My translation of a text by a pipe-producing plant:

Bevel angle inspection

Inspection of this type is carried out as specified in the regulatory documentation using a bevel protractor or a gauge.

Pipe length inspection

Inspection of this type is carried out using rulers, tape measure tools or automatically using special (or specialized?) equipment fitted with incremental sensors.

The general meaning in the original text is "some equipment that was designed for measuring pipes". The phrase was chosen in order not to overload the production catalogue by naming the specific equipment.

Would both "special" and "specialized" have the same meaning here?

I googled and found many examples for "using special equipment" and "using specialized equipment", as well as for "use of special equipment" and "use of specialized equipment". There does not seem to be much difference. Maybe "specialized" might indicate a more restricted specialization relative to "special", or that the equipment was modified for some particular purpose.

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  • 3
    Despite ngram, specialized wins hands-down for frequency in written texts in this context, though you will often hear "special" from a factory tour-guide speaking to a lay audience, say, or in written explanations whose audience is the lay public.
    – TimR
    Jun 20, 2016 at 11:23
  • 1
    – TimR
    Jun 20, 2016 at 11:29

4 Answers 4


special equipment

only means it is not equipment normally used. It says nothing about the purpose of using the equipment.

specialized equipment

indicates that the purpose of the equipment is focused on a particular application. See specialized:

  1. Designed for a specific purpose or use: a specialized computer application.

Using special is far more general in scope, basically just saying it is unusual or not often used.


The adjective special is used in a wider sense than the adjective specialised.

The former is chiefly used to convey the sense of not being ordinary, normal, or usual. In other words, it means exceptional, extraordinary, or unusual. Sometimes, it's used to mean designed or developed for a particular purpose, function, or activity, and this is usually the sense in which the latter (specialised) is used.

We can say either special or specialised equipment to convey the sense of being developed or designed for a specific purpose, but the use of specialised is more appropriate as the use of special is too unclear and ambiguous to convey the sense in which the adjective specialised is used.


I could have a screw driver that can by some clever design unscrew all kinds of screws. Most screw drivers can't do that, so it would be a special screw driver. I could have another screw driver that can only unscrew one specific rare kind of screw. That would be a specialised screw driver.


Specialized equipment is naturally for a particullar purpose and the equipment is designed or made with a particular area of knowledge; whereas, special equipment is designed to a particular purpose and might be a common equipment. For example, a special event, message means the event or message is just used for a particular person; whereas, specialized event or message means the event or message is made professionally

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