A Handy Guide to “Aid” vs. “Aide”
What’s the difference between “aid” and “aide”? “Aid” can be used as a noun or a verb and means “assistance” or “to assist.” In comparison, “aide” is only ever used as a noun and refers to someone who is an assistant.
When to Use “Aid” Instead of “Aide”
As a noun, “aid” refers to help or assistance, often of a financial nature. Examples of “aid” as a noun include the following:
- I’d never have finished college without financial aid.
- After the storm was over, the National Guard provided aid to the town.
- My parents provided my wife and me with much-needed aid when our son was born.
- Without the aid of a Good Samaritan, I’d have died in that ditch.
As a verb, “aid” means to provide assistance. Examples of “aid” as a verb include the following:
- After our house fire, our community was quick to aid us.
- Doctors without Borders aid the victims of war.
- Search-and-rescue dogs frequently aid the police in their search for missing children.
- If I can aid your cause, I will do so.
When to Use “Aide” Instead of “Aid”
“Aide” with an e is only ever used as a noun. An “aide” is someone who assists or helps someone else. When someone is called an “aide,” it usually means he or she is assisting a superior, and the noun is most often used to describe assistants in medical, military, or political positions.
Sample uses of “aide” include the following:
- He works as a nurse’s aide at the local cancer hospice.
- The secretary’s aide was at the center of the scandal.
- A former aide reported the general’s treachery.
- I acted as an aide for my mother in her later years.
Origin of “Aide” and “Aid”
English stole “aide,” along with many other words, from the French. “Aide” was shortened from the French aide-de-camp, a military term that means “camp assistant.” The use of aide-de-camp goes back to the seventeenth century, and the word never fully escaped its military origins.
“Aid” also comes to English from the French, specifically from the Old French aidier, meaning “to help or assist.” Aidier, in turn, has its origins in the Latin verb adiuvare, which also means “to help or assist.”
Fun fact: “Mayday,” the distress call signaling for help, comes from the same French root of aidier and literally means “Help me” in French.
It’s often easy to differentiate two similar words by their pronunciation, but not so with “aid” and “aide.” The two words are homophones, meaning they sound the same when spoken even though they’re spelled differently and have different meanings. The phonetic pronunciation for both “aide” and “aid” is /ād/.
How to Remember “Aid” vs. “Aide”
Most people are familiar enough with “aid,” so it’s generally only “aide” that causes difficulty. You can remember its definition as an assistant because “aide” has an e in it, as does helper.
Overview of “Aide” vs. “Aide”
In summary, “aide” is only ever used as a noun and denotes someone who is an assistant or helper—usually an important one: “The CEO’s aide was accustomed to his boss’s outbursts.”
“Aid,” however, can be used as a noun or verb. As a verb, it means to assist or help: “I aided my sick father up the stairs.” As a noun, “aid” means assistance or help: “The charity provides aid to the victims of the famine.”
Want to discover the differences between other commonly used words?
Check out our explanation of principle vs. principal.