‘Stationary’ vs. ‘Stationery’: What’s the Difference?

By Kelsey Weeks, updated on July 22, 2023

With so many words that sound the same but are spelled differently in English, it can be nice to have a review. In the case of ‘stationary’ vs. ‘stationery,’ many people may forget to change the last vowel. Does that one vowel change the meaning of the word? It does.

To see the difference quickly:

  • ‘Stationary’ typically means that something is fixed or stagnant.
  • ‘Stationery’ typically refers to envelopes, cards, paper, and other writing devices.

‘Stationary’ and ‘stationery’ words can both be used in conversations, so when writing, it is important to know the definition of each to use them correctly. This article will cover the differences in the words, how to say the word, and examples of usage.

What is the Difference Between ‘Stationary’ and ‘Stationery?’

‘Stationary’ and ‘stationery’ are homophones which means they sound the same but are different words with different meanings spelled differently. These can be tricky for a lot of people, but sometimes learning the definitions will help you to know which word to use.

Although these words are very different in meaning, they come from the same Latin root, ‘statiōnārius,’ which means standing in place.

  • ‘Stationary’ is the older of the two words and is well known for staying in place. This translation is taken from the Latin root.
  • Where ‘stationery’ comes from the archaic term for the items a stationer sold. People are no longer stationers who were people who sold books or a publisher, but the items that they sold are still called stationery which includes paper, pencils, and ink.

Definition of ‘Stationary ': What Does it Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, ‘stationary’ is an adjective.

As an adjective, it means:

  • Fixed in a station, course, or mode.
  • Unchanging in condition.

Synonyms of ‘Stationary’

  • Immobile
  • Nonmoving
  • Static
  • Standing
  • In place
  • Immovable
  • Stagnant
  • Nonmotile
  • Still
  • Frozen
  • Unmovable
  • Irremovable
  • Stuck
  • Steadfast
  • Wedged

Antonyms of ‘Stationary’

  • Mobile
  • Movable
  • Moving
  • Nonstationary
  • Portable
  • Motile
  • Adjustable
  • Flexible
  • Modular
  • Removable
  • Transportable
  • Transferable

Definition of ‘Stationery ': What Does it Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, ‘stationery’ is a noun

As a noun, it means:

  • Material (such as paper, pens, and ink) for writing or typing
  • Letter paper is usually accompanied by matching envelopes.

Synonyms of ‘Stationery’

  • Letterhead
  • Notepaper
  • Envelopes
  • Writing materials
  • Pen and paper
  • Ink
  • Pencils
  • Writing implements
  • Office Supplies
  • Writing paper

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Stationary’ and ‘Stationery’

It is important to learn how to pronounce words so that you can use English words both in writing but also when speaking. This will help make you confident in the usage of the word, no matter the circumstance.

Although the meanings are different for these words, they are homophones, so they sound the same.

  • The phonetic spelling of 'stationary' and ‘s’ is:

                Stay shuh neh ree

When to use ‘Stationary’ vs. ‘Stationery’

Here are examples of when to use ‘stationary’ and ‘stationery.’

  • Use ‘stationary’ when writing about something standing still.

In this example, you could write:

The horse was stationary because the rider walked away.

  • Use ‘stationary’ when discussing a lack of progress.

For example, one can say:

I noticed that our sales have remained stationary for the last quarter for the whole organization.

  • You can use ‘stationery’ when asking about writing supplies.

As an example, someone may ask:

Do you know where I could find the stationery in the store?

  • You can also use ‘stationery’ when telling people about what your latest project is on via letter.

You may tell someone:

I bought the floral-patterned stationery because I thought it would highlight the message of spring the most in my letters. 

Sample Sentences Using 'Stationary'

Review these sample sentences to learn to use ‘stationary’ when speaking and writing.

  • The carts have to become stationary to ensure everyone can safely depart. If they made a rolling stop, people would have to risk their lives and jump off the train very quickly.
  •  A lot of people are going to the stationary bike classes. They are saying that there are good health benefits from attending the classes, and they even offer some early before work.
  • Although we have given support this semester to your student, it seems as though their grades have remained stationary.
  • I looked into using an RV, but it turns out that they renovated it to be stationary. I want to use it to travel so that I will find another one.
  • Thankfully, the accident was between a stationary car and a car moving at a slow pace. If one of the cars were moving quickly, this accident would have been much worse.
  • To become the athlete she is, she first started with stationary obstacles, and now she can handle moving targets.

Sample Sentences Using 'Stationery'

Review these sample sentences to learn how to use ‘stationery’ when writing.

  • I went to the store to see if they had any new stationery in because I like to send each monthly letter out with a different envelope and letter paper.
  • I joined a monthly stationery club, and they send me a different collection every month. I am able to impress people with my variety.
  • Many people have gone away from writing thank you notes on stationery, but it will always be appreciated, even if it is not expected to be done or done via email.
  • I put the new flier on the brightest stationery we had to ensure that it was noticed among all of the others.

Closing Words on 'Stationary' vs. ‘Stationery’

A review on ‘stationary’ or ‘stationery’:

  • The words are homophones, meaning they sound the same but have different meanings.
  • ‘Stationary’ means to stand still.
  • ‘Stationery 'are items that are used for writing.

When looking at homophones like ‘stationary’ and ‘stationery,’ use will be the best way to remember the difference between the two, but you can always come up with little tricks to remember as well. For example, if ‘stationery’ has an ‘e’ at the end, it is because envelopes are included in this definition.

All posts on our website explain how to use tricky words correctly. Check back frequently to reduce the errors in your writing. You can find additional resources on English words in the confusing words section.

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Written By:
Kelsey Weeks
Kelsey Weeks is currently a school counselor at a high school and a previous English teacher. She loves helping others with literacy, learning more, and exploring nature. She has an undergrad in English with an emphasis on secondary education and an M.A. in Applied Psychology from NYU.

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