'Customer' vs 'Client': What's the Difference?

By Katie Moore, updated on November 10, 2023

‘Customer’ vs ‘Client’: What’s the difference? We often look for synonyms to use that will spice up our writing without fully considering their individual meanings. In this article, we’ll not only teach you new vocabulary but give you tools to navigate synonyms individually. 

In a hurry? Here’s a quick overview of what’s to come:

  • ‘Customer’ is a word that refers to a person buying goods
  • ‘Client’ is a word that refers to a person receiving services

What’s the Difference Between ‘Customer’ vs ‘Client’?

A primary reason these words are confusing is because they are often viewed as interchangeable when that is not entirely true. This is because ‘customer’ vs ‘client’ are synonyms:

The words ‘customer’ vs ‘client’ are similar in the sense that they both typically describe someone who is buying something, but they differ in what they buy. 

  • ‘Customer’ refers to someone buying a good, such as someone buying food at the grocery store.
  • Meanwhile, ‘Client’ refers to someone who is receiving a service, such as getting their roof redone or kitchen remodeled.

A good way to think of this is that a ‘customer’ usually has more one-off interaction with a seller, while a ‘client’ tends to build a rapport or relationship with the person giving the service. This is not an exclusive reality, but it may help you distinguish the two. 

  • You can also think of ‘clients’ as a part of a business partnership or as people who officially go into a business relationship. 

Understanding this basic difference between these two words is a good start to comparing them, but it doesn’t give us the full picture. Let’s dive in deeper and take a closer look individually at the meanings of ‘customer’ vs ‘client.’

Definition of ‘Customer’: What Does it Mean?

According to Oxford Languages, ‘customer’ is a noun that means:

  • A person or organization that buys goods or services from a store or business
    • “He was a regular customer at Starbucks.”
  • A person or thing of a specified kind that one has to deal with 
    • “The fish is a particularly slippery customer and is hard to catch.”
  • One that purchases a commodity, good, or service in exchange for money or something else of value

Note that the word ‘customer’ can sometimes be confused with the word ‘costumer’ based on their similar spelling, but the latter refers to a “person or company that supplies or makes theatrical or fancy-dress costumes.”

Synonyms of ‘Customer’

  • Client
  • Shopper
  • Consumer
  • Patron
  • Purchaser
  • Buyer
  • Clientele
  • Regular

Antonyms of ‘Customer’

  • Seller
  • Owner
  • Manager
  • Worker
  • Boss
  • Employee
  • Vendor
  • Merchant
  • Broker

Phrases with ‘Customer’

  • Next customer
  • Customer service
  • Customer of the month
  • First customer
  • The customer is always right
  • Worst customer 
  • Valued customer 

Definition of ‘Client’: What Does it Mean?

According to Oxford Languages, ‘client’ is a noun that means:

  • A person or organization using the service of a lawyer or other professional person or company
    • “Insurance that is tailored to a client's specifications.”
  • A person receiving a social or medical service
    • “A client referred for counseling.”
  • A nation that is dependent on another, more powerful nation
  • (computing) (in a network), a desktop computer or workstation that is capable of obtaining information applications from a server
    • “Workstation clients are going to be easy to install.”
  • A program that is capable of obtaining a service provided by another program
    • “Friendly client programs allow you to perform complicated services with one click.”
  • (in ancient Rome) a plebeian under the protection of a patrician, a dependent, a hanger-on

The word ‘client’ comes from the Latin root ‘cluere’ which means “to hear or obey” which evolved into ‘cliens’ which means “heeding.” We see how this relates to the modern definition because a ‘client’ often is seeking to hear and heed the advice of a professional. 

Synonyms of ‘Client’

  • Customer
  • Applicant
  • Patient
  • Buyer
  • Consumer
  • Patron
  • Believer
  • Dependent
  • Purchaser
  • Shopper

Antonyms of ‘Client’

  • Advisor
  • Marketer
  • Firm
  • Owner
  • Manager
  • Employee
  • Lawyer
  • Business
  • Vendor
  • Broker

Phrases with ‘Client’

  • Sharing clients
  • Client confidentiality
  • Loyal client
  • Client profile
  • Famous clients

Pronunciations: How to Pronounce ‘Customer’ vs ‘Client’

The world of language doesn’t just include writing but speaking as well. Follow the guides below to get a better understanding of how to pronounce ‘customer’ vs ‘client’ so you feel comfortable saying these new words aloud

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘customer’ as a guide:

  • ‘Kuhss-to-merr’ (the ‘u’ is a swallowed sound as in “fun” and the ‘o’ often ends up receiving a swallowed quality as well, not a harsh rounded ‘o’ as in “stone”)

Use this phonetic spelling of ‘client’ as a guide:

  • ‘Kly-eh-nt’ (note the ‘C’ is hard like the “k” sound, and there is a strong separation between the ‘i’ as in “high” and the ‘e’ as in “bend”)

How to Use ‘Customer’ vs ‘Client’ in a Sentence

Recognizing subtle differences between synonyms can be different when they often appear in similar situations — but we can use context clues to fully tell them apart. Use the sample sentences below as a reference to how these words may appear in different scenarios, then practice writing a few of your own. 

‘Customer’ Example Sentences

  • While ‘the customer is always right’ is a popular phrase, it is often overused by people trying to excuse rude behavior towards employees. 
  • The customer came in every day and ordered the same thing and soon became known as the “mocha latte guy.”
  • The bar was offering free drinks to the first fifty customers who came in on their opening night. 
  • She had had to deal with some rude customers in the past, but no one had ever treated her as poorly as the man at the register that morning. 

‘Client’ Example Sentences

  • He was accused of trying to poach clients from his coworkers by spreading misinformation to them.
  • She had a full book of clients today at the hair salon, so she got to work setting up her brushes and dyes. 
  • The family hired a lawyer from a top firm that was known to serve very high-profile clients
  • He was trying to build better relationships with his clients, so he offered his first hour of service free of charge. 

‘Customer’ vs ‘Client’ Example Sentences

  • First-time customers often don’t understand that a relationship needs to be built with a business in order to be a trusted client
  • They thought the remodeling company had great customer service, which is why they had been clients for almost two decades. 

Final Words on ‘Customer’ vs ‘Client’

As helpful as synonyms can be for adding variety to your writing, it is just as important to be able to clarify their individual meanings. Once you identify the similarities between words, it can be easier to find the subtle differences, like what type of services a ‘Customer’ vs ‘Client’ would need. 

Need a recap? Here’s a quick rundown of what we covered:

  • ‘Customer’ is a noun that means a person who is buying a good from a store or company
  • ‘Client’ is a noun for a person who is seeking the services or advice of a business

Want to learn more about the subtle differences between synonyms? Be sure to check out other confusing word articles that highlight how we can learn to distinguish similar words to make our writing more specific.

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

It's important to share the news to spread the truth. Most people won't.

Written By:
Katie Moore
Katie is a recent graduate of Occidental College where she worked as a writer and editor for the school paper while studying linguistics and journalism. She loves helping others find their voice in writing and making their work the strongest it can be. Katie also loves learning and speaking other languages and wants to help make writing accessible for everyone.

Add new comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WritingTips.org Newsletter
Receive information on
new articles posted, important topics, and tips.
Join Now
We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.