Disc vs. Disk: Differences and Usage

Is that a disc or disk? Now, that is a good question. The difference between disc and disk can be really hard to follow because it comes down to not only usage but also region. To help keep these two words straight, get examples of how they are used in American and British English. You’ll then find out if technology is changing their usage.

use of disc vs disk use of disc vs disk

Difference Between Disc and Disk

Are you trying to figure out if it is a compact disk or disc? You’re not alone. Whether you have a herniated disc or disk, or a computer disc or disk is a debated issue. This is going to come down to where you live, because American and British English use the two terms differently.

Definition of Disk vs. Disc

Homophones are confusing for anyone who is learning English. Disk and disc are even trickier homophones because they basically mean the same thing. Both disk and disc are used for:

A thin, circular, rounded, flat object

Now that the definition is clear, you can break down how to use each term.

Using Disk vs. Disc in American English

When it comes to the disc vs. “disk” debate in American English, disk with a "k" is much more common.

When to Use Disc

There are specific instances when disc with a "c" is going to be used. These include:

  • Optical disc like a CD or DVD
    DVD stands for "digital video disc."
    Can you burn that movie on disc?
  • The record for a record player
    Your Beatles disc is warped.
    discs for your record player are in amazing condition.
  • Plow tool with sharp blades; disc harrow
    You need to buy a new blade for your disc harrow.
    Stay away from the
    disc harrow, please.
  • A vehicle braking system; disc brake
    That is part of your disc brake system.
    Your car has
    disc brakes.
  • Music specialist on the radio or at a club; disc jockey, more commonly referred to as DJ
    That disc jockey is slamming tonight.
    We need a new
    disc jockey since the last one just quit.

When to Use Disk

Beyond these special situations, you'll use the word disk. That will include flying disks, spinal disks and computer disks to name a few.

  • The doctor said I have a herniated disk.
  • My back has a bulging disk.
  • Did you see my Frisbee? It has a sticker on the top of the disk.
  • The Nebra sky disk is amazing.
  • Have you heard of a floppy disk?
  • Does a computer have a disk drive?
  • Did you see that strange disk flying in the sky?

Keeping Computer Terminology Straight

When it comes to the disc vs. disk battle for music, computers and movies, one way to keep it straight is how the data is stored. CDs and DVDs are forms of optical storage, read by lasers. In these cases, you can put the actual disc into something, like a CD or DVD player.

On a computer, you may have a floppy disk or hard disk drive. The latter is sometimes simply called a hard drive. These are cases of magnetic storage, rather than optical storage, and they use the word disk.

British English Use of Disk and Disc

As if American English wasn’t confusing enough, the Brits use disc and disk differently. In British English, disc is the favored spelling. Let's break down the less common disk first.

Disk in British English

Disk will only be used when talking about computers. In the Cambridge dictionary, disk is defined as a circular device for information storage. You would see disk used in sentences like:

  • Your new disk drive just arrived.
  • Have you ever used a floppy disk?
  • Where is the disk drive on this computer?
  • I can’t find my computer disk.
  • My hard disk got a virus.
  • I lost my paper. It wasn’t saved on my disk drive.

British English Use of Disc

British English uses the spelling disc for everything else. Check out how this is used through example sentences.

  • The doctor said I have a herniated disc.
  • The disc in my back is bulging.
  • The disc on my Frisbee is bent.
  • Do you see that weird flying disc in the air?
  • Our dog's tag is small metal disc that is engraved.
  • Their new album came with three discs.
  • Do you want to play disc golf?

Disk vs Disc and the Advent of Technology

While the British might prefer the spelling disc, the fact that computer and technology companies are standardizing the word disk is making it more common in British English. Some speculate disk might become the standardized spelling in both versions of English, but that is yet to be seen.

The Confusing World of Disk and Disc

When it comes to disc or disk, it’s easy to see how English speakers and ESL students alike can get confused. Keep it straight by remembering a few simple rules and where you are. If you want some more word fun, you can look at the difference between your and you’re. Now that is something you’re going to need in your word toolbox.