The words regime and regimen are often confused by writers. In recent months, I’ve seen the word regime used incorrectly more and more often. I’m sure that, on occasion, it’s simply a mistake made by autocorrect or by a careless, quick tap on the wrong word. But I’ve also seen regime used incorrectly on web pages, in online marketing, and in other places where it was deliberately chosen for use, and when the correct term should have been regimen. This has become my current peeve.
A regimen is a systematic, planned routine of actions to accomplish something, usually with respect to diet, exercise, or medicine. It is a set of rules about food, exercise, or other health practices to become or stay healthy.
The soldiers maintained a strict daily regimen of cardiovascular exercise and weightlifting.
Her beauty regimen consisted of avoiding unhealthy foods, washing with naturally sourced products, and getting a full night’s sleep.
The woman received weekly vitamin B shots as part of her treatment regimen for fatigue.
In the 1920s, only six nuns still inhabited the convent, contentedly following a regimen of solitude and contemplation.
Synonyms for regimen include procedure, routine, program, system, and schedule.
A regime is a form of government, a particular government, a ruling or prevailing system, or the period during which a particular government or ruling system is/was in power. Is it also the set of enduring rules, cultural and social norms that regulate the operation of a government or institution or are embedded in institutionalized practices.
While it was originally a synonym for any type of government or governance, today the term regime tends to have a negative connotation, as it is usually reserved to describe strict, authoritarian or totalitarian governments or dictatorships.
The old regime fell after the civil war.
It’s been a hard winter in North Korea, and the Kim family regime is once again struggling to feed its people.
Under the new regime, all workers must file a weekly report.
Five thousand Tunisians have attempted to migrate to Italy since the collapse of the Ben Ali regime.
I’ve seen a lot of websites, advertising and even newspaper articles, incorrectly use the term regime to describe new diets, programs combining diet with exercise, and ways to take care of your skin, hair, or body. According to the definitions above, they should be using the term regimen. It irks me to no end.
And then, once again, it gets confusing for a Canadian:
It turns out the joke’s on me. As I researched the definitions of regimen and regime for this blog, I discovered that what I had learned and knew to be true – as described above – was only partially true.
The meanings for regimen and regime can vary, depending on whether you’re using American English or British English. And once again, Canadians are caught somewhere in between, as I had explored in a previous blog post (Spelling: American vs British vs Canadian).
American English tends to limit use of the word regime to governments and use of the word regimen to diet, health and medical contexts.
However, in British English, the term regime has a second meaning, as a regular pattern of action, or an orderly and systemic plan or process, i.e., similar to a regimen. British writers often use the words interchangeably when describing a systematic plan for food, exercise and/or health practices.
I learned something! Which means that, from now on when I read an online item that uses the word regime to describe the latest diet or exercise fad, I need to keep my irritation in check: Is this a British writer? Or is someone being sloppy and using regime incorrectly when they intend and actually mean regimen? Hmmm ….
I welcome your comments, as well as suggestions for future weekly writing tips.
I lived much of my life in England and live now in the US. At first when I saw the word “regimen” I thought the author was just trying to be pretentious, using a fancy word where a plain one was suitable.
I also remember a McDonalds in an impoverished part of New Haven with a sign “to expedite service, please …” — why not use the simpler phrase “to speed up service”?
And again, when Americans say “burglarize” rather than just “burgle” it seemed like an unnecessarily complex word.
And again, when politicians in the US say “put some language on my desk” (when “language” is an entirely wrong word). Or “there’s no need to litigate that” (when they mean disagree/discuss rather than litigate).
And the speech patterns of Lisa Simpson seemed so sophisticated for her age — until I met real actual American kids of a similar age who also used sophisticated words.
I’ve since learned that “regimen” is just how Americans speak.
“to expedite service, please …” — why not use the simpler phrase “to speed up service.”
To expedite service seems like a pretty simple phrase to me. It’s certainly not obscure.
“there’s no need to litigate that” (when they mean disagree/discuss rather than litigate).
It would never occur to me they meant disagree/discuss rather than litigate. I’ve never heard this expression used in any way other than “no need to get the courts involved.”
I don’t look at this as an argument. I just find it interesting that two people can view the same thing and have a different take on it. Background and cultural influences change how people interpret language usage.
