I wonder whether these terms can be used interchangeably and what distinctions might be made between them. It seems to me etymologically that kindness is more related to belonging and the behaviour of care one gives to those that are like us, benevolence may be closer to goodwill than kindness as its roots are about wanting the good for the other ? Thank you

  • 1
    Your question stands a better chance of survival if you include the dictionary definitions for each word and explain more fully why you think they are or are not interchangeable.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 2, 2018 at 11:51
  • If you don't, users will do one of two things: 1. close your question for lack of research, or, 2. post answers that quote dictionary definitions
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 2, 2018 at 11:53
  • or 3. post answers that are unsupported...
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 2, 2018 at 12:16
  • This is all new to me, thank you for your guidance Mar 2, 2018 at 13:13

1 Answer 1


Kindness and benevolence are similar in meaning and can often be used interchangeably. They are both qualities that people possess. There are slight differences:

  • Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.

  • Benevolence is the quality of being well-meaning. Usually this goes hand-in-hand with benevolence but not always. For example, forcing your child to stay inside the house, who wants to leave the house, to study for an exam would be benevolent (having the good intention of making them perform better in the exam) but not friendly (this is not considerate of the child's desire to leave the house).

Goodwill is friendly, helpful, or cooperative feelings or attitude. The key differences involving goodwill are:

  • It is not a quality of a person, but rather it is something directed towards something or someone. Often it can be substituted for kindness and benevolence. For example, a husband would show his wife goodwill, or he would treat the business contract with goodwill. Whilst these sentences would make sense with kindness or benevolence in its place, you could also say that a person has lots of kindness and benevolence, but it would be incorrect to say that a person has lots of goodwill (unless it's directed towards something).

  • Goodwill involves feelings/attitude of cooperation, whilst kindness and benevolence do not necessarily do so. For example, when one co-boss discusses a possible business merger with the a second co-boss, the co-boss may not show goodwill towards the first co-boss by being against the merger. However he may still be kind and benevolent towards the co-boss (he may be respectful towards the co-boss and genuinely feel that the merger is not a good idea for their business).

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