Regime, Regimen, and Regiment

Commonly Confused Words

regime, regimen, and regiment
The Coldstream Guards, the oldest regiment in continuous active service in the British Army. (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.
 

Definitions

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.

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."

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 to Practice Exercises

    Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

    Answers to Practice Exercises: Regime, Regimen, and Regiment.

    (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)

     

    Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words