synonym for "rest" ("We finished the remainder of last night's stew"). However "remainder" also has certain specific meanings, and is more commonly used in those contexts.

Math: the leftover portion following a division operation. 43 divided by 10 equals 4 with a remainder of 3.

Publishing: a book sold at a discount (usually a work that's losing popularity).


We rest in bed, and remain in bed, but we do not remainder in bed. A seller of goods can sell the rest or the remainder, but a seller of services can do neither. We can offer the rest of something or equally offer the remainder of the rest.

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