'Lectern' vs. 'Podium' vs. 'Pulpit' vs. 'Rostrum': What's the Difference?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on October 12, 2022

Do you have a speech and are unsure which platform to use - a 'podium,' a 'lectern,' a 'pulpit,' or a 'rostrum'? Or perhaps you keep hearing all these different terms used interchangeably and are confused about which one is which?

Either way, this article will help clarify the matter for you. You'll learn the difference between these four kinds of platforms.

The short answer is that one stands on a podium and rostrum, behind a lectern, and within a pulpit.

But if you want more detail, please read on.

'Podium' vs. 'Lectern' vs. 'Pulpit' Vs. 'Rostrum': What Are the Differences?

Let's dive into the meaning of the words before we see examples of them used in a sentence.

What Is a Podium?

A podium is a simple platform that elevates the speaker off the ground, so they can better capture the listeners' attention.

It's also used for musicians to sit on, so the music carries further out.

You might also have seen athletes stand on podiums marked '1', '2', and '3'. Number '1' is for the runner and is the highest podium, followed by number '2', then number '3'.

It comes from the Latin podium, meaning raised platform.

Fun fact: the plural of 'podium' is podia.

What Is a Rostrum?

Rostrums were typically used in ancient Rome by public speakers at the Forum.

The word rostrum actually means the end of a ship's prow. This type of platform is named 'rostrum' because it was typically decorated with the beaks of enemy ships that had been taken down.

What Is a Lectern?

It comes from Middle English "lettorne," meaning reading desk in a church. As you might have guessed, this type of platform is the kind you'll see in churches. Priests will rest their bible and deliver their sermons from a lectern.

If you need a clue to remember, 'lectern' comes from the root of the Latin "legere," which means "to read." So if the platform can support books, that's your clue that it's a lectern.

What Is a Pulpit?

Pulpits are grand, elaborate structures. Think of them as the next level up from a lectern. That's why you don't stand on or behind a pulpit but within one. They are more or less enclosed.

They usually even have a staircase leading up to the part meant for standing in.

These are also often seen in churches for delivering sermons.

It comes from the Late Latin pulpitum, meaning raised structure on which preachers stand.

Use 'Lectern', 'Podium', 'Pulpit' and 'Rostrum' in a Sentence

Here are some example sentences that use these words:

May John Smith come forth and take the first place on the podium.

They all looked up as he addressed them from the Rostrum.

The Priest was in the middle of reading the New Testament when the man approached the lectern.

After some readings and a hymn, she climbed back up the steps to the pulpit.

Concluding Thoughts on 'Lectern' vs. 'Podium' vs. 'Pulpit' vs. 'Rostrum'

I hope this article has helped clarify the meaning behind each of these words.

As I mentioned, these terms are often used interchangeably, which is a little confusing, so nobody would hold it against you if you used them in the wrong context.

But it's always good to hold the inside knowledge.

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:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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