Regime, Regimen, and Regiment: How to Choose the Right Word

The Coldstream Guards, the oldest regiment in continuous active service
The Coldstream Guards, the oldest regiment in continuous active service.

Malcolm Park/Getty Images

Don't be confused by older senses of the words regime, regimen, and regiment. In present-day English, these words have fairly distinct meanings.

How to Use Regime

The noun regime (pronounced "ruh-zheem" and occasionally spelled with an accent, régime) primarily refers to a form of government or a period of time that a person or governing body is in power. (In contemporary usage, regime commonly carries a negative connotation.) Far less often, regime is used as a synonym for regimen.

How to Use Regimen

The noun regimen (pronounced "redge-uh-men") primarily refers to a systematic plan, in particular a regulated system of diet and exercise or a prescribed course of medical treatment. Far less often, regimen is used as a synonym for regime (a form of government), a usage that most dictionaries identify as "rare" or "archaic."

How to Use Regiment

The noun regiment (pronounced "redge-uh-ment") primarily refers to a military unit or any large group of people. (Though regiment was once regarded as a synonym for regime, most dictionaries identify that usage as "archaic" or "obsolete.") As a verb, regiment means to organize a group of people in a systematic or oppressive manner.

In addition, see the usage notes below.

Examples

"Castro's death was felt especially keenly in Latin America, where his success in overthrowing a military regime inspired leftist activists in other countries."

"Celebration, Sorrow and Slights Greet News of Castro's Death." The New York Times, November 26, 2016

"Stomach troubles meant that our diets would change: we would be put on a strict regimen of rice congee (or porridge), sometimes with a tiny pickled turnip, until our stomachs were better."

Nancy N. Chen, Food, Medicine, and the Quest for Good Health, 2009

"For a soldier to plot against his own government during a time of war might be acceptable if the regime was evil enough; but for a soldier to plot against his own regiment would simply be treachery, and the man would be thought of as a traitor."

Michael Gelven, War and Existence: A Philosophical Inquiry, 1994

"[W]e allow the clock to regiment our daily lives. People did not always let the clock determine the pace of daily life."

Robert J. Brym and John Lie, Sociology: Your Compass for a New World, 2010

"[President Lincoln] drafted a memorandum of military policy that called for the discharge of those ninety-day regiments that did not wish to re-enlist, the reorganization of the rest of the army, and a constant regimen of drill to ensure they would be properly trained before their next battle."

William C. Davis, Lincoln's Men, 1999

Usage Notes

"The word regime is a synonym for political system: a democratic regime, an authoritarian regime. It also may mean the period in which a person or system was in power, often with a negative connotation: Gadhafi's regime, the Nazi regime."

The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law: 2013, ed. by Darrell Christian, Sally Jacobsen, and David Minthorn. Basic Books, 2013

"A medical regimen is a set of rules or guidelines imposed upon a client to secure his or her well-being. . . . Regimen also, of course, has the somewhat antiquated meaning of 'government' and is the root of regime and regiment."

Bryan S. Turner, "Piety, Prolongevity and Perpetuity: The Consequences of Living Forever." Medicine, Religion, and the Body, 2010

Practice

(a) "Dedicated Puritans maintained a daily _____ of reading the Bible and devotional books and engaging in private meditation, self-examination, and prayer upon rising and before retiring."
(Keith Krawczynski, Daily Life in the Colonial City, 2013)

(b) "[T]he ultimate justification of the war was a moral imperative to save millions of innocent men and women from a cruel, murderous, evil _____."
(Theodore S. Hamerow, Why We Watched, 2008)

(c) "Looking out, I saw a _____ of boys of a tender age, in a uniform of brown linen, with little light muskets on their shoulders, and miniature knapsacks on their backs, completely equipped and furnished for war."
(William Cullen Bryant, Letters of a Traveller, 1850)

(d) "I’m not sure my grooming _____ really counts as a _____: it takes six minutes, and the hottest product I own is a Lynx Africa gift set left over from Christmas."
(Alfie Packham, "Five Grooming Gadgets for the Modern Man." The Guardian, August 21, 2016)

Answers

(a) "Dedicated Puritans maintained a daily regimen of reading the Bible and devotional books and engaging in private meditation, self-examination, and prayer upon rising and before retiring."
(Keith Krawczynski, Daily Life in the Colonial City, 2013)

(b) "[T]he ultimate justification of the war was a moral imperative to save millions of innocent men and women from a cruel, murderous, evil regime."
(Theodore Hamerow, Why We Watched, 2008)

(c) "Looking out, I saw a regiment of boys of a tender age, in a uniform of brown linen, with little light muskets on their shoulders, and miniature knapsacks on their backs, completely equipped and furnished for war."
(William Cullen Bryant, Letters of a Traveller, 1850)

(d) "I’m not sure my grooming regimen really counts as a regimen: it takes six minutes, and the hottest product I own is a Lynx Africa gift set left over from Christmas."
(Alfie Packham, "Five Grooming Gadgets for the Modern Man." The Guardian, August 21, 2016)