I asked this question - https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/106026/what-is-the-difference-between-ink-and-paint#comment216114_106026

One commenter asked if I'd seen the ODO links, and handily linked them.

Neither of them tells me what the difference is between ink and paint; nor do they tell me why we have two words for pretty much the same things.

So, this is a neat question that could have a deep answer, but you've closed it with unhelpful links that don't answer the question.

The closing comment mentions that it can be answered by a reference work designed to answer that type of question. Since one of the points of SE is to provide these answers it might be a good idea for you to link to one of these reference sites before you insta-close a question. And then, if you don't find the answer in any of the sites you look at you can change your mind and re-open the question later.

Would the question be re-opened if it asked "Why do we still use ink and paint when they mean the same thing, or don't they mean the same thing and people are just using them wrong?"

  • 1
    I am glad you asked here. I would like to see you revise the question using Andrew's advice. I don't think the distinction between ink and paint is very clear at all. I think it could be very interesting indeed if you could come up with something a little more robust in terms of demonstrating their similarities in usage.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 0:51
  • I really don't see how the linked definitions fail to answer the question. Ink is for writing, paint is for surface-covering.
    – Hellion
    Commented Mar 8, 2013 at 22:18

1 Answer 1


Since it was my comment first, perhaps I can "show my working".

Yes, the difference between ink and paint is explained in the ODO links I gave (to which you make reference here):

ink noun [mass noun]
a coloured fluid or paste used for writing, drawing, printing, or duplicating

paint noun [mass noun]
a coloured substance which is spread over a surface and dries to leave a thin decorative or protective coating

Those are clearly different, and do not indicate that ink and paint are synonymous. (It's paint's "decorative or protective coating" which is the principal difference.)

To improve your question, show that you have consulted at least one respectable dictionary [I find ODO helpful, but there are others]; quote the relevant parts of the definitions and say how they have not helped. It would also be advantageous to present the real problem you face where ink and paint are being confused.

For example, a "painted lady" in a circus freak-show is more than likely tattooed rather than painted, and inking is frequently used as a slang term for tattooing — not surprisingly, since tattooing is done with ink. But that does mean that an inked lady is referred to as "painted". Perhaps that's a poor example: it's the best I can come up on the spur of the moment.

As far as insta-closing the question, the links I gave do show that it is General Reference. If they don't, edit the question to show how they don't and I'll happily vote to re-open it myself.

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