Difference Between While and Whilst

Main Difference – While vs Whilst

While and whilst are two conjunctions that have been used in English language for a long period. There is no semantic difference between these two words, i.e. they both have the same meaning: during the time that or at the same time as. The main difference between while and whilst is that while is more commonly accepted and used both in British and American English whereas whilst is considered more formal and quaint. This difference between while and whilst will be further elaborated in this article.

While- Meaning and Usage

As a conjunction, while gives the meaning of at the same time as or during the time that. While is the commonly accepted conjunction of the two; while and whilst. It can be used both in written and spoken language. While can also give the meaning whereas when used as a conjunction or a relative pronoun.

Jane wants to migrate to Australia while her son prefers to migrate to America.

Now I’ won’t be able to think of anything else while I’m studying.

Nothing much has changed while you were away.

In addition to the function of a relative pronoun, while also functions as a noun as well as a verb. As a noun, while indicates a period of time or means ‘at the same of time’ or ‘meanwhile.’ As a verb, while indicates to pass the time in a leisurely manner. The examples below will illustrate these uses.

I completed my work a little while ago.

We watched TV for a while.

He starts to walk, talking the while.

They sat under shady trees, hoping to while the day away.

Difference between while and whilst

Whilst – Meaning and Usage

Whilst is a more formal variant of while. Whilst is mostly used in British English, as many Americans find it a bit quaint and old-fashioned. This is mostly used in formal writing. This term came into usage in the Late Middle English. Remember that while and whilst can be used interchangeably, only if you are using them as conjunctions.

Some grammarians claim that while should be used in reference to a longer period of time and whilst for a shorter period of time. However, these claims are not well-supported and, therefore, cannot be accepted as definite rules. Whilst can be used interchangeably with While.

The worst of it, though, is the attention I get whilst going to public places.

while vs whilst

Hannibal, whilst even yet a child, swears eternal hatred to the Romans

Difference Between While and Whilst


While is widely accepted and used.

Whilst is rarely used in American English.


While was in use in Old English.

Whilst is a variant that came into use in Middle English.


While is used in both spoken and written language.

Whilst is considered old-fashioned and quaint, and used in formal usage.


While can be used as a noun, verb, conjunction and relative adverb.

Whilst can be used as a conjunction.


Image Courtesy:

“Comic History of Rome Table 06 Hannibal whilst even yet a child swears eternal hatred to the Romans” by John Leech – (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons

“”Sir- don’t waste while your wife saves. Adopt the doctrine of the clean plate- do your share.” – NARA – 512569″ by Young, Crawford, Artist (NARA record: 5114744) – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons 

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