crayon: a coloured pencil or stick of soft coloured chalk or wax, used for drawing

In the dictionary, a crayon can be a coloured pencil or a stick of soft coloured chalk. But, when searching on the internet, it seems that people do distinguish crayons and coloured pencils.

The left ones are coloured pencils and the right ones are crayons (soft coloured chalk), see the picture.

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In a casual conversation, can "crayons & colored pencils" be the same?

And if we talk about them technically, they are different, aren't they?

  • 2
    I would call the items on the left colored pencils, and the sticks of colored wax on the right crayons. Looking at several dictionaries, I see that the definition of crayon may include sticks of wax, chalk, or charcoal. Your dictionary definition of "crayon" is the only one I've seen that included "pencils". In my idiolect, pencils are sheathed in wood, crayons are not. Mar 21, 2020 at 3:40
  • In Canada, coloured pencils are sometimes called 'pencil crayons', and in Britain, as a child in the 1950s and 1960s, I heard coloured pencils sometimes called 'crayons' by older teachers. Note that 'crayon' is a loan word from French where it simply means 'pencil' (of any or no colour). Mar 21, 2020 at 8:23
  • My wife says coloured pencils were called very often called 'crayons' in her British childhood, and if she wanted to discuss the other type, she would say 'wax crayons'. Mar 21, 2020 at 13:14

1 Answer 1


Casually they are different.

Crayons are coloured wax, pencils have coloured stuff inside wood (or similar).

There are also pastels (like crayons but less waxy) and coloured chalk, and charcoal (stick of black)

Crayons tend to be used by young children. Coloured pencils tend to be used by older children. Pastels are expensive and used by artists. Coloured chalk is only for drawing on blackboards or on the pavement. There are, of course, exceptions.

Technically, "crayon" includes coloured chalk, clay etc. and even coloured pencils but this when used as an artist's word. To non-artists, "crayon" means wax.

  • This is an unusual case where the casual meaning is more specific than the technical
    – James K
    Mar 21, 2020 at 9:07
  • can I say "this is a red pencil" or "this is a red colored pencil"?
    – Tom
    Mar 21, 2020 at 12:09
  • You may say either, but the first is shorter and better.
    – James K
    Mar 21, 2020 at 13:15
  • But when we say "red pencil", it could be "a normal pencil with red skin"?
    – Tom
    Mar 22, 2020 at 3:00
  • Yes. Sometimes language is ambiguous. So how can we ever understand? The answer is the same in your languages as in mine.
    – James K
    Mar 22, 2020 at 8:07

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