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Can anybody give me more examples on how to use these words? I know for sure than you should not use dominion as domain for the Internet but apart from that sight difference both words seem to be synonyms to me.

and Death shall have no Dominion by Dylan Thomas

UPDATE

to Wordreference as a governed area they have the same meaning? So I guess "The domain of the Roman Empire" or "The dominion of the Roman Empire" are both legal. Am I right?

  • What did the Dictionary say? – tchrist Mar 28 '14 at 12:46
  • For one thing, dominion is applicable in terms of a possessive i.e. he has dominion over them, whereas domain cannot be applied as such. – kolossus Mar 28 '14 at 13:36
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[An expansion of kolossus' comment]

Both domain and dominion have multiple related meanings.

ODO defines domaine as both

An area of territory owned or controlled by a ruler or government: the southwestern French domains of the Plantagenets

and

A specified sphere of activity or knowledge: the expanding domain of psychology

In both cases, it is the subject of control by a ruler, or under the jurisdiction of someone or something.

Dominion is defined by the same source as

Sovereignty; control: man’s attempt to establish dominion over nature

and

(usually dominions) The territory of a sovereign or government: the Angevin dominions

While both can refer to the territory over which one has control, dominion also refers to the act or process control itself. As such it seems to have a slightly more active connotation, suggesting strength or even force,not just possession.

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You can see if you Google them that dominion is falling out of use and was more popular in antiquity. One plausible explanation for that could be that it was already used in Old French, literally as dominion. Whereas, domain is much more commonly used today. Domain evolved from the Old French word demaine and was slowly adopted into Latin. Finally, today it is derived from the Latin word domanium.

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  • if you're talking about a field of study or an area of knowledge, that's a domain, not a dominion (e.g. I specialise in the domain of theoretical physics). This is also probably where the computing/Internet usage of the term domain came from.
  • domain is also used in magnetism and in maths - in neither case can you use dominion
  • dominion (but not domain) is used when talking about having control/power/command over something (eg. to establish dominion over nature)

While both words originate from the same Latin root of dominus (a lord, master), dominion is closer related in meaning to a third similar word, to dominate, while domain developed separately, originally denoting the land or property of a lord/master. As such, domain concerns area/territory, while dominion concerns having control over something - and yes, that results in some overlap.

However, only in one case is there a possible overlap between domain and dominion, and that is when we're talking about a territory or land that is controlled by some ruler or government. When to use which in this case is beyond me, though there are particular areas/territories that are generally referred to as one or the other.

Also, note that some countries in the British Commonwealth used to be known as Dominions - eg. the Dominion of Canada. As this was a proper noun, Domain of Canada would not be an acceptable synonym here.

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