Aid vs. aide?

An aide is a person who assists others, while the noun aid is an inanimate object or form of relief that helps to achieve a goal. The word aid is also a verb, where it is used to describe the act of assisting.

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What is the difference between aid vs aide?

It’s easy to see why aid and aide are commonly confused words. Either term describes the concept of assistance, whether it’s helping someone in need or contributing toward a cause. But although they share similar meanings, aid and aide are different words with separate functions in English grammar. 

The biggest difference between the two words is that aid is a noun or a verb, while the word aide is only a noun. This might not seem like a big difference in theory, but it’s important to remember how a noun is a person, place, or thing, and a verb is an action word. For example: 

  • The noun form of aid describes the assistance given. 
  • The verb form of aid defines the action of providing help. 
  • The noun aide represents the person that provides help or relief. 

Although they’re pronounced the same, the words aide and aid have different spellings, as well. When two or more words have different spellings and definitions but share similar pronunciations, they’re called “homophones.” The Word Counter has covered homophones that are similar to aid vs. aide, such as: 

What’s the difference between aid vs. aide as nouns?

While it might be strange, the noun forms of aide and aid reference two separate kinds of “objects,” so-to-speak. The word aid is a helpful inanimate object or the act of assistance, while the word aide is a person who assists others. 

The noun aide is short for French “aide-de-camp,” which means “camp adjutant,” or a confidential assisting military officer. In French, the word “aide” also translates to “help” or “assistance,” so perhaps the English language maintained the foreign spelling for people (aide) instead of inanimate objects (aid).

You may notice this subtle difference in common phrases, as well. For example, British English uses the noun aid within phrases like “in aid of” or “what’s this in aid of?” The first phrase replaces the meaning of “this is in support of …” when it comes to charity or financial aid. 

For example,

“USA Today is donating subscription proceeds in aid of hurricane victims.”

Meanwhile, the phrase, “what’s this in aid of?” is synonymous with the question, “what’s the reasoning behind this?” 

The noun aid is also associated with the legal phrase “aid and abet,” which describes the act of assisting and encouraging another to commit a crime. 

For example,

“Washington Post reports how the owners are guilty of aiding and abetting employees in money laundering.” 

Lastly, the most common way to read the word aid is within phrases like “to send aid to …” or “come to the aid of …” English speakers use either phrase to refer to an act that will relieve or save others from an unfavorable situation. In this case, the word aid is similar to the word “rescue” because it is also a noun and a verb. 

For example,

“FEMA comes to the aid of citizens in times of natural disasters.” 
“The New York Times opinion article calls on U.S. political leaders to send aid to furloughed workers.” 

Where we see the biggest difference between the nouns aid and aide is within the phrase “a tower of strength.” Cambridge University Dictionary specifically connects the word aide to this phrase, which references a person who provides emotional support and security in times of hardship. 

For example,

“Whenever I’m sad, my husband acts as a tower of strength.” 

The etymology of aid vs. aide

The term aid entered the English Language around the 15h century from the Old French noun ‘aide’ (helper) and the verb ‘aidier’ (to help). Both Old French terms derive from the Latin term ‘adjuvare,’ which consists of ‘ad-’ for “towards” and ‘juvare’ for “to help.” Nowadays, the French verb for “to help” or “to assist” omits the second letter i for ‘aider.’ 

What does aid mean?

The word aid is either a noun or a verb that encompasses the notion of assistance, but both parts of speech convey different meanings. 

Aid as a verb

As a verb, the word aid defines: 

  1. The act of assisting someone or something to achieve a resolution. 
    “We can aid you in raising money.”
  2. The act of helping another.
    “May I aid you in any way?”

Synonyms of aid as a verb

Abet, assist, boost, champion, endorse, facilitate, further, help, promote, prop, sponsor, support.

Antonyms of aid as a verb

Balk, block, constrain, damage, hamper, hinder, hold back, impede, interfere, inhibit, obstruct.

