I'm a non-native english speaker (from Brazil). I'm looking for the most common day-to-day word for the stationery device called "mechanical pencil".

Indeed, while "mechanical pencil" seems to be the most commonly used word for that device, at least in US, I've also found the words "propelling pencil", for UK and "pacer", for Australia.

I'd rather stick with mechanical pencil, but this word seems awkward, comparing to the brazilian word for this object (something like "penciler").

So, is there any simpler or most-commonly used word for that, or can I really stick to mechanical pencil without any further concerns?

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    'Propelling pencil' is the only term I'm familiar with (in the UK) for this type. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 7 '14 at 22:15
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    I agree with Edwin. You cannot say 'mechanical pencil' in English. My first thought was that you meant an Apple Pencil (iPad product) but obviously that's not mechanical! Propelling pencil is the only term I know for this. – Jelila Feb 18 '18 at 0:46
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    US - mechanical. UK - propelling. Australia - pacer, India - Microtip. Good job you asked! 😊 None works in all locations, as far as I can see. – Jelila Feb 18 '18 at 0:53

Commonly (in the US), people don't distinguish between a mechanical pencil and simply "pencil". The full phrase is usually only used when the speaker needs to unambiguously refer to a mechanical pencil (rather than a wooden one): "Have you seen my mechanical pencil?"

  • Excellent! This is exactly the sort of thing I'd like to hear. – Filipe Fedalto Aug 7 '14 at 18:07
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    At no time can you refer to a 'mechanical pencil' in British English. No-one will know what you mean. You'd have to say 'propelling pencil'. Sounds like the author will need take careful account of 'the audience' and their country/location before deciding how to refer to that... automated pencil! – Jelila Feb 18 '18 at 0:48

I live in Australia, and we call them pacers here. It's common in day to day usage - "have you seen my pacer?" or "can I borrow a pacer?" is a very common phrase you might hear in the classroom, for example. A pacer makes that distinction between a wooden and a mechanical pencil. Generally though, people ask to borrow a pencil, and sometimes the person lending you the pencil will give you the option as to whether you want a mechanical or normal pencil.

I personally really like the word 'pacer' - it's short, and can be tossed around like the word 'pencil'. Australians like to abbreviate everything, really, so 'pacer' is a whole lot nicer than saying 'mechanical pencil' or any other name with two words. Haha.

  • Interesting, I've never heard it used in the UK. You have a different word for felt pen as well, don't you? – Jelila Feb 18 '18 at 0:49

In India we usually call it the Microtip pencil because of the thin lead. Also, here we specifically distinguish between microtip pencil and a normal pencil. I have no idea if this word is prevalent in other countries.

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