As far as I know the words realm and field can have similar meanings but when I read the following sentence, it made me asking if there was a special purpose for using these two words in the same sentence?

You can't solve all Europe's problems in one summit. What we have to do is show in our deeds we can do things better in the realms of security and fighting terrorism, and in the field of defence.

Can I shorten the sentence by using only one of them as follows? Is there significant difference between the original sentence and following sentences in terms of meaning?

  1. You can't solve all Europe's problems in one summit. What we have to do is show in our deeds we can do things better in the realms of security, fighting terrorism, and defence.

  2. You can't solve all Europe's problems in one summit. What we have to do is show in our deeds we can do things better in the fields of security,fighting terrorism, and defence.

  3. You can't solve all Europe's problems in one summit. What we have to do is show in our deeds we can do things better in terms of security, fighting terrorism, and defence.

  • In the areas of... Or with respect to...
    – Jim
    Sep 23, 2016 at 23:03
  • 1
    If I were using both realm and field in the same sentence, I would use realm for the wider sphere of interest. Your example seems to do the opposite. It also appears to consider security and fighting terrorism to be independent of defence, My guess would be that the author simply didn't want to use the same word twice. Sep 27, 2016 at 9:26

2 Answers 2


If we look at the dictionary definitions they are almost synonymous. Especially the applicable definitions of field and realm read nearly identical and realm even uses field in its own definition.

In terms of is defined a little different in wording but still reads very similar.

field 2: A particular branch of study or sphere of activity or interest. - ODO

realm 1.1: A field or domain of activity or interest. - ODO

in terms of (or in —— terms): With regard to the particular aspect or subject specified. - ODO

If we look at the following ngrams we can see that in terms of is hugely more used than the other two variants.




While the general dominance of in terms of cannot be established with ngrams for the two fields security and defense, the usage of realm(s) of) is always used fewer in the digitized books. Thus, a clear preference for any of the wordings cannot be established. If you want to use a parallelism, I see nothing that precludes you from doing so.

Lastly, note that the sentence is the transcription and translation of something Angela Merkel said. It is not unusual for politicians to add another train of thought after they were almost finished with a sentence. As such the BBC couldn't contract the parallelism without taking some freedom in the translation. However, I see no changing in meaning if they had. Nothing other than making Merkel seem a bit more eloquent at least.


I tracked down the original video. It's on the Facebook page of the Bundesregierung.

Es geht jetzt nicht darum, einfach von einem Gipfel die Lösung der Probleme Europas zu erwarten. Wir sind in einer kritischen Situation. Sondern es geht darum, durch Taten zu zeigen, dass wir besser werden können: im Bereich der Sicherheit - innerer und äußerer Sicherheit - , [bei der] Bekämpfung von Terrorismus und der Zusammenarbeit im Verteidigungsbereich, dass wir besser werden können in den Fragen von Wachstum und Arbeitsplätzen.

-Angela Merkel, 16.09.2016

She didn't say what's in the brackets, that was inserted by the subtitling on the video. I emphasized her usage of Bereich, which is explicitly the same in im Bereich der Sicherheit ... (area of security) and Zusammenarbeit im Verteidigungsbereich (cooperation in the area of defense). The last is part of a compound word but there's no difference between Verteidigungsbereich and Bereich der Verteidigung. Generally it's a (very) loose and shortened translation. They even skipped one and a half sentences. Anyways, the use of different words cannot be traced back to the original.

  • While I think you've answered the question as stated, I think that an alternative way of them phrasing their sentence to tighten it up, without changing the phrasing too much, would be: 'Europe's problems can't all be solved in one summit. What we have to do is show by our deeds that we can do better in the areas of security, specifically in fighting terrorism, and defence.'
    – Sam
    Sep 27, 2016 at 13:20
  • Yes, fighting terrorism is part of security, which is domestic or internal and tends to be handled by the police while defence is external and tends to be handled by the military. Grammatically there's no significant difference between realms and fields but logically, realms should include fields and never vice versa. In my memory realms is most often used for limitless concepts such as fantasy or imagination. Then, I'd been seeking a succinct example such as "In terms of his field of study, Einstein was highly unusual" to show up that difference. Sep 27, 2016 at 19:37
  • Just a thought: if the sentence is the result of translation, perhaps the original words translated as 'realm of' and 'field of' have a definite difference that simply gets lost in translation. As an example using Portuguese (since I don't know German), the English words 'say' and 'tell' are equally translated into 'dizer'. Sep 30, 2016 at 14:39
  • @SaraCosta being a native speaker I could easily track it down. She used the same word in both instances. I updated my answer accordingly.
    – Helmar
    Sep 30, 2016 at 17:00

First of all, this was said aloud, so can't be held to the same standards as carefully edited prose.

My best guess is that Mrs Merkel said it that way, not because there is a significant difference between realm and field, but because she wanted to group the first two as a single item:

You can't solve all Europe's problems in one summit. What we have to do is show in our deeds we can do things better in the realm(s) of (security and fighting terrorism), and in the (field of defence).

This seems plausible, since "fighting terrorism" is usually seen a subset of "security", while "defense" usually refers to traditional military/border issues.

Interpreted this way, realm should have been singular.

As for why she didn't use the same term (realm or field) for both, she might have simply been trying not to be repetitive.

If my interpretation is correct, then all your versions that combine the 3 items into a single list do not capture the original intent.

EDIT: I just saw the sentence was a translation. This makes things more complicated, but may just push some of these word choices onto the translator, instead of the original speaker.


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