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Fabric vs. Cloth: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 8, 2023
"Fabric" is a material made by weaving or knitting threads, while "cloth" refers to a piece of fabric used for a specific purpose.

Key Differences

Fabric is the generic term used for any textile material produced through weaving, knitting, spreading, crocheting, or bonding that may be used in the production of further goods. Cloth, on the other hand, is a finished piece of fabric that can be used directly for purposes such as clothing, covering, or cleaning.
When discussing fabric, it typically refers to the raw material in bulk used for making various products. Cloth, however, is more often referred to in the context of a finished product like a tablecloth, a piece of clothing, or other items made from fabrics.
The term fabric encompasses a wide variety of materials including natural fibers like cotton and wool, synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon, and specialty fibers like silk and satin. Cloth is usually a piece of fabric that has been cut and tailored for a specific use, such as sheets or clothing.
In the industry, fabric might be sold by the yard or meter, measured in larger quantities, and intended for further manufacture. Cloth is often pre-cut and sized for immediate use, and it might come in predefined shapes like cloths for cleaning or a painter's drop cloth.
The word fabric can also metaphorically refer to the basic structure of anything, such as the "fabric of society," whereas cloth is typically not used in a metaphorical sense and retains a more tangible association with the fabric material itself.

Comparison Chart


Material produced by weaving or knitting.
A finished piece of fabric for specific use.


Used to create various textile products.
Used directly for clothing, covering, etc.

Sold By

Yard, meter, or bulk quantities.
Pre-cut pieces or specific items.


Many types, including natural and synthetic.
Typically refers to types used for final products.

Metaphorical Use

Can be used metaphorically.
Rarely used metaphorically.

Fabric and Cloth Definitions


A material made by weaving, knitting, or bonding fibers together.
She chose a soft fabric for her wedding dress.


A woven or felted fabric made from wool, cotton, or a similar fiber.
The cloth for the suit was carefully selected.


A textile with a particular texture and quality.
The fabric used in the sofa cover is highly durable.


A term for fabrics used in the making of clothes.
He sells cloth by the yard at the market.


The walls, floors, and roofs of a building.
The historic building's fabric has been meticulously restored.


A piece of fabric, especially one that has been pre-cut.
She wiped the table with a damp cloth.


The underlying structure of anything.
The new law would alter the fabric of social care.


A piece of fabric used for a particular purpose, such as cleaning.
I need a cloth to clean the windows.


The type of material of which something is made.
The tent's fabric was waterproof and lightweight.


An essential part of a particular activity, often religious.
The altar was covered with a ceremonial cloth.


A cloth produced especially by knitting, weaving, or felting fibers.


Fabric or material formed by weaving, knitting, pressing, or felting natural or synthetic fibers.


The texture or quality of such cloth.


A piece of fabric or material used for a specific purpose, as a tablecloth.


A complex underlying structure
Destroyed the very fabric of the ancient abbey during wartime bombing.
Needs to protect the fabric of civilized society.


Is cloth always made from woven materials?

Most often, yes, but it can also be knit or felted.

Is all cloth made from fabric?

Yes, all cloth is made from fabric.

Can fabric be sold as cloth?

Fabric is often made into cloth for various uses.

Is fabric only used for making clothes?

No, fabric is used for a wide range of products, not just clothes.

Do fabric types vary more than cloth types?

Yes, fabric types are numerous, while cloth refers to specific uses.

Are fabric and cloth interchangeable terms?

They can be, but fabric usually refers to the material, and cloth to the end product.

Is denim a fabric or a cloth?

Denim is a type of fabric that can be made into cloth items like jeans.

Can fabric be a non-woven material?

Yes, there are non-woven fabrics like felt.

Are fabric measurements larger than cloth?

Fabric is typically measured in larger quantities than cloth.

Is cloth used for non-clothing purposes?

Yes, like cleaning rags or tablecloths.

Are all fabrics suitable for making cloth?

Not all; some are designed for specific applications.

Can the term fabric refer to a texture?

Yes, it can describe the texture and feel of a textile.

Is cloth used in industrial applications?

Yes, cloth is used in various industrial products.

Can the term cloth be plural?

Yes, as in "cloths" for multiple pieces.

Can cloth come from synthetic fabrics?

Yes, cloth can be made from both natural and synthetic fabrics.

Do the terms fabric and cloth have the same origin?

Both have roots in Latin but have evolved differently.

Is fabric more expensive than cloth?

The price can vary greatly depending on the type and quality.

Does fabric denote a certain quality?

It can imply the type and quality of the textile.

Is cloth typically cut from fabric?

Yes, cloth is often cut and then used for specific purposes.

Is fabric or cloth more commonly used in fashion terminology?

Fabric is more common when discussing fashion design and materials.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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