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Gage vs. Gauge: What’s The Difference?

dark aqua text "gage vs gauge" on light aqua background

The words gauge and gage are pronounced the same and differ by only one letter. So what’s the difference?

In this article, we’ll define the words gauge and gage, explain how they are typically used, and provide example sentences.

Quick summary

Gauge is the much more common word. It has several different meanings as both a verb and a noun, many of which relate to measurement. The word gage refers to something thrown down to challenge a person to combat—and it is rarely used. Gage is also sometimes used as an alternate spelling of gauge in technical contexts to refer to machinery and measuring equipment, but this is also rare.

When to use gage or gauge 

The words gauge and gage have the same pronunciation ([ geyj ], rhymes with page). Gauge is the far more commonly used word.

It has multiple meanings as both a noun and a verb, many of which have to do with measurement.

As a verb, gauge can mean:

  • “to determine the exact dimensions, capacity, quantity, or force of; measure”
    Example: We used a thermometer to gauge the temperature of the pool.
  • “to appraise, estimate, or judge”
    Example: Polls are used to gauge public opinion on political issues.
  • “to mark or measure off; delineate”
    Example: The builders use special equipment to gauge the endpoints of the walls.

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As a noun, gauge can mean:

  • “a standard of measure or measurement”
    Example: Customer reviews are a good gauge to determine if something is worth your money.
  • “a standard dimension, size, or quantity”
    Example: This amount of salinity is a typical gauge to use for the salt content of this solution.
  • “any device or instrument for measuring, registering measurements, or testing something, especially for measuring a dimension, quantity, or mechanical accuracy”
    Example: The pressure gauge shows how much pressure is inside the pump.

The rarely used word gage means “something, as a glove, thrown down by a medieval knight in token of challenge to combat.”

Example: Duke Richard was highly offended by the earl and threw down a gage to challenge the rapscallion to a duel of honor.

Sometimes, gage is used as an alternate spelling of gauge in technical contexts when referring to measuring equipment or machinery. However, this usage is very rare and the spelling gauge is much more commonly used even in technical language.

Examples of gage and gauge used in a sentence 

Let’s gauge our word knowledge by looking at some example sentences that use gauge and gage.

  • Polls are a common gauge of voter sentiment.
  • Divers used different tools to gauge how deep the water was.
  • The oil gauge indicated that the truck would soon need an oil change.
  • For marketers, user engagement on social media is a gauge of success.
  • I can roughly gauge the distance, but I don’t know the exact number.
  • Sir Percival used his helmet as a gage when he challenged Sir Goldshield to a duel.

Shed some light on another confusing pair of words: flair vs. flare.

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