I am building a website where you can give a thing you own and get another thing of the same kind in return. Say you give a stamp in exchange of for another stamp, so you change stamps with someone. Stamp is just an example, it could be a book, a game etc. Fundamentally what you do is giving and taking things of the same kind, you cannot give a book and get a game. You give a book, you get a book.

So, what I am wondering is which word would be the best to indicate this kind of exchange. Swap of Trade? What is the main difference between these two words?

Thanks a lot...

  • 5
    To exchange something for something else is the primary sense of trade and secondary sense of swap. The primary sense of swap meets your requirements. (We swap stories or phone numbers.) I'd go with swap.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 19:22
  • 2
    @TusharRaj I would have expected nothing less from one from that great cricket-playing nation. Quite right. Well done.
    – WS2
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 19:56
  • @WS2 - I disagree with Tushar's assertion that swap has a "primary" and "secondary" sense. I'm guessing that assertion based on Oxford, yet Macmillan lists those same meanings in reverse. In fact, either word could be used.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 19:59
  • @J.R. I had never heard the word trade used in the sense of exchanging something until I was in my twenties and met an American for the first time.
    – WS2
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 20:20
  • 1
    @J.R. Trade in the sense of the commercial trade in goods has been around for centuries and of course I had heard that used. What I had never heard until the 1960s was trade used as a verb to describe someone swapping half a dozen marbles for a packet of chewing gum. 'Trade' involved businesses, and in Britain still mostly does. Exchanging things at a personal level is called swapping.
    – WS2
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 21:43

1 Answer 1


Swap and trade are similar. Trade is more generic while swap has a much more casual feel. Swap can also mean exchanging something without either side giving up anything, though you could use trade in this way, too, I suppose.

For cultural context, there are large "swap meets" in certain parts of America. LA is famous for them. They are sometimes mentioned in rap music. So, if you want to be cool, go with swap and leave trade to the economics professors. Too bad swapmeet.com isn't likely to be available!

  • So when I read all that has been written here I understand swap is the better choice according to my question?
    – honor
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 8:22
  • 1
    I would use swap, but trade isn't incorrect. It depends on the feeling you're going for. I don't know if there's a word that means exchange one type of thing for something else of the same type. We would usually qualify swap/exchange/trade with whatever we were swapping/exchanging/or trading, i.e. book swap, card exchange, etc. Note, however, that "book trade" is also a colloquial way of referring to the business of book publication. Likewise for other products.
    – sjsyrek
    Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 11:54

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