Someone asked me to explain celebrator and celebrater.

The confusion revolves around three terms: celebrant, celebrator, and celebrater.

Before I go into the details, let me tell you that these three terms are considered formal and are not often used in everyday conversation in North America or in the U.K. The online forums on language say that these terms are too “strained”–they are “literally suitable” but not often used. In the Philippines, though, the word celebrant is pretty common.

Are these words in the dictionaries?

Celebrant: found in all dictionaries
Celebrator: found in almost all dictionaries
Celebrater: found in some

MS Word highlights the term celebrater with a red wavy line–immediately prompting us that American English (the preferred English variant of MS Word) does not consider celebrater as standard. In fact, this word is not found in some dictionaries like Merriam-Webster (including Learner’s Dictionary), new Oxford American Dictionary, and Oxford English Dictionary. Interestingly, WordNet, a site using Websters Dictionary and sponsored by Princeton University, says that celebrater is a “common misspelling or typo for celebrated. Hmmmm.

Celebrant appears to be more common in North America than in the U.K. Check out the discussion at Oxford Dictionaries.

Difference between celebrant and celebrator: They both mean the same thing when they refer to a reveler or a person who is celebrating something. But celebrant can also describe a person who performs or participates in a religious rite or ceremony, say, a priest at the Eucharist–in this instance, we cannot use celebrator (sources: Merriam-Webster’s Learners Dictionary, Oxford American Dictionary; Oxford World English Dictionary).

American Heritage Dictionary provides the following explanation:

Usage Note: Although celebrant is most often used to describe an official participant in a religious ceremony or rite, a majority of the Usage Panel accepted the use of celebrant to mean “a participant in a celebration” in an earlier survey. Still, while New Year’s Eve celebrants may be an acceptable usage, celebrator is an uncontroversial alternative in this more general sense.

Photo credit: Clip art


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