Apparently scaffolding is always a substantive while scaffold can be used both as substantive and as verb (to scaffold).

I'm interested in the substantive meaning of both words.

Google image searching yields pretty much the same results. Are there any differences in meaning or usage?

  • 2
    Scaffold is an object, a part of whole, of a system called scaffolding. That's the usual usage. – Kris Nov 14 '14 at 9:31
  • @Kris, agreed. In my experience, scaffold is a count noun and scaffolding a mass noun. You could say "a scaffold" but you could not say "a scaffolding". – Dan Bron Nov 14 '14 at 11:46
  • If this en.wiktionary.org/wiki/scaffold answers the OP's question, then it's GR. – Kris Nov 14 '14 at 12:29
  • @Kris: Doesn't your link state the opposite? "scaffold (plural scaffolds) A structure made of scaffolding, [...]" – Roman Reiner Nov 14 '14 at 13:40
  • @RomanReiner Scaffolding is also the material used to build a scaffold. – Kris Nov 15 '14 at 6:14

This answer only deals with American English. We have another answer giving the British definitions.

In their first definitions of each word, Merriam-Webster defines a scaffold as the platform that workers stand on (e.g., when working on tall buildings), and scaffolding as the structure that supports it.

They have a second definition saying that scaffold can also be used for the supporting structure, but they don't say that scaffolding can be used for the platform.

I've certainly heard both scaffolding and scaffold for the supporting structure. And scaffolding for the actual platform feels wrong to me, while scaffold doesn't.


In my experience, "scaffold" refers only to a gibbet used to hang people. For all other senses I would use "scaffolding" (or, colloquially, "scaff").

  • ODO: "2 A structure made using scaffolding. When setting a plank between ladders as a scaffold, be sure it extends a foot on each side ... " oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/scaffold See also: oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/… – Kris Nov 14 '14 at 12:27
  • Agreed with Colin Fine. I've only encountered 'scaffold' as a noun when referring specifically to gibbets. – George Stirling Nov 14 '14 at 14:00
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    This must be a US/UK difference, because "scaffold" is a perfectly acceptable term for "scaffolding" in the US, and I don't think we ever use "scaff". – Peter Shor Nov 15 '14 at 13:30
  • My experience may be atypical, because I have worked in theatres for many years, and we often use "scaff" for building sets. – Colin Fine Nov 15 '14 at 15:00

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