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What exactly is "locale"?

How is it different from "local"?

For example: "Her summers were spent on a variety of exotic locales."

Does it mean "place"? If it is not, how is that different from "place"?

And Why did the author use the word locales instead of places?

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    Which author? If you found that sentence somewhere, it is important to tell us where you found it. Otherwise, it will be much more difficult for us to guess why the author chose one synonym over another.
    – J.R.
    Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 9:49

3 Answers 3

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A little trick to understand.

When you see the word 'local', think about the place of 'origin'. In other words, if anything is local, it means springing up from or originating from there. As in..

She is a local girl

On the other hand, locale indicates a place, environment or setting where things happen.

So, in Her summers... case, it is 'locales', places. The author wants to emphasize the events of her spending summers at various places. The word is used especially for a place where something special has happened.

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    I think, too, that the word locales simply sounds more exotic than the word places, so it's an apt fit for the sentence in the question.
    – J.R.
    Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 10:01
  • An excellent tip. "Local" is either(/both) the source of something or the area around it's current position. "Locale" is only the current area.
    – Jon Story
    Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 14:54
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I think the noun "locale" is not much used in spoken English. It's a typical example of formal English.

As for the meanings of the adjective "local" and the noun "locale", they are quite different. When we refer to something belonging to or connected with a particular place, we say it's a local thing. For example, I found the local people (or locals as a noun) very friendly, our local library is very small. I will have to go to another district for treatment as we don't have any local hospital for heart diseases, etc.

On the contrary, the noun "locale" is a place or site where something special happens or where the story of a book, film, etc. is set. For example, our city is full of interesting locales of recreational activities, our countryside is the only locale of our recreation, this movie was mostly set on the scenic locales of the country.

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'Local' is perfectly explained above. (Nearby can be a Synonym in Certain Situations)

(Local or Locale are in Bold, Related Words are in Italics)

However, at least in my personal experience in the Puget Sound 'locale' is meant to generalize an area or something being in the local vicinity of something else. So if you trying to give directions you might say a place is in the 'general locale' of another place.

Here's an example of both:

Touriste: Do you know where a local (nearby) restroom is located?

Local Tenent: Yes, there is one in the general locale (vicinity) of the Southern Parking Lot.

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