Aid as a noun

The noun form of aid essentially defines the act of assisting or the person who is helping another, except that we use the term to describe the tangible assistance provided. In this case, we can define aid as:

  1. The occurrence of helping another.
    “Wordpress provides technical aid to software developers.”
  2. The assistance provided. 
    “We provide aid for displaced families.”
  3. The labor, money, or supplies that are donated or loaned toward a cause.
    “She couldn’t afford college without financial aid.”
  4. A device that assists another (i.e., hearing aids, glasses, walking canes, etc.).
    “We should install mobility aids like walking ramps.”
  5. The concept of an advantage or “pick-me-up.”
    “Those students only passed the test because they snuck-in visual aids.”

Less common definitions of aid include:

  1. A tax or allowance of subsidy provided to the King of England from the English parliament to use for special occasions (before the 18th century). 
  2. A gift or service provided to a lord from a landowner as a tribute. 

Synonyms of aid as a noun

Assistance, coadjutor, funding, helper, relief, right hand.

Antonyms of aid as a noun

Constraint, disadvantage, drawback, encumbrance, hindrance, impediment, inhibitor, liability, obstacle, obstruction, restraint.

What does aide mean?

The word aide is a noun that describes an assistant that assists someone important, such as a mentor, political figure, or supervisor. 

For example,

“To become a nurse’s aide, you must earn a CNA license.”  
“Commander Riker serves as the top aide to Captain Picard on Star Trek.”
“I am privileged to serve as my teacher’s aide this year.”

Synonyms of aide

Acolyte, adjunct, aid, apprentice, assistant, attaché, coadjutor, confidante, companion, deputy, employee, helper, lieutenant, mate, sidekick, wingman.

How to use aid vs aide in a sentence?

If you’d like to use the words aid or aide in a sentence, there are two important rules to remember:

Rule #1: An aide is a person or animal that assists others

The first important rule to remember is that “aide” represents a person or animal that assists. For example, 

“Service dogs are prescription aides for the disabled.”
“Human aides train service animals to aid disabled folks.” 

If we’re describing a non-living thing that assists, we use the word “aid.” For example,

“Hearing aid devices allow people to hear.”
“The website aid is technically a live bot.”

Rule #2: Aid is the help or the thing that assists others

The second important rule to remember is that we use the word aid for all action terms and non-living representations of assistance. A favor or donation are all examples of aid as a noun regardless of what provided help. 

For example,

Verb: “Subtitles aid viewers who don’t understand a certain language.”
Noun: “The government sent unemployment aid.” 

Rule #3: Be mindful of how the verb aid has different tense forms

Depending on whether we’re writing in the past, future, or present tense, we can also write the verb aid as “aided” and “aiding.” For example,

Present tense: “We aid non-profit organizations.”
Past tense: “They aided lost travelers.”
Future tense: “We are aiding refugees who cannot return home.”

How to remember the difference between aid vs aide?

The easiest way to learn the difference between aid and aide is to remember how an “aide” is a person. The word “person” also has the letter “e,” so if you connect the “e” of “aide” to “person,” you’ll have a much easier time remembering which term is correct. 

Test Yourself!

Are you feeling confident in your grammar skills for aid vs. aide? Test how much you learned with the following multiple-choice questions. 

  1. True or false: a person who assists others is an aid.
    a. True
    b. False
  2. The _______________ of _______ is the act of assisting a person or cause.
    a. Verb meaning, aid
    b. Noun meaning, aide
    c. Noun meaning, aid
    d. Verb meaning, aide
  3. Which is not an example of the noun aid? 
    a. Walking cane
    b. Disaster relief 
    c. Student loans, grants, scholarships 
    d. Service animal
  4. Fill in the blank: “Service animals are ______ that ______ disabled folks.” 
    a. Aids, aide
    b. Aides, aide
    c. Aides, aid
    d. Aids, aid
  5. “The 17-year-old student signed up to be a teacher’s __________, where they can earn high school credits for _______ student’s learning needs.”
    a. Aid, aided
    b. Aide, aiding
    c. Aid, aiding
    d. Aide, aided

Answers

  1. B
  2. A
  3. D
  4. C
  5. B

Sources

  1. Aid.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
  2. Aide.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
  3. Aide-de-camp.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  4. Aide.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  5. Aid.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  6. A tower of strength.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2020.
  7. Aid.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2020.