Is one more formal then the other?

  • Related (dupe?): Professors and Students.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 12:12
  • @RegDwight, tough call, the question isn't a dupe, but the accepted answer to that question also answers this one...
    – Benjol
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 12:32

5 Answers 5


Teach is including a more general concept.

According to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English


someone whose job is to teach, especially in a school


American English: a teacher at a university or college

British English: a teacher of the highest rank in a university department

To see academic degrees visit here.

Also you may find it interesting to know:

  • teacher someone who teaches as their job, especially in a school : a high school teacher

  • principal ( also headteacher British English ) the teacher who is in charge of a school or college : The teacher sent him to the principal’s office.

  • tutor someone who gives private lessons to one student or a small group of students. In Britain, a tutor is also a teacher in a university : They hired a tutor to help him with his English. | Your tutor will help you find a subject for your essay. lecturer someone who teaches in a university or college : University lecturers aren’t very well paid.

  • professor a teacher in a college or university. In Britain, a professor is a high-ranking university teacher, especially one who is head of a department : She was professor of linguistics at Cambridge University.

  • instructor someone who teaches a sport or a practical skill such as swimming or driving : He works as a ski instructor in the winter. | a driving instructor

  • coach someone who helps a person or team improve in a sport : a professional tennis coach

  • educator especially American English formal someone whose job involves teaching people, or someone who is an expert on education : Most educators agree that class sizes are still too big.

  • trainer someone who teaches people particular skills, especially the skills they need to do a job : a teacher trainer | Many companies pay outside trainers to teach management skills to their staff.

  • governess a woman who lived with a family and taught their children in past times : As a governess, Charlotte Brontë received twenty pounds a year.

  • My experience of "tutor" in en-gb is a bit different. Yes, it covers those who give private lessons, but in both my secondary school and my university I had someone designated as my tutor who was a person I could go to for non-academic support. Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 21:36
  • 1
    @Manoochehr - All good, but I've generally heard "headmaster" where you have "headteacher".
    – MT_Head
    Commented Jul 14, 2011 at 16:26
  • In the US, many private schools use "headmaster" in place of "principal". (My own high school, despite being public, used the title "headmaster" as well, and this was widely seen as a bit pretentious.)
    – Henry
    Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 16:34
  • @Henry Headmaster / Headmistress is not at all pretenious in British English - it's just the normal title.
    – TrevorD
    Commented May 27, 2013 at 23:20

Professor is more specific of teacher, as it is used when referring to a teacher of the highest rank in a college or university.

Informally, professor is used to refer to any instructor, especially the specialized ones.

[Reference: the New Oxford American Dictionary.]

  • Exactly: You typically wouldn't say primary school professor, nor would you say university teacher.
    – Benjol
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 12:33
  • @Benjol: Where I am from, you are called instructor at the university level unless you have earned your PhD.
    – Kosmonaut
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 13:37
  • 2
    I think "university teacher" is sometimes used, but in most institutions there's probably no actual job title called a "teacher". As the original poster says, note that a "professor" isn't just any old university teacher, though: it's a specific title implying a specific rank within the department/university, as are "lecturer", "senior lecturer", "reader" etc. Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 14:32
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    @Neil Coffey - While that's true from a title standpoint, the term professor is used in some regions as a general term to refer to anyone teaching at a university level. E.g. I would find it extremely odd to say my math lecturer instead of my math professor regardless of the standing of the actual person in the dept.
    – Dusty
    Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 16:16
  • Ah OK -- now I think about it more, I think there's a US/UK difference as well (I think in the UK, "tutor" or "lecturer", depending on the function, may be more common if the person isn't actually a professor). Commented Feb 18, 2011 at 18:07

Professor is also a rank, and a title, in the American university system and as such, confers status on its recipients. There are lots of "instructors" and "lecturers" and "graduate assistants" who teach and publish original research who would love to be called "professor." So yes, "professor" is more formal than "teacher." In any sort of professional setting, for example in asking for the referral of an article or seeking university employment, I would be very careful to refer to the professor I'm mailing as "Professor" and not "teacher", so as not to seem overly familiar.


A professor is one who teaches in a university or college whereas a teacher is the one who teaches in high schools and comprehensive schools.

  • There are many who teach (or research) in universities whose greatest ambition is to become professors. Commented May 6, 2013 at 21:52

I believe a 'teacher' is someone who teaches you anything. 'Professor' is a specialist in a field of study and teaches by profession.

A mother can be a teacher but not a professor (unless she is falls into the category mentioned above).

  • Yes, a mother can be a teacher (as can anyone), but the context here refers to professionals, and being a teacher (e.g. schoolteacher is a profession). In British English, professor is a specific title and status for the head of a university department.
    – TrevorD
    Commented May 27, 2013 at 23:30

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