Convener Vs Convenor: Which Word Is The Correct One To Use?

Meetings are an essential element to any enterprise where people from different backgrounds and personalities unite to reach a common goal. It is an ideal organizational tool and the easiest way to build rapport with people that share your particular interest.

These two words can have the same meaning and are variants of each other. ‘’Convener’’ is derived from ‘’convenor’’, and it can mean a person who organizes and calls for a conference of people for formal discussion of a common purpose. Now, if you were in England or the United Kingdom, convenor can have a different meaning.

Where Does This Word Originate From?

The verb ‘’convene’’ comes from the Latin word ‘’convenire’’, whose root can be split into ‘’com’’ meaning ‘’together’’ and ‘’venire’’ meaning ‘’to come’’. It means to unite, join, accord, assemble or just come together. Old French adopted this word in the transitive sense around the 1590s to denote ‘’meet together in the same place,’’ and they called it ‘’convenir’’. 

Convene is not without synonyms like ‘’convoke’’, ‘’summon’’, ‘’muster’’, ‘’cite’’ and ‘’call’’. They all carry similar meanings, and some are more informal than others. However, ‘’muster’’, despite having much in common, strongly suggests gathering several things to be displayed or utilized as a whole and could have a different connotation sometimes. For example: ‘’muster the troops’’.

convener in the dictionary

Why Are These Words Spelled Differently?

In a way, it works the same way we spell neighbor in North America. We spell it this way, it carries the same meaning all over the world, and you would not be wrong in using it like this anywhere. On the other hand, if you were in the United Kingdom, you may encounter that the appropriate spelling for the word is ‘’neighbour’’. It has an additional vowel that we have abstained from using altogether.

None of these spellings are incorrect, and they both mean a person who resides next to you or a third party, but in UK English, the phrase carries a ‘’u’’ at the end that the American English version does not. There is not much behind this grammatical change aside from the fact that when we gained our independence from the British, we thrived on making deliberate changes to nearly everything they had instilled in us. Language, being primordial as it is, was at the forefront of these changes.

We refused to willingly continue to adopt things from the British in our search to create our own identity. This translated into adjustments on many facets of our now mostly original culture. From architecture and festive traditions to core structures such as our political system, all were subject to modifications as we looked to widen the gap between being a former colony and our own separate country.

Noah Webber is the intellectual author of many of these grammatical changes when, in 1928, he wrote the first American Dictionary. The basis of many of his ideas came from the fact that the spelling of words should be more like they sound. Henceforth, we ditched the extra vowel as we deemed it an unnecessary aesthetic, phonetically speaking. Not only did we modify certain words, but we also removed some of them altogether and implemented some new ones as replacements.

Examples of words we removed or replaced would be: ‘’trousers’’, ‘’lorry’’, ‘’chips’’, and ‘’bonnet’’, and these came to be precursors to ‘’pants’’, ‘’truck’’, ‘’fries’’, and ‘’hood’’, respectively. These words are technically interchangeable with one another, but it becomes a matter of geography and culture. We removed some other words from our vocabulary entirely, like needn’t, which is rarely used in American English. Other not so drastic changes would be our use of the term ‘’shall’’, which we exchanged for the more informal ‘’will’’ or ‘’should’’. This last example should come as no surprise given how notoriously formal the British can be.

What Is A Convener?

As a consequence, ‘’convenor’’ received the same treatment as ‘’neigbour’’, and we turned it into ‘’convener’’ as a way to make it more phonetically convenient. Now, while both Americans and British citizens spell these words slightly differently, they still come to mean a person responsible for organizing and arranging a gathering of social, professional, legislative, or educational nature.

We can convene a meeting in the workplace for many reasons such as changes of direction, status updates, information sharing, or team building, and it is the convener’s job to assess the logistics required to carry a successful meeting such as schedule, subjects, participants, location and the overall intent of the meeting. In a sense, a convener is much like a master of ceremonies but with much more input and control over the proceedings.

A convener is responsible for directing the flow of the assembly. More often than not, they are dutifully elected for the job, perhaps by showing exceptional organizational skills, oratorical proficiency, and leadership. This last fact will carry into the British spelling, as well.

What Is A Convenor?

Now, let us address convenor and its different meanings in British English. As discussed earlier, this word could be informally convoked to mean a person who convenes or summons others to a gathering of some sort. But, in the academic, educational, and even civic scope, it can mean a person who assembles others for a public or official purpose.

convening word in neon sign

For example, in a college or, as the British would call it, university, a lecturer of a particular course or subject would be appropriately called a convenor. Meaning that if a scientist, a doctor, or any other expert in their field were called upon to manage a specific course during a lecture among the school body, that would effectively make them a convenor within the British English definition. They would convene others to be present during their oration.

The following example of a convenor would be civic, and this is where it becomes very British. As you know, it is called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and, while it may not be within the name, Scotland is a country that is part of this kingdom.

In Scotland, convenors are the civic heads or chairman of certain Scottish councils such as the Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) and their respective jurisdiction committees there to examine legislation and conduct inquiries. A Convenor for Scotland, as they are called, is a member of the Executive Committee there to guarantee that municipalities are aware of concerns and developments relevant to Scotland.

Another similar word for this word would be ‘’provost’’, a title bestowed upon the mayor of a municipality in Scotland or the magistrate in chief of a Scottish burgh.

Conclusion

On either iteration, this word means a responsibility and a duty to be the lighthouse erected and elected to lead all ships to a single place of gathering.

It is in their best interest to ensure everybody else’s interests align for a common purpose and – sometimes as we saw how British universities and Scottish parliaments employ convenors, they are elected to orate and carry the meeting themselves to provide the participants with all the proper knowledge and tools to move the bar in the right direction.

By Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.