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 “Disc”

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.
    The
    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.

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