26 February 2021
This week on Ask a Teacher, we answer a question from Victor, who is from Brazil.
Hello, my name is Victor,
Can you talk about the use of the words security and safety? What's the difference between these two words?
Thank you for your email.
While the words "security" and "safety" are nouns with similar meanings, they are used differently.
"Security" often has to do with a group's efforts to protect its members from harm. "Safety" most often relates to a personal feeling of being free from harm or danger. Security seems to define efforts and measures that are outside of an individual, while safety is closer to an inner feeling.
Here is a simple discussion to show the difference:
Did you think about safety when you moved to that neighborhood?
Yes, I did. Luckily, there is a security guard at the front door of the apartment.
In English, you may hear the word "security" used to describe people with the job of protecting a place. It is also used to describe efforts to protect the country.
The U.S. has the Department of Homeland Security so that its citizens can feel safe.
You may see some government buildings with "high-security" measures to stop people from entering. Individuals, organizations, and governments value "cybersecurity" to stop people from causing harm to computers and equipment through the internet. Here is one example:
Cybersecurity helps stop enemies from stealing private information.
We would not say "cybersafety" when talking about measures to protect the nation's computer systems. Cybersecurity, instead, describes the effort to stop others from attacking.
Here is another example. In factories or workshops, workers need to wear face coverings or other protection like safety glasses for their eyes. But, such glasses are not called "security glasses." That is because they relate to one's personal safety: They protect you from dangers like dust, viruses, flying objects or chemicals.
I need to wear a face covering for my safety, to avoid breathing in these chemicals.
This person wants to be free from harm, so she used her safety mask. As a result, she follows job safety measures.
Thank you again for the question, Victor.
And to our listeners everywhere, what question do you have about American English? Send us an email at email@example.com.
And that's Ask a Teacher!
I'm Armen Kassabian.
Armen Kassabian wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor. Try to practice using the words ‘‘security' and 'safety' in the comments below.