While adding an entry to my SO Developer Story, I came across a required field asking whether my entry was a project, milestone, or accomplishment.

A type of project, milestone, or accomplishment...

I'm a bit confused about the difference between milestone, and accomplishment.

For instance, let's say I wanted to add Eagle Scout to my developer story. Would that be categorized as a milestone or an achievement?

To make things more confusing, the "Category" section only appears when adding a Milestone to my Developer Story. Wouldn't that mean I'm adding a milestone? Or does that make an accomplishment a type of milestone?

  • This sort of question is predicated on the assumption that the questionnaire etc is itself using language correctly. Perhaps they see milestones as major accomplishments. The question then arises: 'What is major?' Aug 8, 2017 at 21:44
  • 1
    Even though dictionaries are often not great tools to use when trying to discover fine distinctions in meaning, some research should be given, even if inconclusive. Aug 8, 2017 at 22:02
  • It doesn’t matter what the difference is. They are simply trying to express the broad category of things that could get entered here using a number of terms th feel will resonate with their audience whether they overlap in some people’s mind isn’t important. If they just written, “accomplishment” someone, for whatever reason might have said, “my potential entry is more of a milestone than an accomplishment. Can I still enter it here?” They are trying to say “enter whatever you feel is important”
    – Jim
    Aug 9, 2017 at 6:32
  • The milestone is inscribed "London 50 miles", the accomplishment is when Dick Whittington becomes Lord Mayor.
    – David
    Oct 7, 2019 at 11:32

3 Answers 3


A milestone represents a (very significant) step along the way; an accomplishment is a triumph in and of itself, even when it is also a milestone on the way to something else…

  • 1
    I've added the qualifier to bring out in a clearer way something I'm sure you agree with . Aug 8, 2017 at 22:07
  • Robbie, do you have any resources (dictionary definitions, examples of usage, etc.) to back up this assertion?
    – vpn
    Aug 9, 2017 at 1:48

They are sometimes used as synonyms, however a milestone is a great accomplishment.

A milestone is more significant than an accomplishment. You accomplish something when you finish it. I accomplished combing my hair this morning. I wouldn't call it a milestone.

But don't just take my word for it:

According to Merriam-Webster online an accomplishment is "the act or fact of accomplishing something."


According to Merriam-Webster online a milestone is "a significant point in development", such as graduating from college.

  • But a milestone isn't just 'a step along the way'. It's a very significant step. Answers here may not be the finished article. Aug 8, 2017 at 22:04
  • Uh… Devil, their relative significance is not the point. An accomplishment is significant in and of itself. A milestone is not. If it helps, substitute whatever you like for triumph Aug 8, 2017 at 22:19

The OED recognizes three definitions of milestone--the original marker on a road, a marker of progress, and the sense adopted in U.S. program planning (the only one where I quoted the first instance, to show that this is a more recent use).

milestone, n. and adj. A. n.

  1. a. A stone or (usually short) pillar set up beside a road indicating >the distance in miles from that point to a particular place.The reference in quot. lOE may be to a Roman milestone on a road in England.

    b. fig. A significant stage or event in the progress or development of a society, a career, an individual's physical and mental growth, etc.; a measure of progress or change. Cf. landmark n. 3.

    c. fig. orig. U.S. A stage to be reached (in a project, etc.), esp. by a specified date; a target.

1958 PERT Summary Rep. Phase 1 (Bureau of Naval Weapons, U.S. Navy) 2/1 The progress information is based upon a sequence of important milestones together with their scheduled dates for accomplishment.

So an Eagle Scout badge would be, to me, an accomplishment (I didn't look it up in the OED). Milestones can be accomplishments. The words clearly overlap. A project might be working on something, e.g., development of an application.

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