Event and Occasion

By Maeve Maddox

Karen writes:

Wondering if you can do a post on the use of ‘event’ and ‘occasion’ – are they interchangeable terms, or does one imply more significance than the other?

To me, “an occasion” is more special than “an event.”

The twins’ birthday is always a special occasion for the family.

However, many speakers would use the word event in this example.

The words are so close in meaning and have so many different applications that it is difficult to formulate a hard and fast distinction between them. Wikipedia lists 20 different senses for event: nine general meanings and eleven specialized meanings.

Context is everything.

The word event is common in writing about sports and entertainment.

Fox and DirecTV hosting charity event for family of the late Will Flannery

Apple announces special event for January 27

A rematch of top rivals Darrion Caldwell and Brent Metcalf is the Main Event of a seven-match card of wrestling bouts…

Conventions and conferences are “events.” Graduations and jazz festivals are “events.” Plain old parties are often called “events.”

One distinction that can be drawn is that occasion carries the sense of a falling together of events to produce an opportunity for something.

Let me take the occasion of this interview as the opportunity to question one of the received ideas about contemporary poetry.

An event, on the other hand, is usually scheduled. Indeed, an event may be scheduled to celebrate an occasion:

A conference will be held … on the occasion of Richard Varga’s 80th birthday

The expression “on occasion” means “from time to time”:

On occasion I have misspoken about my service and I regret that and I take full responsibility.”

An “occasional poem” is a poem written to celebrate a special occasion such as a coronation or a royal birthday.

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10 Responses to “Event and Occasion”

  • Cecily

    I wouldn’t take anyone who said “Let me take the occasion of this interview as the opportunity to… ” as any sort of guide!

  • Frank Elliott

    This post brings to mind the latest in TV advertise euphemisms. It started with Lexus. Then the infection spread to Cadillac, and now it is corrupting more pedestrian brands.

    It is the sales “event,” as in, “the Lexus fall sales event.”

    Arghhh.

    I guess Lexus was too high-falutin’ to simply hold a sale.

  • Deborah H

    The word “occasion” seems personal to me, whereas “event” is more generic. Where I live there are many “event centers” where a family can host a special occasion.

  • Cecily

    @Deborah H: “Event centre” is a new one on me. Over here (England), we would use “venue” as the generic term.

    I think you’re right about occasions tending to be more personal than events.

  • Deborah H

    @Frank Elliott—I don’t know about other cities and ball clubs, but the area Lexus dealerships around The Ballpark at Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers, bought a parking lot and provide valet parking for Lexus owners. Those same Lexus dealers also bought premium seating in the stadium which they sell to their Lexus buyers. So maybe buying a Lexus IS a big event 🙂

  • PreciseEdit

    Word choice, so much fun!

    While not suggesting that my usage is correct, acceptable, or consistent, I can summarize how I use these words as follows:

    “Occasion” refers to time: a time period, a specific time, a quantity of time (which gives us “occasional,” approximately meaning “from time to time”).

    “Event” refers to some action, in part or whole, that occurs during a time period.

    Good and interesting discussion. Thanks.

  • Rod

    you can organize an event to celebrate a special occasion.
    you don’t say this the way around.
    PreciseEdit is right, talking about a period of time

  • Walker

    I have a question on the phrase below

    “…request the honor of your presence and blessings on the auspicious occasion for the wedding ceremony of their beloved niece”

    Is it correct to use “occasion for” – or is is grammatically correct to say “occasion of”.

    The second sounds better but is it really the ONLY correct way? Thanks for all your help.

  • Cecily

    @Walker: “Occasion of” is the standard form and the one I would use.

  • Deborah H

    @Walker: I agree with Cecily. ” … occasion of” is standard.

    But I also sense by the use of the word auspicious, that those who composed the invitation do not speak English as their first language.

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