Could anyone please explain the subtle difference between preference and favoritism?

Both of them basically give the same meaning, but there is something more than that in it. Can someone point that out?

  • your preference is the cause of your favoritsm.
    – user49404
    Commented Oct 25, 2013 at 9:23
  • No, that's wrong. It could actually be that the Boss PREFERS people from nation "B", BUT he shows FAVORITISM to people of nation "A". (In real life, this would be totally commonplace. For example, the Boss might be bestowing favours on group "A", to impress his upper-boss.)
    – Fattie
    Commented Oct 25, 2013 at 11:33
  • An even trickier distinction is the one between discrimination ("the quality or power of finely distinguishing") and discrimination ("prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment").
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Oct 25, 2013 at 19:11

1 Answer 1


Favoritism means bestows favours on, one group or person over another.

The two words are utterly different and completely unrelated.

Your "preference" simply means which one you "like more". Thus, "I prefer dogs to cats" means exactly "I like dogs more than I like cats."

The recently-coined word favoritism is utterly unrelated to "preference".

Favoritism means (particularly in a work environment) that you give favours to one person over another. Or, one (say) racial group of people over another racial group of people. Or, perhaps in a family setting, one sibling over another.

Thus for example "The Chairman exhibits favoritism (gives favours to) to people from nation XX over people from nation YY. So, people from XX get all the best promotions and all the best offices, even if they are not performing as well as people from YY."

  • 1
    In your example, you could substitute favoritism with preference and have essentially the same meaning. See 1a and 1c at TFD:preference.
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 25, 2013 at 11:09
  • That's totally, completely, fully incorrect Chris. You are totally wrong. Favoritism is THE ACT OF DOING FAVOURS for a certain group of people or one person, over others. It's just that simple. "preference" simply means you "like more" A than B.
    – Fattie
    Commented Oct 25, 2013 at 11:35
  • I'll take issue with "recently coined" as well: etyonline has it dating back to 1763. If you'd rather have wikitionary, sense 2 may be of interest. The difference is that "favoritism" is (always) pejorative, while "preference" with more meanings, isn't.
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 25, 2013 at 12:54
  • I could understand Joe, but the two words are not completely unrelated and utterly different. Thanks for your answers guys.
    – uma
    Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 3:00

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