Regime vs. regimen

regimen is a systematic approach to diet, medicine, or exercise. The word has other meanings, but this is its most common use. Regime can carry the same meaning, but it has additional definitions—mainly, (1) a form of government, and (2) a government in power—that it doesn’t share with regimen. Keeping the words separate might be a good idea for clarity’s sake, but in practice they are both commonly used in reference to systematic approaches to things.

British writers are more likely than American writers to use regime for both purposes, but that doesn’t mean that regimen is an especially American word. Regimen in this sense in fact predates this use of regime and is several centuries older than the United States.1 Regimen is currently faddish in the U.S. and out of style in the U.K., but there have been periods of history in which it was far more common than regime even in British writing.


In real-world usage, regimen is most often used to denote a regulated system, as of diet or fitness—for example:

But changing your skin-care regimen between Halloween and Memorial Day can bring about a happier face “pretty quickly,” she says. [USA Today]

In the 1920s, only six nuns still inhabit the convent, contentedly following a regimen of solitude and contemplation. [Independent]

He practices yoga, part of a fitness program that is coupled with an aggressive drug regimen. [New York Times]

And regime is more often used to refer to a form of government or a particular administration—for example:

The entire eastern region and parts of western Libya near the border with Tunisia have already slipped from the regime’s grip. [Financial Times]

It’s been a hard winter in North Korea, and the Kim family regime is once again struggling to feed its people. [Wall Street Journal]

Already, 5,000 Tunisians have attempted to migrate to Italy since the collapse of the Ben Ali regime. [National Post]


1. Regimen in the OED (subscription required)

12 thoughts on “Regime vs. regimen”

    • One person’s experience usually isn’t enough to rely on for these things. We do find some instances of “regimen” in British news publications–see here: But it is indeed less common there than in the U.S.

      • That’s an extremely rare example, probably American influence. We slowly get Americanisms coming into usage here. I have never in my life heard an English person say Regimen in any media or my personal experience. We mostly say “Routine” or “Plan” if we don’t say Regime.

        • There are 18 examples in that link, and there is no reason to believe that they are there due to American influence. While “regimen” is certainly faddish in the U.S. right now (and believe us, it’s only faddish in certain types of writing–it’s not a word many Americans go around using all the time), it is a well-established word with a long history in English. It has been around at least six centuries, since long before the American colonies or American English, and examples of its use are easily found in texts from throughout the English-speaking world, published not just in this century but also in the 20th, 19th, and 18th. If you feel like taking a closer look yourself, here are 103,000 examples of the word used in 19th-century English-language texts: A great many of them–the majority, it appears–are not American. When we modify the search to cover texts published from 1901 to 1980, the results are similar; there are many results from throughout the English-speaking world.

          The term “Americanism” appears in our comments sections often, usually pejoratively and often by people who either dislike Americans or just can’t stand words and phrases that strike them as particularly American. The interesting thing is that almost none of the words or phrases described by our British commenters as “Americanisms” originate from the U.S. or are particularly American, and we end up spending a lot of time replying to these people to point them toward readily available information that proves the so-called Americanisms are nothing of the sort. In most cases, the things people call Americanisms are just words or phrases that happen to be popular in the U.S. at the moment. These trends come and go, not just in the U.S. but everywhere. What’s always funny to us, though, is how many British people view words that are trendy in the U.S. as some sort of threat to the English language, while Americans invariably find Britishims charming and not threatening at all. This isn’t surprising, as we’re aware of how our country is seen around the world, but it’s funny nonetheless.

        • At least it’s better to say “routine” or “plan” rather than using “regime” in instances when “regimen” would be better. I found this page because I was purposely trying to find out why I see so many Americans saying “regime” when I have a gut feeling they probably meant to use “regimen.” And, notwithstanding the common ground between the two words, I strongly suspect that they don’t really know the differences that do exist and just dunderheadedly (“dunderhead” being a word I learned “whilst” residing in Northern Ireland) throw in the less suited one, nuances be damned.

          • Except that “regime” as a synonym of “regimen” in the sense “a particular course of diet, exercise, etc.” is hundreds of years old, was once much more common in British English than it is now, and is perfectly justifiable logically and etymologically, but don’t let the facts get in the way of your gut feelings.

      • Only British people who watch too much Breaking Bad or the Wire. It is not part of British English to say Regimen to mean plan.

  1. Sorry….I disagree.
    There are two words…….there are two meanings…….keep them separate!!
    Regimen – a systematic approach to anything: exercise, therapy, eating.
    Regime – a non-democratic or abusive government or management group

    • Sorry you’re wrong, look up the Oxford Dictionary definitions. Regime means exactly the same as Regimen in that context.

      • Oh… saw it on the Internet… I’m wrong. :-)
        I may be wrong…..technically…..’er, according to ONE dictionary…..but, I’m sure as hell more sensible.
        See MY logic. Two different words available….two different meanings intended.
        Let each word mean one thing. WTF is so hard about that? :-)


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