What's the difference between status and status quo? My dictionary tells:

Status could mean 'the situation at a particular time during a process'

Status quo could mean 'the situation as it is now'

It seems that there could be some overlaps in usage because 'a particular time' could be 'now'.

If I understand correctly, will "maintain the status quo" == "maintain the current status"?

  • As a learner, I think status bears with it a sense of transient situation in contrast to status quo which implies a steady state situation. I mean, the status is more pron to alternation in my opinion.
    – Cardinal
    Oct 9, 2017 at 3:39

3 Answers 3


If I understand correctly, will "maintain the status quo" = "maintain the current status"?


You understand that correctly, but you need to be clear about the context. Otherwise, you need to tack on some more at the end: "the current status of... [that thing we were talking about]".

'Status' is precisely the past participle of the Latin word for "stand". It is how things stand and thus the way things are, what's going on, &c. It's mostly fully accepted as an English word, but needs qualification to make sense. It's really how things stand with regard to...

Your "socioeconomic status" is how you stand w/r/t society; your "legal status" is you stand w/r/t the law; your "relationship status" is how you stand w/r/t romantic availability, whether single, partnered, or complicated; your "order status" tells you how things stand w/r/t a delivery; a "status report" tells you how things stand w/r/t your ship, platoon, &c. If there's no qualification, it usually means that the qualifier should be understood from context.

['Status' also has some mostly obsolete senses where it means "height", "high point", "worst bit of a disease", or "annuity conditions".]

'Status quo' (lit. "in which state") is a post-classical Latin extrapolation from in statu quo ante/prius or nunc ("in the same state as before" or "now"). It refers to how things stand, generally, and is especially used for (a) talking about society or situations (b) as they change to a new state or get restored after such a change.

It can be a formal diplomatic term. A peace status quo ante bellum restores things to the way they were before the war began.

More often, 'status quo' shows up in political debate. Whatever "the status quo" may happen to be, it's usually contrasted with some better state of affairs that fixes some of its problems. Progressives aim to "disrupt the status quo" in the name of improving it; they consider that conservatives generally aim to "defend", "maintain", or "preserve the status quo" in the interest of various established privileges it includes. This somewhat negative use means conservatives more often frame themselves as "having common sense" or "upholding traditions", rather than using the term themselves.

People who intentionally or accidentally filled up their vocab with Latin sometimes use it in other contexts, but it's a bit clinical (even obnoxious) to describe relationships or office power struggles using it.


From what I can see, the two mean the same thing, however, the contexts in which they are used are different.

Status Quo would be used in the context of describing a wider situation. For example, you could describe the UK's decision to leave the EU as 'disrupting the status quo', as it describes generally the relationship between the UK and the EU.

Status generally wouldn't be used in the context of describing wider situations at all really. An appropriate use of Status, and not Status Quo would be "What is the status of my Amazon order".

In my opinion, Status Quo is one that should be used rarely, and carefully. It doesn't have a huge amount of real use, and when used incorrectly, you may be interpreted as referring to the rock band Status Quo

Another thing to mention, is that Status quo is generally used to describe political or social issues, whereas status is more generally for anything else.

  • 1
    No one is ever going to assume it refers to a rock band, even in sentences where people mistakenly capitalize it as if it were a name. The last paragraph repeats the topic of the 2nd and 3rd and isn't really a new issue.
    – lly
    Jun 1, 2018 at 15:59

Status has multiple meanings. When used in the following sense (from free Oxford dictionary), status implies an instantaneous sample of a transient process:

The situation at a particular time during a process.

For example:

What's the status of our new building project? (Snapshot of a changing process.)

Status quo, on the other hand, implies a more steady state:

The existing state of affairs, especially regarding social or political issues

We can use a similar example as above to illustrate the difference:

Person A: Are we changing the insulation in our building?

Person B: Don't see why we would change the status quo: it's working fine so far.

On the other hand, if you used status to mean "a relative social or professional position; standing" (free Oxford dictionary), status quo is no longer applicable.

The government is trying to improve the status of our First Nations communities.

We are talking about the social status of a group.

The government is trying to improve the status quo of our First Nations communities. (Incorrect usage.)

This doesn't mean anything. Status quo refers to states of processes, not to social standing of people.

The government is trying to change the status quo in how we interact with our First Nations communities.

This, however, is fine, because we are talking about the state of a process, not of the people.


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