In the following contexts, are header and heading interchangable or is one preferred/correct over the other ?

  • the top of a column in an Excel spreadsheet
  • the top of an email message (To: CC: BC:)
  • the top of a web browser where the address of a website is shown

According to Merriam-Webster,


5b - information (such as a page number) printed or placed at the top of each page of a document (as opposed to footer)


1a - something that forms or serves as a head especially : an inscription, headline, or title standing at the top or beginning (as of a letter or chapter)

Unfortunately, most dictionaries do not have a definition, for either word, for these contexts.

  • Any given page can only have a single header. (Just as it can only have as single footer.) However, a page can have multiple headings and subheadings of information within it. – Jason Bassford Dec 30 '18 at 21:56

A page has a header and a footer, these may contain information such as the page number. A "heading" is the words in large text at the start of a section:

This is a heading

A header is part of the page, a heading is part of the text (or table or presentation etc.)

In digital transfer, the header is information about a document that your software attaches. For example, an http response contains header information such as "200" for success or "404" for "not found", and also information like the character code for the document, followed by the html text of the document. Again the header is not part of the text, and the http header will normally only be read by the computer.

The specific things you ask about:

The top of a column (where you might write "Name") is the column heading (it is part of the table) unless you mean the letters A, B, C etc., which are not headers nor headings, but part of the spreadsheet software.

The CC etc is part of the email header (it is not part of the text of the email, but is intended to be read by your email software)

The part of a web browser that shows the url is the "address bar". (It's not a header nor a heading but part of the chrome of the web browser)

  • Comments go into the footer, they are not part of the text of the answer. – James K Dec 31 '18 at 0:25
  • 1
    In HTML they call the top part of a table a header. They also say "Use the HTML <th> element to define a table heading" and "<th> Defines a header cell in a table". Also see this regarding Microsoft Excel. – userr2684291 Dec 31 '18 at 11:32
  • @userr2684291 - well. Thank you very much for the added new information. However, it seems to also add a bit more confusion. It appears that Excel defines the top of a column as a header ?? – B Chen Dec 31 '18 at 23:20
  • @BChen If I were you, I'd stick to what the answerer has written above, but I'd be aware of the fact that different technologies might use their own terminology, and that the difference might not be as clear-cut. – userr2684291 Jan 1 at 1:28
  • It conforms with the general concept. A "heading" is part of the object, a header is added to the object. – James K Jan 1 at 1:28

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