Can anyone explain what the difference between status and state is when I talk about the condition or situation of an object?

Here's what I got from Longman English Dictionary.

status: a situation at a particular time, especially in an argument, discussion etc.

state: the physical or mental condition that someone or something is in

For example, how do you interpret these two sentences:

  1. What is the current status of this project?

  2. What is the current state of this project?

  • 11
    I have read all the answers, and none of them were satisfying for me. This is a very good question but has very confusing answers! Maybe I'm not as advanced in English as I should have been in order to understand the answers. Anyway, up-vote!
    – XMight
    Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 16:13
  • 5
    Thisd is probably because there is no clear, general, distinction between the words. In some contexts only one is used; in other contexts they are interchangeable; and in still other contexts they can both be used and have different meanings. Welcome to English.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 22:04
  • What is the current status of this project? -- its place in a hierarchy. ---- What is the current state of this project? Its condition.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 10:12
  • 1
    From my understanding, State is "conditional" while Status is "hierarchical". Eg.: State can be ON/Off, while Status may be starting, processing, transferring, done
    – Sojimaxi
    Commented Jan 23 at 6:26

10 Answers 10


A hotel room might have a status of standard, de-luxe or honeymoon-suite. That same room may have a state of being dishevelled or clean.

A project progresses through a series of predefined stages. Its status tells you where it is in that series. Its state might be in disarray or on target regardless of status.

In considering this I asked myself two questions: What is the status of X? What sort of state is X in?

In reality, I suspect there is considerable overlap in the usage of state and status.

  • 30
    The status of that room is honeymoon suite? Not in my world. Commented Mar 29, 2015 at 9:20
  • 14
    I like hotel room analogy, except I would change the definition of status to be something like 'available', 'reserved', or 'under repair', rather than 'standard', 'deluxe' or 'honeymoon'. State would still describe the overall condition (clean / dirty).
    – Rufus L
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 19:00
  • 4
    standard, de-luxe or honeymoon-suite are types of room. However I like the questions: What is the status of X? What sort of state is X in?
    – EGL 2-101
    Commented Dec 30, 2017 at 21:46
  • 3
    I agree with the others; “status” is conflated with “type” here, but they’re not really interchangeable. There’s more overlap between status and state than between status and type. I think a better analogy is to look at it as a graph: “state” is a node, “status” is a directed edge, and progress is how far along an edge one is in transitioning between states. Where progress is 0% or 100% status may or may not equal state, subject to your mental model. In a hotel room, “state” can be “available”, “dirty”, etc., “status” can be “waiting” (0% or 100% progress), “cleaning” or “in-use” (1–99%), etc.
    – Mark G.
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 17:34

In that context, status would refer to the progress of a project, e.g. in testing, in preliminary research, etc. State would refer more to the condition of a project, e.g. green-lighted, cancelled, on hold for financial analysis.

When referring to a specific object, you typically want to use state, e.g. cold, hot, liquid, solid (this refers to the object's physical state). The status of an object is rarely used or mentioned, unless it is something that moves or transforms, in which case it is used to mean distance or progress.

  • 1
    Thank you very much. I wish I can pick both as my answers...but the system won't allow me.
    – Raymond
    Commented Feb 17, 2011 at 21:19
  • 1
    Funny, your first paragraph says exactly the opposite of how I would use these two words. For me, a state is more intrinsic (e.g, in a preliminary phase) while a status refers to the project in relation to something else (e.g., approved, cancelled, etc.).
    – phoog
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 4:14

I find the systems engineering definition useful here. A system is in a certain "state" at a point in time when the system meets a pre-defined set of criterion, i.e. on shopping website, a user's shopping cart enters a different state when the customer adds an item to it.

A "status", in the context of states of a system, describes the transition into a state. For example, the user of our online shop may attempt to add an item to their cart. The transition into the state that describes the item being in the cart may be blocked if the status of the transition signals an error (i.e. the item is out of stock).

In systems engineering, these two words have very specific meanings. From the definitions above, it could also be inferred that a state exists (or does not exist) irrespective of time. A status, however, describes the outcome of an action at a particular point in time. The difference here, I think, holds true even outside the context of systems engineering.

In the context that you describe, the definitions above are still relevant. The state of the project maybe described as, "component A is complete but component B is not; the project is 60% complete overall". This description of the state of the project would be the same at any point in time given unchanged progress of components A and B and unchanged outside influences. The status of the project however would almost certainly change with time, likely with respect to a deadline.


A simplifying proposal:

  • Status is one-dimensional, i.e., it is determined by a single value (e.g., the social rank of a person, the amount of progress made by a project, the goodness of an outcome, etc.) usually ranging from good to bad, desirable to undesirable, or the like.

  • State is “all the rest”: it is either n-dimensional (with n > 1), or it does not refer to something that can be ordered by quality. In practice, though, state is often used when the conditions for using status would apply.

