1) order: The verb order has different meanings. One of them is the following:

to organize (things) in a particular list or series : to put things in a particular order or position

2) organise: Also the verb organise has different meanings. One of them is the following:

to arrange or order things so that they can be found or used easily and quickly : to put things into a particular arrangement or order

(Source of the definitions: http://www.learnersdictionary.com/)

My question refers only to the meanings of 1) and 2) above. I am not interested in other meanings. So with the definitions above I am not able to discover a difference between 1) and 2). But I assume that there are nuances between the word organise and order in the meaning 1) vs. 2).

So can you teach me exactly what the differences are?

Some examples: Is it exactly the same when I say:

1) The books are ordered alphabetically by author.
vs. The books are organized alphabetically by author.

2) His office is a mess. He needs someone to help him order his work/papers.
vs. His office is a mess. He needs someone to help him organize his work/papers.

3) She took a moment to order her thoughts before she responded.
vs. She took a moment to organize her thoughts before she responded.

4) The book is ordered around a central theme.
vs. The book is organized around a central theme.

5) I spent some time ordering my closet last weekend.
vs. I spent some time organizing my closet last weekend.

6) You need to learn to order better.
vs. You need to learn to organize better.

Edit: Added more examples:
7) I ordered the photos chronologically.
vs. I organized the photos chronologically.

8) Please order these files according to case significance.
vs. Please organize these files according to case significance.

  • 1
    I answered your question, however I would like to address your examples. 1) Second is OK. 2) Second is OK. 3) Second is OK 4) Second is OK 5) Second is OK (see my answer for why) 6) Second is OK. Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 15:23

4 Answers 4


In American English, the verb order tends to connote a sequence. Organize suggests structure, of which sequencing is one version, but many other systems might apply. If your context suggests sequence, either could usually be used. If not, organize would probably be better.

In your examples, organize works for all of them. Order also works clearly in example 1. In example 6, order could be used if the skill focuses on some type of sequence. In example 3, order also works, probably because thoughts are often construed to flow in a logical sequence. In 2, 4 and 5, order seems inappropriate.

You might also consider the phrase in order

properly arranged


While this adjectival and adverbial phrase can mean sequencing, it also is routinely used to encompasses the broader well structured concept.


The word order is used to denote rank. This is where we get the idea "ordinal number," or "first," "second," "third," etc. I can ask what is the order of the English alphabet and you would say "A, B, C, D..." Order has the idea of one thing coming before or after another.

The word "organize," is used to denote structure or grouping, which is very different from "order."

Using the example of the alphabet this will be more clear. I can ask someone "How is the alphabet organized?" As it is learned by people it is not organized. However, if people learned the alphabet as "A, E, I, O, U, B, C, D, F..." I could say it is organized into vowels and consonants. If this is how we learned the alphabet, when someone asked what the order of the alphabet is, I would say "A, E, I, O, U, B, C, D, F..."

This is why we say "Put the books in alphabetical order," and not "put the books in alphabetical organization."

There was a bookshop in San Francisco that organized their books by color. If they had placed them to follow ROYGBIV then we would say that they were placed in the following order: ROYGBIV. People walked into the store and said "Wow, you organized them by color; now I can't find anything."

You can't order things in a closet. You can organize things. People might say "order things in a closet," but they are using the word in the sense of "put things in order." "In order," here means to take something that is messy and organize it. It also has the feeling of control, as in "to control" a mess.

On a side note, I always tell my students to use an English dictionary, not a learner's dictionary. Learner's dictionaries play fast and loose with words, only giving what's good enough to give the "basic idea." I use the American Heritage Ipad dictionary (along with 12 others) and I find it works 90% of the time to get me out of a jam. I always look to the word origins to see if a word comes from Latin, Greek, Middle English, or Germanic origin, as this original meaning will often make the modern meaning more clear.

  • that's economics.stackexchange.com
    – Invoker
    Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 15:20
  • Sorry, what do you mean? Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 15:25
  • Thank you for your detailed statement. According to your explanation and the explanations from the others I would expect that the sentence: "I've organized the application forms into three groups." is right. But "I've ordered the application forms into three groups." is wrong. But according to dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/order (last example) the second sentence is right. (confused)
    – Wogehu
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 11:28

It is almost exactly the same,


Your examples 1,2,5 and 6 don't work precisely because you cannot simply pretend that

I am not interested in other meanings.

"... help him organise his work papers." is clear and unambiguous. but "...order his work papers"could mean 'help him place an order for stationery and office supplies'.

The first meaning of "I spent some time ordering my closet..." meeans I browsed through some catalogues and decided which one I would like." If you mean tidy up and arrange, then choose "organise."

Of course in conversation the ambiguity would soon be sorted out, but in writing...


If we are not mistaken, the meaning suggested in the poster for two words, 'order' and 'organise', is administering or providing somesort of synchronization; and we would stick to this meaning only.

To my mind, 'order' is something pre- determined. This 'order' may be god-ordained (as in world-order) or man made(as in word-order) or a concept imbibed in our soul(metrical-order) whereas 'organise' is something laboured, contrived and not natural demanding much of an effort. To be precise, what is ordered can be organised, not the other way around.

However this view is from essentially personal perspective as the words seemed to have gathered connotation to my foreign ears.

Hence, I would use 'organise' in example(1), and 'order' in(2). In the 1st. I am organizing according to established order and in the 2nd. I am giving it an order according to my sense of symmetry.

The rest of the examples can be chosen following the suggestions.

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