I've been reading about the Grammy award, and found that it was named after the invention of Emile Berliner, the gramophone, after considering the name Eddie (for the phonograph's inventor, Thomas Edison).

I didn't find what's the difference between the two. Sources also mix up the inventors of them.

Notice also that the names kind of consist of the same 2 words, written in different order.

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    Nothing here google.com/search?q=gramophone+and+phonograph ???? – mplungjan Feb 3 '14 at 12:29
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    Thirty years and a plastic cover, according to Not the Nine O'Clock News. – Tim Lymington Feb 3 '14 at 12:41
  • The people on Not the Nine O'Clock News were probably covering the Phoney awards. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 3 '14 at 12:43
  • Phonograph is the instrument which use sound energy to make its effect on a surface in the firm of a phonogram. – user149945 Dec 2 '15 at 20:43

Both gramophone and phonograph could be used for any sound recording device, and have been used interchangeably.

Because the words were used by different inventors (sometimes as all or part of a brand name), the distinction is sometimes made where phonograph refers specifically to cylinder-based devices and gramophone to disk-based devices. (Some other terms that were specific to brands such as zonophone have pretty much died out entirely unless one is talking about the history of that precise brand).


Gramophone: Any sound-recording device, or device for playing previously-recorded sounds, especially if it uses a flat spinning disk.

Phonograph: Any sound-recording device, or device for playing previously-recorded sounds, especially if it uses a spinning cylinder.

As such, they would be used interchangeably by some, while others would use them as quite distinct.

As technology moved on and the cylinder-based approaches died out, then while some would still distinguish between the two in this way, they were mostly interchangeable because the flat disk approach was the only approach in current use.

As technology moved on further and first magnetic and later optical and digital storage become more common, the words in their wider senses (that allowed them to be used interchangeably) didn't move with them, so the two terms got stuck at the stage of progress where spinning disks that were physically read by a needle (unlike the spinning disks of minidisc or compact disc).

  • How does a cylinder differ from a disk? – Alaa M. Feb 3 '14 at 12:53
  • A cylinder is cylindrical en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonograph_cylinder and a disk is flat. – James McLeod Feb 3 '14 at 13:26
  • Mathematically speaking, a disk with a straight edge would also be a cylinder, but in general use we'd use cylinder of something less flat. The particular difference here is whether the recording surface is the round part (as it is on cylinder-based phonographs) or the flat part (as it is on the gramophone records that are still used today, albeit for a more niche market than once was the case). – Jon Hanna Feb 3 '14 at 14:06

Check the Wikipedia entry here. The phonograph used a cylinder to record upon, while the gramophone was a modification/improvement on this design with used discs instead.

  • How does a cylinder differ from a disk? – Alaa M. Feb 3 '14 at 12:53
  • A synonym for a cylinder would be a tube, like a toilet paper roll. A disk is like a plate or coin. – Digital Chris Feb 3 '14 at 12:56
  • In this context, it's to do with the difference in the location of the groove - on the curved side, or on the flat surface. – Leon Conrad Feb 3 '14 at 14:23
  • Just a personal opinion, but Wikipedia should not be trusted (without a grain of salt) or should not be cited as the only source. – hola Sep 30 '20 at 9:57
  • @hola I could copy/paste the 74 sources linked here on the wikipedia page, but how is that any more valid? I feel that this distrust is a knee-jerk reaction to the distrust the site has inherited from academics who rightly find peer-reviewed journals to be a better source for certain academic purposes. Perhaps your personal opinion might be swayed by this article on the reliability of Wikipedia (also on wikipedia ;) ). – Digital Chris Oct 7 '20 at 17:09

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