Today, I wanted to discuss a role I had as a research assistant at a university. I had discussed it using language like "During my research assistancy, I did xyz" or "I had this experience in my research assistancy." Compare to the equivalent sentences with "PhD candidacy" instead, which I hear from time to time.

When I tried to use assistancy in a later email, it was underlined red. To my surprise, many dictionaries don't have that word, including Merriam-Webster, dictionary.com, the Cambridge Dictionary, and the Oxford Learner's Dictionaries. Spellchecker.net even lists it as a spelling mistake.

The Google Books Ngram Viewer does list usages of it, but only barely, and the word seems to have fallen out of (relative) popularity 100 years ago.

Given this information, can "assistancy" be considered a word? For reference, the similar term candidacy means:

the state of being a candidate

If assistancy is indeed unacceptable, what word means "the state of being an assistant"?

2 Answers 2


If you wish to avoid a useful word because it is not widely defined, you could use a related alternative:


assistantship: in British English NOUN US education:

a graduate post which requires the student to carry out some teaching duties in return for financial assistance

Interestingly, assistanceship does not appear in many other dictionaries than Collins, so might suffer the same way as assistancy were it not for Google ngram's showing a pattern of its sustained use from the mid 1800s: ten times the occurrence of assistancy over almost ten times the period, extending to the present day.

  • Assistency appears in the OED but the sense is "helpfulness" rather than a post or duty. Furthermore, it is marked as "obsolete" - last recorded c.1675. You will probably have to rephrase: "During my time as a research assistant ..."
    – Greybeard
    Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 11:46
  • Ah, this seems to be what I was looking for. It is somewhat inaccurate for how I tried to use it since my research assistantship is unpaid and as an undergraduate (I hadn't specified that in my question, apologies), but I think bending this term wouldn't be too much of a stretch for that. I'll accept this answer after some time if nothing more fitting comes along.
    – Drake P
    Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 16:44
  • 1
    Also, I'm not sure what your last paragraph is supposed to mean, comparing assistancy to assistancy. Perhaps you made a typo?
    – Drake P
    Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 16:46
  • @DrakeP Oops, Yes you are quite correct. Many Thanks for that. I hate typing on an iPad - much more reliable on the laptop.
    – Anton
    Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 17:20
  • You should fix your answer. assistantship is also used in AmE.
    – Lambie
    Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 18:37

assistancy (n.)

Forms: Also 1600s–1700s assistency.

The position of an assistant.

1608 T. Fitzherbert Let. 23 Aug. (1948) 29 You have confirmed Mr Singleton in his Assistency

1909 Practitioner Nov. 723 Qualified men..are..not available for assistancy work. (OED)

However, I don't see it spelled either way in Google Books in modern times with that meaning, and I would definitely avoid it in a resume.

The following managerial changes have been made: George F. Peer is promoted from an assistancy at Newark to the managership of Dover; Patrick Hughes advances from an assistancy in New York to the managership of Hoboken ... The Insurance Times, Vol. 34 (1901)

This problem is to be solved by recourse to an assistancy or by securing a place on the staff of an available hospital. In an assistancy a man may become an operator and lay the foundation for a very considerable success in the practice of surgery. Iowa Medical Journal, Vol. 16 (1909)

  • ”An assistancy is a large geographical area comprising several Jesuit provinces, most of whose inhabitants speak a common language. There were four assistancies [Italy, Germany, Portugal, and Spain] in 1600. The assistancy of France was added in 1608, and Poland and Lithuania in 1755.’
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 15:10
  • @tchrist Yes, that usage is actually more common, but appears to often be capitalized. // I also found "The returns of every agent in his assistancy each week are reviewed by him before being sent to the home office" in a life-insurance publication.
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Feb 8, 2022 at 15:11

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