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could you tell me the common name for "a document allowing the holder to pass"? I found that some organisations in UK and US use the term "a laissez-passer" while other use either "a pass", "a permit" or "an access badge". Which one is common?

Don't mention temporary passes like 'visitor pass', only permanent ones.

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There are actually a number of words for this, depending on the context. I'll try and give you a feel for the ones you have mentioned as I understand them. FYI, I am an American and these words sound likely to be used slightly differently in the UK.

a laissez-passer: This is French, not English. The UN does a lot of business in French, so that is the likely context. Before your question I had never seen nor heard this combination of words. Exceptionally rare.

a pass This is a common and general word, especially used with documents that allow limited-time access. It is also often used for a sticker or tag that allows you to park your car somewhere. A "parking pass." A parking pass would likely be hung from your rear-view mirror.

a permit Similar to a pass but perhaps slightly more proper/formal. You hear "parking permit" a lot. A permit is likely to be something that lasts for longer, like a year-long parking permit, which would tend to be a sticker in your car window. Normally I would not use "permit" to refer to something that gave me access to a building or venue, but I wouldn't think it's an odd usage if someone else did.

an access badge is something you clip to your shirt normally that gives you access to a secure area, perhaps a government building.

When people have permanent passes, they often have names for them that everyone else in the organization uses. For example, an "I.D.," a "badge," one's "card" or a "tag" might be understood unambiguously by people in a particular organization, while these may have a different meaning in the general population.

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As a BE native, the things that office workers use for getting past security or through electronically locked doors is usually called 'a pass' or an 'I.D. Badge' or an 'Identity Badge' - the latter two normally if it's got a photograph of the bearer on it. Quite often in BE it might even be shortened to just 'I.D.'. Sometimes it'll be called 'a token' or 'a tag' if it's just a small electronic transceiver that is used to unlock doors. People are pretty laissez-faire about what they're called, most BE speakers will go with whatever their employer uses as the term but will understand any of the above as meaning 'the bit of stuff that identifies that you belong here or can go through this door'.

So company rules will say things like 'I.D. Badges must be visible while in the office' if the company policy is that any employee is required to challenge someone not having their I.D. visible... and most people in the company will call then call it an I.D. or an I.D. Badge.

Other possible terms I've heard... 'dongle' 'chuch-kie' (a word I've only ever heard spoken, never seen written so that's my guess as to spelling) 'door card' ... or even a name derived from the specific manufacturer of the cards. That's not an exhaustive list by any means. The reality is that there isn't one single word to describe them, one may take precedence in one place of work, a different one in a different office.

  • I'd like to know more about "chuch-kie" – I'm not even sure how you'd pronounce that, so I can't figure out what you're alluding to. Does "chuch" rhyme with crutch? Is "kie" pronounced as key? – J.R. May 21 at 17:20

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