Half-mast vs. half-staff

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In American English, a flag flown halfway up its flagpole as a symbol of mourning is at half-staff, and a flag flown halfway up a ship’s mast to signal mourning or distress is at half-mast. The distinction does not run deep, though, as the terms are often mixed up, especially in unofficial contexts.

Outside North America, half-staff is not a widely used term, and half-mast is used in reference to half-raised flags both on land and at sea. Half-mast is also preferred in Canada for both uses, though half-staff appears more frequently there than it does outside North America. 

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