“Resume” vs. “Résumé”: A Brief Account Of Their Differences

We all have those words that we’ve heard over and over but don’t have the chance to write out all that often. Which can lead to a little bit of confusion when you actually need said word—like handing in your job application with “resume” in big letters on top instead of résumé. Or worse, talking about your résumé and pronouncing it resume the entire time: “As you can see on my re-zoom …”

While mixing up resume and résumé will surely lead to some funny looks, there’s a reason the two words get confused: a shared origin and differences between formal and informal writing.

If you’re looking to bolster your résumé, review some of the key action verbs we recommend when writing your résumé.

What does resume mean?

Resume is a verb that means to continue or “to take up or go on with again after interruption.” You can resume watching your favorite TV show after dinner, for example, or you could say that the football game resumed after the storm passed.

The noun form of resume is resumption, which is “the act or fact of taking up or going on with again.” The resumption of activities in nicer weather, for instance.

Resume was first recorded in 1375–1425. It comes from the Latin resūmere. The Latin word can be broken down into re-, a prefix meaning “again, back,” and sūmere, which means “to take.”

The definition is pretty straightforward, but it can get a little more complicated very fast. Resume is also a spelling variant of résumé when the accent marks are dropped (more on that later). You can thank how the English language adopts some French words for that curveball.

What is a résumé?

A résumé (with the accent marks) is “a brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience, as that prepared by an applicant for a job.” It’s pronounced [ rezoo-mey ] as opposed to how resume is pronounced [ ri-zoom ].

One could submit their résumé when applying for a graduate school program, for example, or do some extra volunteer work to add to their résumé. Our article on how to write a résumé has the tips and tricks you need, just be sure to use our Grammar Coach™ to make sure you don’t mix up resume and résumé before sending it in.

The word résumé was first recorded in 1795–1805 and originally meant a summary. The English résumé comes directly from the past participle of the French verb resumer, which means to “sum up.” In French, résumé literally translates to something that has been summed up. The English meaning isn’t all that different when you consider a résumé is just a summary of a person’s education and work experience.

Why is résumé spelled that way?

Sometimes when the English language adopts a word from another language, the accent marks stick. Consider the word café, or déjà vu. The accent marks tell French speakers how to pronounce a vowel. That mark over the E in résumé is called an acute accent and signals that it should be pronounced like “ey.” Accent marks also distinguish two different words that are otherwise homographs.

Do you have the savoir-faire to know when to use a French loanword? Learn about savoir-faire and other French words that made their way into English.

That latter reason is one example of why the accent marks remain in English. A reader would have to rely entirely on context if résumé lacked the accent marks, and relying on context can easily lead to a misreading of the situation.

That said, sometimes the markings are left out in common usage, especially for words that were borrowed from French long ago—they had time to settle in, drop the marks, and assimilate. That’s why, in informal writing, résumé may be spelled resume. Think of it like how some places describe themselves as a café while others use cafe.

As with anything else in communication, it’s important to know your audience. Résumés are typically used when applying for a job or school. Both of those tend toward more formal, so using résumé with the acute accents is a safe bet.

What is a résumé vs. curriculum vitae?

You may also be asked for a curriculum vitae (or CV for short) instead of a résumé. Using curriculum vitae is more common in British English and in other varieties of English across the world, but it’s not entirely uncommon in American English.

Like a résumé, a curriculum vitae is a summary of work experience and other background information that might be relevant to someone reading a job or school application. A CV is more likely to be asked for in academia than at your average, run-of-the-mill job in the United States. It also typically refers to a much more detailed summary—describing published papers and awards under a job or education heading rather than only listing a title and short description of duties, for instance. The fact that a CV is so comprehensive makes sense, as curriculum vitae means “course of life” in Latin.

Now, if you landed here while working on your résumé or curriculum vitae to double check that you were using the right accent marks, you can resume with confidence now.

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Now that you're definitely sure you understand the nuances with those accent marks, hop over to this article on using "definitely" and "definitively" correctly.