In French, several universities use polycopiés instead of course books for teaching.

The term polycopié can be translated as handout. Is it correct to use it in this case, in which a polycopié constitutes a thin paperback book, with bound cover?

I've only seen the term handout used for small sets of sheets, usually stapled.

By the way, if there are specific American/British variations of the term, I'd be interested in both.

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    There's also syllabus and reader. Mar 24 '14 at 1:10
  • I'm not even sure that these are called the same thing in all American universities. Mar 24 '14 at 1:37

In my experience in the US, this is typically called a handout, or it is referred to informally in class by the name(s) of the author(s) or a short title. Yes, that means that "handout" can be anything from a single, informal sheet passed out occasionally to a bound book (which is typically not available through other channels, etc., it might be written by the prof and be otherwise unpublished).

Sometimes such material is referred to as lecture notes, as well. And there is probably a certain amount of variability wrt geography, course level, etc.

I would suggest trying to find out what term is used by the target use case: if you are preparing something for a course presented in English, ask those involved with teaching it or designing the curriculum, etc.

IMO, the binding used, if any, is of less importance than the content. No one really cares much whether something is tape-bound, spiral-bound, or whatever.

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    In the UK, it is also known as a handout. Handouts can be anything from a sheet of paper to a whole wallet full of leaflets, booklets, stapled papers, single sheets of paper and CDs and everything in between.
    – cup
    Mar 24 '14 at 11:52

In general, they can be called softbound books. (or booklets) (or copy/copies)

softbound (adj.): Not bound between hard covers

Note: softbound is used as "soft bound" or "soft-bound" as well.

"bound copy" is also used in universities, especially for thesis submissions. It is a more general term that can cover copies bound with different type of soft binding styles.

More specifically, there is spiral-bound (or coil-bound). The binding technique is called coil binding or spiral binding.

spiral-bound: of a book : having pages held together along one edge by a continuous piece of wire or plastic that passes through holes in the pages

enter image description here

~ Source: http://cios233.community.uaf.edu/design-theory-lectures/all-about-paper/

There is "comb-bound" also (made with comb binding technique)

enter image description here

~ Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Comb_bind_examples.JPG

  • I accepted Drew's answer because it was more closely related to my original intent, but I learned more from yours. In particular, it gives excellent vocabulary for translating the related Portuguese term sebenta, which is often translated as notebook (incorrectly in my opinion).
    – anol
    Mar 26 '14 at 11:11
  • I understand and I'm glad if it was helpful. I focused on the specific version because you mentioned as a substitution of a course book. Also, you already mentioned that the translation of polycopié is handout and it can be used for any document that is handed out. I think you wanted to confirm with a native speaker and I forgot that part of the question :)
    – 0..
    Mar 26 '14 at 17:20

A course-pack is a collection of articles or other documents, selected by a professor for use in place of (or sometimes in addition to) a textbook for a course, and usually bound in one of the ways described by ermanen.


If it is bound rather than stapled, chapbook might work. The OED gives its definition as:

A modern name applied by book-collectors and others to specimens of the popular literature which was formerly circulated by itinerant dealers or chapmen, consisting chiefly of small pamphlets of popular tales, ballads, tracts, etc.

But I have seen it used for the small booklets given out to literary convention goers, like these, these, these, these, these, or these.

If that seems to be limited to literature, it becomes more difficult. Perhaps a course handbook.

  • I've seen chapbook used for conference book(let)s, but I don't think I've ever seen it used for class handout book(let)s. Mar 24 '14 at 9:15

Polycopié comes from the name of the machine that was (back in the days) used to produce these. That machine was called a polycopieuse and somehow (don't ask me how) transfered ink on multiple pieces of paper via some alcohol based transfer method.

Here's a video showing the process : Here's a video showing the process

I know this is not an exact answer to the question, but if an English speaker watches this video, they may know the original english name for the contraption.

Edit: Here's another link

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    The American English word for the machine, the process, and the product is mimeograph, originally a brand name. The product could also be called mimeos or dittos for short (ditto being another brand name). This type of machine has not been widely used in business for forty or more years, however, and using such terms will make the speaker sound very old or very technologically backwards. Still, +1 for the etymological background.
    – choster
    Mar 24 '14 at 23:26
  • The link to the video is dead.
    – anderstood
    Sep 28 '14 at 15:44

In AusEng I'd call this a course notes book, reader or workbook, depending on what's inside.

It would seem very odd to call these handouts, but maybe I'm not understanding what you were meaning. A handout is something you'd receive at the beginning of a lecture or presentation. Sometimes a single page, but it could be more. Usually it would just be stapled on the corner, but it could be bound more reliably: a handout for a business presentation would most likely be a glossy folder rather than photocopied pages. The difference between this and a course notes book is that a handout is intended for only one lecture. In many subjects you would get handouts each time, but each handout is only for one.

It would be wrong to call a book intended to last a whole semester which you have to buy ahead of time a handout. But I think the French word makes sense, if it was originally used to describe books that contained a series of handouts collated and printed together. But unfortunately it's not an appropriate word to use in English, even for the same thing.

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