Consider the following sentences:

I'm not sure if I still have some room ahead.


I'm not sure if I still have some head room.

Besides being shorter, and the order of words, what is the difference between both ways?

Which way should I use and in which circunstances?

  • 3
    Room ahead suggests room (space/time) ahead of you. Headroom refers to room above your head. – user66974 Feb 18 '15 at 10:32
  • 1
    @Josh61 Can you please put that in an answer, please? If possible, can you add some examples to show the difference? – Ismael Miguel Feb 18 '15 at 10:46
  • They mean entirely different things. – Hot Licks Feb 18 '15 at 16:58
  • Note that "headroom" is very often used in a metaphorical sense, whereas the metaphorical use of "room ahead" is much rarer. – Hot Licks Feb 18 '15 at 17:23
  • @HotLicks I had no idea of that. Sadly, it seems I do it all wrong since sometimes I mix both. :/ God, I shouldn't have slept on my English classes! – Ismael Miguel Feb 18 '15 at 17:55

Slightly adapting the first definition of the single noun room in Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) yields this definition of room ahead:

an extent of space [in front of one] ... sufficient or available for something.

For example, you might say, "I think there is room ahead for my car to pass the slow car in front of me before any oncoming vehicles appear."

Headroom, meanwhile, has its own entry in the dictionary:

vertical space in which to to stand, sit, or move

For example, you might say, "This compact car has so little headroom that my hair brushes the ceiling every time I turn my head."

(This is essentially a restatement of Josh61's comment from two months ago.)

  • And a nice restatement! Thank you! Sadly, I don't believe you'll have many upvotes. :/ – Ismael Miguel Apr 20 '15 at 8:12

Headroom is generally used to refer the room needed to pass under or thru something. E.g. you're driving a double-decker bus, which is 14 feet high, towards a bridge, and there's a sign saying "Max headroom 12 feet". Better turn round.

  • First of all, thank you for answering. But there are 2 issues with your answer: 1 - You misspelled 'though'. 2 - You only address 1/4th of the question. – Ismael Miguel Feb 18 '15 at 16:09
  • Sorry, Ismael, I should probably have put that as a comment, trying to expand on what Josh61 said about headroom. I didn't misspell 'though' - I spelt 'through' as 'thru'. Quite normal, I think. – David Garner Feb 18 '15 at 16:13
  • I never saw it outside 'lolcat' text and memes. But, according to dictionary.reference.com/browse/thru it is a simplified way of spelling 'through' (I misspelled it above, I ate the 'r'). But if you incorporate the content on Josh61's comment, I can upvote. So far, I don't see enough material to upvote, but you have more than enough to do not downvote. – Ismael Miguel Feb 18 '15 at 16:17
  • Sorry, Ismael I'm new to Stack Exchange so unsure of the processes. I'll leave it to more senior members to handle. – David Garner Feb 18 '15 at 16:21
  • I'm also new (on this site), but how can you improve and learn if you don't try? – Ismael Miguel Feb 18 '15 at 16:25

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