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This what they look like on the inside:

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In many videos, I heard them called lever arch files but the people in those vids were British.

  • 2
    Lever arch refers to a specific mechanism where a lever is used to open the rings. Ring binders don't necessarily have that same mechanism. I would say ring binder is just a more generic name. I don't really think there is a difference between UK and US usage here. In the UK at least the whole thing could be called a file, or a binder, without specifically mentioning the type of mechanism. The only thing I would say that is more British (and also more European) is the size. A4 is an ISO paper size which is not as common in the US.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jun 16 at 0:14
  • @BillyKerr - you are absolutely right. I used to get secretly annoyed at people who called the things in the picture 'ring binders'. They are not. A ring binder has a number of rings that are split and can be persuaded to open with the fingers, and snapped shut through punched holes, trapping the items to be filed. Commented Jun 16 at 7:38
  • 4
    @MichaelHarvey I would absolutely still consider these ring binders. The arches are still ‘rings’, even if they’re less circular and stereotypically ring-like than the ones you pry open with your fingers – kind of like how a boxing ring is still a ring, even though it’s square. The only alternative I can think of to call it would be ‘arch binder’, which sounds like an ‘ultimate binder’ (which sounds like a magic spell). Commented Jun 16 at 14:40
  • 1
    @BillyKerr "In the UK at least the whole thing could be called a file" - I suggest that is a usage difference. I've never heard these called a "file" in the US. Commented Jun 17 at 5:33
  • 1
    @BillyKerr I’ve never heard one called a “file” regardless of what it contains. Commented Jun 17 at 11:47

4 Answers 4


Yes, they are ring binders and they are files. The first term describes the mechanism that they use for holding paper, and the second term describes the purpose that they have in an office. Often there is more than one word you could use to name something.

Your files might be ring binders, or paper folders, or box files.

The main use of ring binders is as files to store various documents.

A lever-arch file is a particular type of ring binder in which the ring is opened and closed by moving a lever.

So the picture at the bottom show a ring binder, and in particular a lever arch file, made by the Manor Bindery to look like antique book when closed.

  • 6
    It's one of these strange cultural differences. In the UK we punch 2 or 4 holes in the A4 sized paper and so binders have two or four rings. In the US they punch 3 holes in the Letter sized paper, so binders have 3 rings. So ubiquitous is the use of three holes that "three-ring binder" is the preferred term.
    – James K
    Commented Jun 16 at 11:42
  • 9
    I would use the word "file" for the documents inside the binder, personally, not the binder as a whole.
    – Hearth
    Commented Jun 16 at 12:52
  • I'm 50 years old and lived in the US my entire life. I've never once heard a three ring binder called a "file". Also, I've never heard them called "ring binders". It's always been "three ring binder", "binder", or "folder". Commented Jun 17 at 5:31
  • @ToddWilcox except OP's picture is of a two-ring, lever arch binder.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Jun 17 at 12:28
  • 1
    "Ring binder" is the category. "Two-ring" and "three-ring" are sub-catregories. I just Googled "two-ring binder", and the first result was a Lever Arch 2-Ring Binder; US Letter Size.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Jun 17 at 12:42

Since you ask about American English, the style shown in the photo isn't used much in the US. If I were to go to the office supply store, it's likely that the clerk wouldn't know what I was talking about. I'd have to describe the pull hole on the spine, and they'd probably tell me the store doesn't carry that kind of ring binder.

P.S. You could ask if they stock "A4 binders". Or "D-ring" if the clerk doesn't recognize "A4".

"Leitz A4 Size, 1010 Deluxe 2-Ring Binder, 3" Spine, European Ring Spacing"

The A4 size paper measures 8.27 x 11.69 inches, only slightly larger than the U.S letter size 8.5 x 11 inches.

  • 2
    i second this as USAmerican; the mechanism fits my expectation of a ring binder, though an uncommon one, but I've never seen that layout and don't have a name for it.
    – Mike M
    Commented Jun 16 at 10:51
  • 1
    @MikeM It’s interesting how cultural backgrounds can affect things like these. These binders are so ubiquitous here in Europe that it would never have occurred to me – having never spent any significant amount of time in offices in the US – that they’re not used across the pond. Commented Jun 16 at 14:33
  • What does "D-Ring" have to do with "A4"?
    – RonJohn
    Commented Jun 17 at 12:38

You would probably call them binders. I personally would refer to them as 3-ring binders, even though I see they only have two rings inside.

The terminology for binders is closer to books than files. So you might have a shelf of binders (like a bookshelf) rather than a cabinet of binders (like a filing cabinet).

  • Why would you call it a three-ring binger, when manifestly there are two rings, and the ring connectors look nothing like a three-ring binder?
    – RonJohn
    Commented Jun 17 at 12:30
  • Do they make 2-hole punches? All the binders I've ever used have been 3-ring binders so that's what I've always called them. I probably shouldn't have added that because it might just be me who does that. Commented Jun 18 at 19:50
  • Google is your friend. I've seen two-hole punches in the Good Ole USA since my teens in the the 1970s. And if you were my employee, stared at a manifestly two-hole binder and called it a three-hole binder "because that's what I call binders", you'd be unemployed before you too your next breath. No, I take that back: I'd be too flabbergasted to instantly fire you. But you would be fired for gross <redacted>.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Jun 18 at 20:44
  • @RonJohn LOL, I'm glad I don't work for you! Commented Jun 18 at 21:03
  • I guess it's similar to calling something a "red mark" even though it might not be in red. Any action which manifestly denies in-your-face reality is a fireable offence
    – RonJohn
    Commented Jun 18 at 21:07

In American English, those are called ring binders. You could simply call them binders too.

Files in American English refers to the stuff you store in the binder, not the binder itself. File also means a sharp object that can be used as a weapon.

If you are using file as a verb instead of a noun, then, it means to send in something.

Never heard the term “lever-arch” used before, but I guess that could be a British synonym. No idea. I am curious to know what they call this in Australia, though some stores have the American term written in the product labels sometimes.

  • 2
    I'm not sure I've ever seen a file that I would describe as sharp, or that would make a very effective weapon. You could probably use one as a weapon, but they aren't sharp enough to easily break skin or anything.
    – Hearth
    Commented Jun 16 at 12:51
  • 1
    The term is ‘lever-arch’, not ‘level-arch’ – it’s the mechanism whereby you open the metal arch by pulling the lever in the front upwards. (I’ll admit I’d never heard the term before either, but it’s quite self-explanatory.) // @Hearth Nail files are often quite sharp (though also quite small for a weapon, of course), but yeah, files are defined by their gritty/rough surface used to file away at things, not by their sharpness. Commented Jun 16 at 14:31
  • +1 but I wonder what part of the US you've heard them called "ring binders". In the mid-Atlantic region, I've only ever heard "three-ring binder", "binder", and "folder"; never "ring binder" without "three". Obviously the one pictured has two rings, which is not common in my experience but I have heard someone say "two ring binder" before. Commented Jun 17 at 5:35
  • 1
    Binders with both two and three rings exist in the wild, although at least around here (neither Europe nor US) the two-ring variant is more common. But this is also why "refill pads" (lined writing paper intended to be placed in such binders) usually come with five (or more) pre-punched holes, so that they can fit either type of binder, possibly supporting multiple spacing variations as well.
    – Miral
    Commented Jun 17 at 6:30
  • @Hearth The tang of a file would be a practical stabbing weapon. Not sure if that is what the Megas was driving at though.
    – KalleMP
    Commented Jun 17 at 10:55

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