Is the word "copybook" used in school practice nowadays? Is it acceptable to use it instead of "notebook" or "workbook"? Thanks.

  • Have you not looked this up?
    – user3395
    Sep 5, 2017 at 11:19
  • Yes. Since in my childhood I was taught to use copybooks for writing in them. It was the general term for all these things.
    – Yulia
    Sep 5, 2017 at 11:46
  • You could hardly imagine studying (and teaching) English in Soviet schools in the 1990s.
    – Yulia
    Sep 5, 2017 at 12:36
  • It doesn't seem like you have, because not one dictionary I consulted defines it as just notebook and/or workbook. (I just realized I omitted a word and I couldn't edit that comment so I reposted it.) All I'm saying is look it up and it'll save both you and the potential answerer time. I'm not saying it's completely irrelevant what you called it 30 years ago in USSR, and you could've included that in your question, too.
    – user3395
    Sep 5, 2017 at 12:47
  • I needed assistance with understading of current usage of the word, not moralizing. I got assistance from the other members of the community. Anyway, thank you for your opinion.
    – Yulia
    Sep 5, 2017 at 13:09

3 Answers 3


In my US experience notebook, workbook and copybook are three different things.

  • A notebook is a book of blank lined paper, usually wire-bound, in which the student takes notes of lectures and class activities. A notebook is not handed in to the teacher or reviewed by the teacher: its contents are there for the student's benefit, to be reviewed as needed outside of class.

  • A workbook is a book containing exercises for the student to perform (and it may also contain instructional material supplementing that in lectures and textbooks). Sometimes it is a printed book with spaces where the student writes answers and shows her work, and the book or pages from the book are handed in for the teacher to review and grade; more often a printed workbook contains only the directions for the exercises, and the student hands in her answers written on separate papers. In some cases printed pages of exercises are handed out piecemeal in class, which the student fills out and turns in; these are graded by the teacher and returned to the student, who may be required to keep these in a 'loose-leaf' binder of some sort to be turned in for comprehensive review at the end of the course. The use of workbooks is common in classes whose subject-matter tolerates it, including college "intro" courses.

  • A copybook is a book into which a student copies texts and exercises dictated by the teacher; this may serve as a 'notebook' for future reference, but its primary purpose is to train the student in legible handwriting. (This too may be a collection of loose-leaf pages bound into a binder.) I never encountered copybooks in US schools, but their use was common in primary schools down to about 1950; and when I attended an Austrian school for a year, in the 7th grade, most classes required students to copy outlines written on the blackboard into a bound copybook.

  • I had a different US experience. Penmanship practice was on single sheets of yellow paper lined to be written on in landscape orientation. We called the books with black marbled covers "notebooks" and the wire-bound ones "spiral notebooks". The marbled ones were for homework assignments. The spiral-bound ones were forbidden. The wire made them flexible and unruly; they did not stack well; and they left ungodly shreds of paper on the floor when a page was torn out. We did not take notes. Our hands with fingers interlaced were to be kept at the edge of the desk.
    – TimR
    Sep 5, 2017 at 12:12
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo We did "penmanship" (called "writing practice") on pads of sub-newsprint-grade paper lined like this. I cannot remember ever not taking notes--though until college I was not usually taking notes on the actual class content :) Sep 5, 2017 at 12:24
  • That paper looks very similar. Our was yellow though of the same poor quality. I can remember the excitement of moving up from #2 pencil to fountain pen, better quality paper, and portrait orientation in the 4th grade.
    – TimR
    Sep 5, 2017 at 13:30

Actually copybook have contents which have to be imitated by the learner. But notebook and workbook are different. The workbook is where students workout what they have learned and notebook is for noting down the seminars. Every book has a specific name based on their need.


For whatever reasons, "copybook" is firmly entrenched in English classes in Kazakhstan. Replacing with "notebook" is made difficult because "notebook" is used for laptops in English and Russian. With so many other things to teach (e.g., proper parallel construction with third-person singular and the fact that a chalkboard or whiteboard is not a "desk"), I wonder if it is efficacious to try to correct this usage in the pupils. If anything, the attempt should be made with the local teachers, who seem to be perpetuating the use of this otherwise, shall I say, "quaint" word.

  • I think it would be a little more helpful to learners if you could clearly state whether or not the usage is acceptable, presumably in "native" English speaking countries, and explain the differences. You can edit your post to make clarifications.
    – Em.
    Oct 12, 2019 at 2:39

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