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I'm building an application that shows schedule/timetable for university students.
I'm confused as to what is the correct word for it: schedule or timetable?
What should I call it?

Here is the result of GitHub search for different queries:

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  • Schedule sounds more American to my British ears.
    – Stuart F
    Nov 26, 2021 at 16:05

6 Answers 6

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If you look at a dictionary, you'll see that they mean essentially the same thing.

From Merriam-Webster:

timetable

1 : a table of departure and arrival times of trains, buses, or airplanes
2 a : a schedule showing a planned order or sequence
b : PROGRAM sense 3

schedule

2 : a written or printed list, catalog, or inventory
also : TIMETABLE sense 1
3 : PROGRAM
especially : a procedural plan that indicates the time and sequence of each operation
// finished on schedule
4 : a body of items to be dealt with : AGENDA

Note that one of the senses of schedule points to one of the senses of timetable.

Both schedule and timetable also point to program. However, one of the senses of timetable points specifically to the third sense of program, which is:

: a plan or system under which action may be taken toward a goal

So, if context can't determine the difference but you think there must be some difference (there doesn't have to be; it can be subjective), you could use that third sense of program to distinguish between the two.

If going by that third sense of program, a timetable would be a list of events that happens in sequence leading up to or during a certain singular event. Meanwhile, a schedule would be more generalized and describe a recurring series of events.

I personally am more used to hearing about, for example:

A bus schedule but the timetable of a bus trip.
A wedding timetable but the schedule of the church.

With that subtle distinction, I'd be more inclined to say:

A university schedule but the timetable of university registration.
A student schedule but the timetable of the student graduation party.

Using schedule in your example phrases is also supported by your Google hits, which indicate popularity.

But having said that, I don't think anybody would misunderstand or have a problem with the use of timetable either, if that were your preference. (Merriam-Webster itself seems to equally support bus timetable and bus schedule.)

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Timetable specifically refers to when certain set events will occur on a regular basis. A schedule is individual, so it may not be the same every week and may not be the same for every person. Hope this is helpful!

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Timetable is fixed like your working hours or shifts. Schedule is a particular thing in a working day like a meeting.

You can have a bad or inconvenient timetable at your job, but a busy or packed schedule a particular day.

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To a certain extent, especially in the second half of the last century, “timetable” was the common British English usage, whereas “schedule” was (and still is) the common US English usage.

This can be seen from the Google ngrams, where the use of “timetable” in the US is almost negligible compared to that of “schedule”. The results for British English show a quite different pattern, although the situation is complicated by the fact that the word “schedule” is used more widely than the noun “timetable”, and seems more natural as a verb.

As an educated British English native speaker, “timetable” seems the most natural everyday word — certainly my parents would never have used “schedule”, which, even today, strikes me as somewhat affected. (However I did not realize until now, the British/US difference in usage.)

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Literally, a timetable is a written or printed list of times and events.

In an extended sense, a timetable is a list in any form of times and events.

Literally, a schedule is any form of list of anything. It does not necessarily relate to time and is particularly used for lists that explain previous parts of a document.

OED

Timetable: 3.a. A chart detailing the times of departure and arrival of trains or, later, buses, trams, etc., at successive stations or stops; a similar chart showing the times of departure and arrival of passenger boats, aircraft, etc.

1838 Osborne's Guide Grand Junction Railway 67 (heading) Time table shewing the hours at which the trains leave, and the times of their arrival at the various stations.

Extended:

5. A plan of times at which events are scheduled to take place, either on a day-to-day basis or as part of a process leading towards a particular end;

2006 New Yorker 11 Dec. 38/1 The agency issued a timetable for phasing out chlorofluorocarbons.

Schedule:

At an early point in history, we have the now obsolete:

2.†a. Originally (as specific use of sense 1), a separate paper or slip of parchment accompanying or appended to a document, and containing explanatory or supplementary matter; in 16–17th cent. sometimes used for a codicil to a will.

1803 Duke of Wellington Dispatches (1837) II. 612 Of which territories, etc. a detailed list is given in the accompanying schedule.

Thus

b. Hence (without material reference) an appendix to an Act of Parliament or a legal instrument, containing (often in tabular form) a statement of details that could not conveniently be placed in the body of the document.

and

2c. In wider sense, any tabular or classified statement, esp. one arranged under headings prescribed by official authority, as, e.g. an insolvent's statement of assets and liabilities, a return of particulars liable to income or other tax, and the like.

You will note that schedules are independent of time.

So all timetables are schedules, but not all schedules are timetables.

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My answer is based on what I understand of a linkedin course called 'time management fundamentals' by dave crenshaw, an author and a productivity/time management expert who has ADHD. (I mention ADHD because part of the definition of ADHD is problems with time management.)

This answer may or may not apply to your specific situation re the program. In your situation, maybe it's the just the same thing. I think they both mean what I call as 'time table' below. Based on Jason Bassford's answer, maybe Jason Bassford and I have inverted meanings for time table and schedule.

I believe 'time table' = what dave crenshaw calls 'time budgeter'. It's basically just an outline what you might do in a day, in a week, in a month or in a year.

A 'schedule' then is no longer an outline but what you actually put in your calendar. What you put in your calendar, is already a commitment.

For Dave Crenshaw:

A time budgeter is flexible. It depends on how things in your life change or how often interruptions/distractions most likely arise during the day. You might check your calendar for the past month to adjust your time budgeter for this coming month, e.g. 'perhaps' (see also dave crenshaw's 'perhaps list') I'll do these activities earlier rather than later in the day because I am more likely to get interrupted later in the day.

However, a calendar is no longer a 'perhaps'. You've already committed to specific things

  • eg meetings with clients, colleagues, supervisors and even with family members

  • eg personal appointments like seeing a dentist, psychiatrist or psychologist

  • eg times to eat or sleep

  • eg but also including buffer time! very important.

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    While somebody may choose to use these words in this way for some special purpose, in some special contexts, this answer doesn't capture how they are actually used. Time budgeting and putting things on one's calendar has nothing to do with railway timetables or university schedules
    – jsw29
    May 23, 2021 at 16:47

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