I looked up the free dictionary, under symmetric it said another word for symmetrical. But which one is more common? Any other possible distinctions?

3 Answers 3


Here's one possible distinction I can think of.

  • symmetric applies in particular to relations: A is to B as B is to A, A does C to B and B does C to A, and so on. There is some kind of symmetric relation between A and B.

  • symmetrical applies in particular to objects: a circle is symmetrical radially, that's a symmetrical vase.

(Note: possible distinction. This does not mean that you cannot use either here - you can.)

Well, that's what occurs to me. However, this ngram suggests that the first bullet is no longer so relevant as it once was.

This ngram does support the second bullet somewhat.

  • I think you messed it up the order of symmetric and symmetrical. Can you look at your answer again plz? I'm not sure if you made a mistake or not
    – pxc3110
    Sep 18, 2014 at 14:39
  • Sorry, I don't understand. Are you asking whether I really meant to swap symmetric and symmetrical in the two bullet descriptions, so that, for example, symmetrical is especially about relations and symmetric is especially about objects? If so, then no; I meant what is written.
    – Drew
    Sep 18, 2014 at 16:13

No much difference. WordWebOnline suggests 'symmetrical' as a synonym or a variant of 'symmetric'.

symmetric - Having similarity in size, shape, and relative position of corresponding parts


symmetric seems to be primarily used in math contexts.

symmetrical is the adjective form of the noun symmetry.

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