When Should I Use A.D. or C.E.?

Lots of Letters

Here's a Roman calendar...they probably didn't use A.D. or C.E. Calendar of Numa/Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

Question: When do you use A.D. vs. C.E.?

Answer: A.D. is the Latin for anno Domini, which means "in the year of Our Lord" in Latin, referring, of course, to Jesus; it was first used in 1512. C.E. stands for "Common Era." Both take as their starting point the year in which Jesus Christ was, by convention, born (the year 0). The year 2010 C.E. is the equivalent of A.D. 2010. A.D. precedes the date, C.E.


C.E. is thought to be less Christian in orientation. C.E. is often used in order to respect those of different faiths and backgrounds who don't worship Jesus. The choice may be up to you, your teacher, or your stylebook. For example, The Chicago Manual of Style opines:

"The choice between one or the other is up to the writer and should be flagged only if the customs of a specific field or community seem to be in danger of being (unwittingly) violated. Many authors use BC and AD because they are familiar and conventionally understood. Those who want to avoid reference to Christianity are free to do so."

In contrast, though, the BBC opted for C.E. in its dating:

"As the BBC is committed to impartiality it is appropriate that we use terms that do not offend or alienate non-Christians. 

In line with modern practice, BCE/CE (Before Common Era/Common Era) are used as a religiously neutral alternative to BC/AD."

Many historians and other writers now use B.C.E. or C.E. for the reasons listed above.

-Edited by Carly Silver