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A user in the Spanish Language site asked a question about how to distinguish 'ceiling' from 'roof' in Spanish, and gave us the following example:

The top floor of my house does not have a ceiling under the roof.

Another user said in his answer that

If your attic got tejado [roof], the underside of that element is the techo [ceiling] of the room.

That is precisely what puzzles me about the example given. According to the Oxford dictionary, a 'ceiling' is:

The upper interior surface of a room or other similar compartment.

It does not state that the 'interior surface' must be a low, flat, finished ceiling, so I think that if the room has a roof, it must have a ceiling, even if it is a high ceiling based on the underside of the roof.

So how is the word 'ceiling' used in English? What does it actually mean? Can a house have a 'roof' but no 'ceiling' in its upper floor?

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    Yes you can have a roof without ceiling: google.it/…:
    – user 66974
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 8:02
  • @user240918 but wouldn't the underside of the roof (even if it is a wooden, high roof) be considered the 'ceiling'? Not from an architectural point of view, but based on the definition of the word itself.
    – Charlie
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 8:08
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    Generally a ceiling is an additional structure that covers the inside part of the roof.
    – user 66974
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 8:09
  • Let's say you have a bedroom on the second floor of your house. It has a ceiling. There is also a hatch in the bedroom closet that goes to an attic. Now let's say you rip down the bedroom ceiling, exposing the bedroom directly to the attic. What are you left with? A bedroom without a ceiling that has nothing between it and the roof of the house. Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 17:11
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    If you can see the roof inside the house - it is a roof. If you cannot see the underside of the roof inside the house - it is a ceiling. From Middle English 'ceil' meaning to cover. Wiktionary.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 19:01

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No. A room will always have a celling.

However a celling may not be a roof. A first floor room in a two story building will have a celling, but the structure that forms the celling of that room will be the floor of the room above it.

The shape, size, material, design, etc., of it doesn't matter. Only whether or not it covers the room. If it does then it is a celling.

A roof is the structure that goes on top of the building. The 'lid' if you will. The underside of that roof will be the celling of that room.

Another point worth noting is that this definition really only applies to a building. For example, a car has a roof, but it would be a strange (although proably technically correct) statement to talk about the celling of a car.

EDIT

From some of the other comments:

So an attic is a room, got no problem with that. I'm just wondering whether an uncovered roof can be considered a surface. If so, then it's a ceiling according to this definition, no?

Yes - it is a celling. The physical form is not what we need to define. The concept of it covering the room and providing a barrier from whatever is above that room is the celling. We would say something like "the celling of the attic is made up of wooden beams and the underside of the roof tiles"

Let's say you have a bedroom on the second floor of your house. It has a ceiling. There is also a hatch in the bedroom closet that goes to an attic. Now let's say you rip down the bedroom ceiling, exposing the bedroom directly to the attic. What are you left with? A bedroom without a ceiling that has nothing between it and the roof of the house?

Exactly. You are left with a bedroom that has a very high celling. A celling which is made up of beautiful old beams and cobwebs (I'm taking some aritisc license to illustrate how the 'raw' roof is also the celling).

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    You are treating language like maths. To what end, I'm not quite sure. You're talking about some abstract logic rather than about how the words are actually used. I could go to Home Improvement right now and ask "can I remove the ceiling without risking the integrity of my roof", and everyone would understand exactly what I mean and nobody would bat an eye at it. Indeed, the only reason I am not doing it is because someone else already has. That question actually exists already. Except according to you it cannot.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 15:22
  • Not like maths. Rather on how common usuage would come across.
    – TheShade
    Commented Nov 15, 2018 at 7:44
  • I pressed enter too quickly... The structure of that specific question that you quoted implies that you have two seperate physcical objects - a celling that is not a roof, and a roof that is above the celling (e.g. perhaps some kind of wooden board nailed to the wooden beams of the roof). Hence, anyone would understand it and it is indeed a valid question to ask. However, if you asked that same question and your roof was the same physcial object as your celling, then it wouldn't make sense as by removing the celling you are removing the roof.
    – TheShade
    Commented Nov 15, 2018 at 7:51

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