Hi Dagmar! A little over a year late but hey, we have the time, right?
So my son sent me a text telling me of his new workout “regime”. I felt it, sort of like a flat note from a singer. No, just doesn’t sound right. I asked him to tell me more about his new “regime”. I just wanted him to think about it, you know, give him another chance. It did not take so I texted …regimen…? To be honest we both reviewed definitions and found mild crossover but I am in agreement with you, regimen definitely fits. However my son being stubborn is sticking to his guns and will continue with his workout “regime”. Have a wonderful life and thanks!
No such thing as “late”, these blogs are written to stand the test of time and be relevant for (hopefully) long into the future. After all, the English language does not have an expiry date.
Glad you found this blog topic as a jumping-off point to have a discussion with your son. You’re welcome!
“Sticking to his guns” re regime – pun intended?
Based on other comments I’ve received, it seems this particular blog suggests a generational difference in how the terms regime and regimen are used. I wonder if this is based on poorer education of the younger generation, or is indicative of a broader evolution of the language?
I love that you wrote this piece. I honestly think it’s less poor education and more laziness on behalf of some. When I see regime used instead of regimen, it sends shivers up my spine because it doesn’t sound right according to what I know to be correct. It’s the same when some people say, “I could care less” when it’s really “I couldn’t care less” and that’s also what they’re trying to convey. The downside I see to the lack of examination of words(and what they mean) is that it ends up influencing the language and how we ultimately use it. I will happily continue to say skincare regimen.
Oh yes, the “I couldn’t care less” issue. A peeve of mine also. Thank you for continuing with “skincare regimen” – I appreciate it! I find even the mainstream media and news reporters are frequently using “regime” now, where I would prefer “regimen.” It irks me every time.
Excellent piece. There are so many differences between English and American (shorthand applied for convenience only).
I did find the earlier comment about an apparently sophisticated use of English amongst American children interesting. Ultimately I tend to think that where there are several, neuanced ways of expressing something. Do I believe that American children understand those subtle distinctions at a significantly younger age than British children? It seems much more likely that they’ve just developed a less familiar vocabulary to English ears.
Language is ultimately for communication. I often feel that American is over complicated. Where we remove unnecessary endings in English, Americans add on more (per the earlier burglarize example).
I don’t claim any right or wrong here. Along with the rest of the English speaking world I go with the flow and will bear with people while being kept on hold, or take a raincheck.
Thanks for this post. I (Yank) was just arguing with my partner (Aussie) about this very topic and this was useful for settling the exchange, although I’m not sure we ever came to an actual agreement about the correct or best definition/use of the word “regime.” At least I know now that it does vary depending on whether you are speaking modern English or a more archaic version, haha.
Thanks for the feedback. Glad you found the post helpful.
Yes, the English language is evolving at a super-fast pace, thanks to the instantaneous amplification of social media. It seems what we “old folks” learned is quickly being discarded by the “younger” online-first generation, for better or for worse.
I, like you, was beginning to wonder about the word “regime” when I felt that “regimen” was what should have been used. Also like you, I was surprised that the two can have the same meaning. I still feel that regimen is the more proper term for a diet , exercise, or beauty program. I’m 53, so maybe I’m just showing my age?!
Hi Robin, thanks for the comment. I feel the same way about the use of “regimen”, but it seems to have disappeared these days. Yes, perhaps it’s an age thing, as I’m in the same general age group.
Thanks for a very interesting post – which I found as I wanted to know the difference between these two words!
I’m English, and use ‘regime’ both for describing a government AND my skincare routine, as do most other British people. ‘Regimen’ is almost never used, except, in my experience, by North Americans, and it sounds quite strange (almost pretentious?) to our ears. That’s not to be rude, just to highlight how unusual the word is to us.
Thanks again, always fascinating to learn about the differences (and similarities!) between our language and cultures!
Hi Rachel, thanks for this comment. Interesting to learn than regimen is more of a North American term, not used in Britain. I learned something! 🙂 This meshes with another blog of mine on British vs Canadian vs US English spelling – did you check that out? https://medscicommunications.com/2020/01/22/spelling-american-vs-british-vs-canadian/