‘Bar' or 'Pub': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on May 12, 2023

So, you are wondering about the difference between 'bar' or 'pub.' Many people wonder if there is a difference. So, whether you were asked to go to a 'pub' or want to ask a date to go to a 'bar,' this guide will help you decide the correct word to use.

Do you need a quick answer? 

If so, here it is: 

  • 'Bar' is a noun given to an establishment selling alcoholic beverages. 
  • 'Pub' is the British noun name given to a 'public house' or an establishment selling alcohol. 

Now that you know that these two words are essentially two versions of the same word, read the rest of this lesson to learn about the other meanings of these two words and tips for using them.

What's the Difference Between a 'Bar' or 'Pub?'

You know that 'bar' and 'pub' have similar meanings. So, how are they different?

  • 'Bar' is the most common name for a place that sells alcohol in the United States.
  • In some parts of Europe, like Ireland, 'bars' are given the name 'pub.'

When Do You Use 'Bar' or 'Pub?'

While people are more likely to use one than the other depending on what part of the world they are from, you can use them interchangeably in most cases. However, the term 'pub' is usually used when describing a place that goes by 'pub.'

For example, someone might tell you:

We are going to the 'pub' for St. Patrick's Day. They are going to have green beer and specials all night. I hope you can join us!

If you are talking to friends and you ask them if they want to go to a 'pub,' they may assume that you want to go to the local Irish 'pub.' So, unless you are specifically referencing your local 'pub,' consider using 'bar.'

For example, you could say:

Do you have plans for Saturday night? If not, I was wondering if you want to hit up a 'bar' or club.

Definition of 'Bar': What Does 'Bar' Mean?

You already know that 'bar' is a common name for a business that sells alcohol.

However, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it can also mean:

  • A straight piece of metal or wood that goes across something
  • A building material used to create perpendicular supports to prevent people from breaking in or out
  • A long skinny piece of metal, wood, or plastic used as a support
  • An object that prevents passage into or out of a site
  • A physical blockade or impediment
  • The gate or partition separating a courtroom
  • A law
  • An order handed down by a judge
  • A body of attorneys
  • A high counter
  • A counter where someone serves food or drinks
  • A band that is longer than it is wide
  • A measurement in music
  • A ban
  • A standard set
  • A strip on a computer with menus or options

Synonyms of Bar

  • Beam
  • Rod
  • Line
  • Pinstripe
  • Strip
  • Stripe
  • Band
  • Stick
  • Crossbeam
  • Streak
  • Bank
  • Stack
  • Pub
  • Tavern
  • Cafe
  • Nightclub
  • Saloon
  • Taproom
  • Cabaret
  • Public house
  • Cantina
  • Watering hole
  • Brewery

Terms and Phrases Related to Bar

  • 80s bar
  • Sports bar
  • Bar and billiard
  • Bar specials
  • Bar event
  • Bar and grill
  • Soundbar
  • Bar back
  • Bartender
  • Barkeep
  • Bar tab
  • Barmaid
  • Bar manager
  • Bars and stripes
  • Barred from the event
  • Dive bar
  • Neighborhood bar
  • Local bar
  • Bar menu

Definition of 'Pub': What Does 'Pub' Mean?

You know the definition of the former term now. So, let's look at the meaning of 'pub.' According to the definition in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of 'pub' is:

  • A business that serves beer or other alcoholic beverages

It can also be an abbreviation for:

  • Public
  • Publication
  • Publishing
  • Publisher
  • Published
  • Public house

Synonyms of Pub

  • Bar
  • Tavern
  • Cafe
  • Bistro
  • Speakeasy
  • Barrelhouse
  • Alehouse
  • Brewery
  • Microbrewery
  • Barroom
  • Public house
  • Dive
  • Watering hole
  • Cantina
  • Roadhouse
  • Saloon
  • Wine room

Terms and Phrases Related to Pub

  • Pub crawl
  • Pub food
  • Irish pub
  • Scottish pub
  • Pub sign

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Bar' or 'Pub'

Knowing how to use and define terms is important, but it is also essential to know how to pronounce them. Luckily, the pronunciation of these terms is straightforward.

Here is a guide:

  • Pronounce 'bar' using this phonetic spelling:


  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce the latter:


Sample Sentences Using 'Bar' or 'Pub'


  • Carry spilled the beans about your plans to go to that new bar downtown.
  • Are we going to attend the disco dash event at the bar on Logan Ave? The winners will receive a $500 prize. But you have to wear disco attire to enter the contest.
  • We are all excited to check out that bar. Do you want to stop by after work?
  • How often do you drink at a bar? I haven't been to one in a few years.


  • I do not know why the pub adds green food color to the beer. It always leaves a green stain on my lips.
  • She let the cat out of the bag about the incredible happy hour deals at that new pub.
  • When we were in Ireland, we stopped at every pub we saw.
  • Try the fish and chips next time you visit the pub.
  • I heard the pub down the street is looking for a new barkeep. Maybe you should apply for the position.


  • Bars are a dime a dozen, but a good pub is like a diamond in the ruff.
  • The barkeep at the local pub is off his rocker. He used to work at the bar on Main St., but they fired him.
  • Don't judge a book by its cover. That little pub is better than the fancy bar down the street.
  • I hope that you will come to my birthday party at the Scottish pub. I usually have it at that bar on the corner of Main St and Tavis St, but I thought I would try something new this year.

The Last Word on 'Bar' or 'Pub'

After all that you learned in this guide, you should be comfortable using 'bar' or 'pub.'

Just to be sure, let's do a quick recap:

  • 'Bar' is the American name for a business that serves alcoholic drinks. 
  • 'Pub' is the British English term for a business that sells beer and other alcohol-based drinks. 
  • People typically use the term 'bar' in America unless they are actually going to a 'pub.'
  • You can use the terms interchangeably. 

Now, if you ever have trouble with these confusing words or others, come back here to find out the correct meaning, usage, definition, or pronunciation.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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