Is there a difference in using immaterial vs nonmaterial? Do both of them have the same meaning ?

Besides, is it:

  • non material
  • nonmaterial
  • non-material?

I have found nonmaterial in the Merriam Webster dictionary.

  • kiyarash, we expect you to do a little basic research before asking a question. if you look up the definitions of these words in a dictionary, what meanings do you find? – JavaLatte Aug 20 '16 at 16:14
  • I have and and I couldn't find any differences that's why I am asking it . to make sure I am correct. – kiyarash Aug 20 '16 at 16:50
  • 2
    @kiyarash: immaterial is sometimes used in "philosophical" contexts with the nonmaterial (not made of matter, intangible, incorporeal ) sense, but it's mostly not used like that (partly because of possible confusion with the more common not relevant, of no consequence sense, no doubt). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Aug 20 '16 at 17:12

Saying something is "immaterial" means that it isn't relevant, or has no effect on a situation or eventual outcome.

Due to the general disenfranchisement with the political system, Donald Trump's personal life was immaterial.

So long as the band kept a beat, what they played was immaterial.

On the other hand, if an object is "nonmaterial," it does not physically exist.

There are many nonmaterial goods exchanged on the market.

Though, I have to say, I don't think I've ever heard the word "nonmaterial," in my day-to-day life before, so I don't think it's common. On the other hand, maybe it's just me.

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  • But immaterial also means not having a physical body or form. that was the meaning I was comparing to nonmaterial . Which to me does not seem different – kiyarash Aug 20 '16 at 16:47
  • @kiyarash Yes, it can also mean that, though I more often hear it being used as I described. – Fred Frey Aug 20 '16 at 17:22

Here are the definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary.


1 Not having a physical or material form:
"while e-texts are non-material, they must be read through a material object" More example sentences

1.1 Involving or concerned with the needs of the mind, spirit, or intellect:
"a public realm upholding non-material values"


1 Unimportant under the circumstances; irrelevant
"the difference in our ages is immaterial"

2 Philosophy Spiritual, rather than physical
"we have immaterial souls"

Both words have two meanings. In normal use, the first meanings are the most common, and the meanings are completely different. In the context of a philosophical or spiritual discussion, the second meanings are probably intended and they seem pretty similar.

According to the Oxford dictionary entry above, non-material is the correct spelling for British English, and this entry shows that it is nonmaterial for US English.

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