In IT, executions at the OS level usually return an exit status (e.g., 0 for success), HTTP calls return an HTTP status code (e.g., 200 OK or 404 Not Found). On the other hand, we have (finite-)state automata that describe how a complex system (e.g., a parser) can go through its possible states. When we suspend a physical or virtual machine we cause its state to be saved.

  • 2
    +1 Nicely relates to @chharvey's "Status carries official or legal implications". In HTTP terms the outcome is coming from official standard, therefore status - single one dimensional result/protocol answer.
    – uicoded
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 17:51
  • Makes sense to me, the best abstraction so far. What's the source of that quote?
    – xpeiro
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 9:48
  • Oh, sorry, it looked like a quote, but wasn't. I fixed that Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 13:43

STOHDTO (Six To One, Half-a-Dozen To the Other). In a technical manual, there may be a clear distinction between these terms, however in the English language these words are synonymous. In fact, Dictionary.Com uses the term "state" in the very definition of status (see #2), and vice versa (see #3).

The difference is really open to interpretation. Mine is below.

In my opinion, a status is one of a pre-defined set of conditions, for example, not ready, in progress, almost ready, and ready to use (see http://docs.webplatform.org/wiki/Property:State; ironically, WebPlatform.Org calls these "states", but I think they are more like "statuses"). I believe statuses should be arranged on a spectrum, and an object usually moves from one end of the spectrum to another, having exactly one status assigned.

States, on the other hand, are conditions that don't need to be arranged in any sort of order or on any spectrum. An object might possibly not have a state assigned. (Although I don't think it's possible to assign multiple states to an object. Usually people will refer to "the" state of [blank], not a state.)

More from Dictionary.com (emphasis mine):

State, condition, situation, status are terms for existing circumstances or surroundings. State is the general word, often with no concrete implications or material relationships: "the present state of affairs." Condition carries an implication of a relationship to causes and circumstances: "The conditions made flying impossible." Situation suggests an arrangement of circumstances, related to one another and to the character of a person: "He was master of the situation." Status carries official or legal implications; it suggests a complete picture of interrelated circumstances as having to do with rank, position, standing, a stage reached in progress, etc.: "The status of negotiations."


I find that most answers to a similar question on StackOverflow (despite being technical oriented) are more clear and acceptable to me.

The short answer is that status defines (by selecting a value from a list of predefined names) one aspect or characteristic of some entity at some point of time, while state defines the entity as a whole including all statuses

  • It looks like indeed status means a defined/definite situation, e.g. servant status, or something on which everybody agree, e.g. social status, while state is a free descriptive assessment, e.g. state of health.
    – mins
    Commented Aug 29, 2021 at 13:06

Since we had a long discussion with a group oft software people, I add another example that reflects our results. The object of this example is a "package" that we used to understand the difference better :

  • The package's status can be something like: ready, in delivery, delayed, delivered, lost
  • The package's state can be: mint, broken, partly broken

So for our general understanding we defined it as:

  • Status describes in what step of a certain process an object is. So an object can have one status per process (delivery status, payment status). You cannot perceive the status of the object with your eyes just by looking at the object isolated. (Looking at a package, you won't know if it has been payed).You need information about the process to know an objects status.

One could argue that you can perceive the status "delivered" by looking at a package that is located on your table. But if you only look at the package isolated (as part of a bunch of zoomed in photos) of a set of packages you can't tell which is delivered and which is still located at the sender because the information is not tied to the object, it must be perceived from outside, you need to know about the process.

  • State describes the (physical) condition of that object. You can perceive a state with your senses.

If you consider the above argument with the bunch of photos, you will likely be able to tell if they're broken or not. At least if you had a pile of packages, and you can examine them more closely.

So for our understanding, something like a project that is not materialized in the real world can only have statuses but never have a state. In contrast, everything that you can name can have statuses.


state is intrinsic, status extrinsic.

The state of something is its inherent condition, whereas its status is relative to an external framework of some kind.

A book in a library's rare book collection might be in a fragile state and its status might be non-circulating.

A soldier's state might be wounded and his status might be awaiting surgery.

A lab specimen's state might be frozen and its status to be discarded in 2029.


The project can be in the state of preparation, design, implementation or verification, while the status of the project should be more accurate, detailed depiction, such as 70% completed. Roughly speaking a state is a series of sustainable and consistent status, a status is a slice of state at some special point.


Status is the precision of describing the situation while state is a general description.

Project state: It is in phase 4, we have some issues that are raised such as delays on deliverables

Project status: Deliverable x is 2 weeks pass due , expert M still sick and can not come to work

  • [citation needed] Commented May 22, 2014 at 15:55
  • “Deliverable x is 2 weeks pass due” is gibberish, not English. The “precision of describing the situation” also makes no sense, and the two examples (or the parts of them that make any sense) show no perceivable distinction in meaning. In all, this answer doesn't make any sense. Commented May 22, 2014 at 22:26

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