Is "peel" only used on fruits or vegetables but "pare" has more meanings? Could I replace "peel" with "pare" at any phrases? What's the difference between them?

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    Pare implies using a knife, not just pulling off the skin like you do with a banana - but, as Astralbee says, it's not often used of fruit and veg these days. Something can be metaphorically pared down (gradually reduced in size). Jul 10, 2023 at 8:20

1 Answer 1


Technically the difference comes down to whether the fruit or vegetable can be said to have 'peel'. Things like potatoes, carrots, apples etc have a peel, or 'skin'. The process of removing this is 'peeling'. But 'paring' is defined as "removing the outer layer", which could include more than just the peel. For example, if you peeled an apple and beneath the peel there were some bad parts of the flesh, you could 'pare' those off as well.

The main difference is usage. Hardly any native speakers say 'pare' these days. This ngram comparing "pare an apple" with "peel an apple" suggests the change in usage shifted some time around the turn of the last century. I don't even think many people would say 'pare' for removing parts other than the peel, either. I would just say "cut out" any bad parts.

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    Looking at the Corpus of Contemporary American English, "pare" these days is generally used metaphorically, e.g. to cut down debt, government, expenses, words, with fingernails the only things that are literally pared in the sense of cut down.
    – Stuart F
    Jul 10, 2023 at 10:31
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    Your statement about usage is probably true. But curiously, we still call a knife intended to be used for peeling a "paring knife".
    – Jay
    Jul 11, 2023 at 2:17
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    @Jay yes, but how many people use a paring knife and not a 'potato peeler'? Paring knives have lots of uses - for example, on Amazon UK, all of the images for paring knives seem to show them being used to cut up onions and bell peppers, two things not normally peeled the way we are speaking about.
    – Astralbee
    Jul 11, 2023 at 11:55

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