How do you differentiate these two nouns, especially in the context of "function(ality?) of component X" ?

Are there any cases where they are not interchangeable?


Here are modified versions of examples taken from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/function . What might possibly be odd with them?

bridges perform the functionality of providing access across water

But it does play on social mores and our embarrassment about natural bodily functionalities, albeit in a crude way.

This is because, the article argues, they are a similar frequency to the type of electrical activity natural to cellular functionalities and so may cause interference.

When a breast can't perform its natural functionalities, many women find it difficult to accept it as part of their body.

building designs that prioritize style over functionality

Motorcycle exhausts are designed with style and functionality in mind.

The reasons for docking originated in aesthetic design, functionality, early medical theory and even tax minimisation.

The idea of functionality sounds very practical, very sensible, whereas beauty sounds a bit airy-fairy and a bit off in the clouds.

A few more taken from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/function (all occurrences of "function" were originally "functionality")

I like the feel and function of this bakeware

Everyone recognizes that we have come a very long way in bringing superior quality and function within reach of the masses.

People want function and quality, but also want to make a statement; they want to be cool.

Aesthetic quality and function were the decisive criteria for the choice of materials.

manufacturing processes may be affected by the function of the product

Our patent pending headset is unique in design and function.

That is, truly elegant design incorporates top-notch function into a simple, uncluttered form.

We also know that we need to do something like that where we can combine design with function and flexibility in an emotional package.

new software with additional function

The opt-in function and quality subscriber database have been found to be important elements in wireless advertising.

It's akin to cell phones adding all sorts of new functions and services.

With a little bit of practice, you should be able to add extended CD function to your repertoire of technology tricks.

  • We can answer your question more accurately if you specify what discipline (computer science, mathematics, or whatever) you wish to use this word in, and if you make a complete, real, sentence, appropriate to that discipline: for example, "the gravitational force varies as a function of the masses of the objects ", or "getRecentOrders is a protected function of the OrderDatabase class" or "the function of vanishase is to make everything disappear".
    – JavaLatte
    Mar 29, 2016 at 11:06
  • @JavaLatte I thought a mathematical function would be excluded when I referred to "a component". I'm not talking about a mathematical function or a C++ function. Incidentally I couldn't look up "vanishase" on online dictionaries
    – nodakai
    Mar 29, 2016 at 11:36
  • Maths:hotmath.com/hotmath_help/topics/components-of-a-vector.html. computers: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Component_Object_Model. You haven't heard of vanishase? It's an enzyme used in washing powders that makes stains disappear ;-).
    – JavaLatte
    Mar 29, 2016 at 11:41
  • @JavaLatte Sorry, in math we do talk about "x-component" but rarely about "component X" where X should obviously be understood as a placeholder rather than a mathematical unknown. Also, when we talk about COM, we can actually refer to a component which has some functionality(?) but according to my partial understanding of English, that's usually distinguished from "a C++ function."
    – nodakai
    Mar 29, 2016 at 11:46
  • @JavaLatte After spending some time in Googling and free online dictionaries, I still cannot come up with any usages of "vanishase". Is it a coined word made from vanish & -aze ? I assume you are referring to something like bleach power.
    – nodakai
    Mar 29, 2016 at 12:19

2 Answers 2


The subtle difference between the two words is this: functionality refers to the capability and suitability of a thing, whereas function refers, without value judgment, to the action a thing performs or is intended to perform.

The bridge serves the function of allowing cars and trucks to cross the river.

Traffic volume has increased tenfold since the two-lane bridge was built. The functionality of the bridge has diminished greatly. A new four-lane bridge is contemplated.

We have added new functionality to the software. It can now do OCR.

  • Will you change from "function" to "functionality" when your father-in-law is in front of you and you are giving a comment on his belongings? :-) I mean, is "functionality" a superior alternative for "function", like "smell" vs "aroma" ?
    – nodakai
    Mar 29, 2016 at 13:48
  • 1
    I do not understand your question. What do you mean by "comment on his belongings"? Something like this? "I like the functionality of your garage layout. It has a workbench and a place to store garden equipment," Or "I like the functionality of that vest. Pockets for lenses. A waterproof pocket for your passport. A pocket for sunglasses. And vents for air in hot weather." But it is not like smell/aroma. The difference is not one of register.
    – TimR
    Mar 29, 2016 at 14:02
  • 1
    In many contexts, functionality isn't so much about the capability / suitability of a thing / action, but rather the net [intended] effect. To some extent, I would distinguish A replicates the functionality of B from X functions as Y on the grounds that X probably does whatever Y does in the same way (and thus achieves the same result), whereas there's the implication that A achieves that result in a different way. Mar 29, 2016 at 15:03
  • Not sure what you mean by "net". Have fun defining it :)
    – TimR
    Mar 29, 2016 at 15:09
  • 1
    I would also like to point out the "missing link" between function and functionality, namely the word functional. Functionality is the noun form of functional, and refers to the quality or state of being functional. Something is functional if it works and performs a function.
    – Era
    Apr 28, 2016 at 14:35

Here is a simple way to look at it, ‘functionality’ is a buzz word. The excessive use of it could be attributed to the crowd which likes to use words with unnecessary prefixes or suffixes. Remember this, longer words do not make you look smarter. I was always taught you do not use prefixes, suffixes or contractions unless absolutely necessary. The word functionality is a completely unnecessary word. The proper word, is function, functions, or functional.
When you use buzz words, you sound like a fool who might follow the crowd off a cliff. If you want to sound educated, don’t use the word. Also don’t use words with unnecessary prefixes or suffixes. Another good tip is if you have to ask, it’s probably not right. Follow your instinct and don’t use it.
I think if it hasn’t been on the annual ‘banished words list’, it will be soon. This word is so unnecessary that its use is akin to the proverbial nails on a chalk board. Another tip, there is no time that word is used, where any of the three words above, and a properly worded sentence would not improve your language skills.
I hope this clarifies things for you.

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