I see no difference between the two as far as the meanings from various dictionaries are concerned.

From Cambridge dictionary:


the ​clear, ​salty ​liquid that you ​pass through ​your ​skin:

The ​dancers were ​dripping with/​pouring with sweat after a morning's ​rehearsal.

By the ​time we'd ​climbed to the ​top of the ​hill, we were ​covered in sweat.

She ​wiped the ​beads (= ​drops) of sweat from her ​forehead.


polite word for ​sweat (= to ​pass ​liquid through the ​skin):

He was perspiring in his ​thick ​woollen ​suit.

The ​journalists and ​camera ​crews ​began to perspire in the ​heat as they ​stood ​waiting for the ​president to ​appear.

But recently I heard from someone that only animals sweat but humans don't, humans perspire. So I googled for it found this. I quote an interesting answer from the link

He must be quite an old-fashioned English person. I remember this view being expressed by my grandmother, who was born in about 1885. I haven't heard it recently.

Is it justified to say animals sweat, humans perspire? The only difference that I see between the two words is that the latter is more formal version of the former. Is the last quote that says such difference existed in the olden days correct?

  • 2
    I think the link you gives explains the situation pretty well. To a modern English speaker, sweat and perspire mean exactly the same thing, except that perspire is a little more formal and delicate. But it sounds silly to this American English people to say that animals sweat but humans don't.
    – stangdon
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 16:21
  • @stangdon that's what I thought too. So I think I conclude that the distinction existed in the past days, can I? Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 16:26
  • ...and now I'm embarrassed that I made a stupid thinko in my comment. It should have been "this American English speaker" not "this American English people", of course.
    – stangdon
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 19:05
  • 1
    In fact, not all animals sweat at all... Dogs, for example... they get rid of excess heat through panting and other means.
    – Catija
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 21:28

1 Answer 1


This is a comment about attitudes at the end of the 19th Century. Various versions were documented in the 1880's, but the general form is:

Animals sweat, gentlemen perspire and ladies just glow.

Did ladies sweat? Of course they did, but it would have been very impolite to draw attention to this.

Did men sweat? Of course they did, and it was OK to talk about it, but you had to use a more refined word: perspire.

In these enlightened times, both men and women are allowed to sweat, but it is usually considered impolite to point out to somebody that they are sweating.


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