The words aid, assist, help, and facilitate are all closely related. What do you believe the differences among them might be? My best attempt to make the differences explicit follows.

My Attempt

  • Aid, in modern English, is more appropriate for non-human help
  • Assist, would be help for something that someone could do themselves but because of the assistance is able to do that thing more efficiently, profitably, effectively, etc.
  • Help, is the most generic term and can refer to any sort of support.
  • Facilitate, is help that is necessary for a thing to be done or that improves the utility of that thing to such a degree that it would not be worth doing but for the facilitation. In as much as facilitates is a word that refers to help that is necessary for a thing to be done, the word differs from 'enabling' in that the facilitating thing is not the only thing that could facilitate the thing in question. Whereas, the thing in question could not happen without the things that enable it to happen. E.g. In the 17th century, lumberjacks enabled logging companies to fell trees and convert them to logs, while rivers facilitated the transport of the logs to their buyers. Without the lumberjacks, the trees could not have been felled, but its conceivable they could have been transported without the river, albeit much less efficiently.


What do you think are the differences among aid, assist, help, and facilitate?

3 Answers 3


I agree with Jonathan's answer. Some addendum:

  • 'Facilitate' is often used in situations where material help is provided.
  • 'Aid' is used in cases where the person receiving help is in dire need of it.

Facilitate is to provide the means necessary for something to happen.

Help is to do anything that makes something easier for a person.

Assist is to add your efforts to someone else's.

Aid has to do with things like healing, bringing someone up, and less of making something easier. More like a mix between helping and assistance.

  • I see a great overlap here between these definitions of "to help" and "to assist". Also, "to aid" is used in a lot of healing/bringing sb. up contexts such as "computer-aided design", "food aid", "humanitarian aid", etc Apr 4, 2019 at 4:02

I think it might help to look at the origins of the words to understand the differences between them.

Help has Germanic origins and was used in a broad manner of senses that we tend to understand in common usage.

Aid has Old French origins, the Latin root means "to help" as in the broad Germanic sense.

Assist has Middle French origins, the Latin root means "to take one's stand" and can probably be understood to mean standing by one's side in support.

Facilitate has Latin origins in that "Facilis" refers to ease as in easy and the Modern French conjugation "Faciliter" which means to make easy. Note Facile which means "easily accomplished."

I have ordered the words in the sequence they entered the English language; typically, older words tend to have a more common usage whereas newer words tend to be used to "sound smarter" rather than to mean something different. Thus, "I need help with something" and "this task requires external facilitation" mean pretty much the same thing, but the latter sounds snootier.

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