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Notate vs. Note: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 6, 2023
"Notate" means to mark or annotate symbolically; "Note" is to observe or record in writing.

Key Differences

"Notate" often refers to the act of marking or representing something using a specialized system of symbols, particularly in music or other formal systems. It implies a formalized or technical process of recording information. For instance, musicians notate melodies using musical notation, which allows for precise representation of pitch and rhythm. "Note," on the other hand, is a more general term that can mean to observe, record, or mention something in writing or speech. It doesn't inherently require a specialized system; you might note something interesting you see in a journal or make a mental note of a meeting time.
While "notate" suggests a degree of specificity and often a technical or specialized context, "note" is versatile, encompassing a wide range of recording and observing actions. You could notate the features of a bird using scientific symbols or shorthand, whereas taking a note might simply involve writing down that you saw a bird. The former is about precision and methodology; the latter is about capturing or remembering information in any form.
The use of "notate" typically implies a pre-defined structure or format. For example, a choreographer might notate a dance sequence using a dance notation system such as Labanotation, ensuring that each movement is codified precisely. Conversely, to "note" a dance performance could simply involve writing down impressions or key moments, without the need for a formalized system. Here, noting is a more subjective act, whereas notating is about objective, clear communication.
In academic or professional settings, "notate" could be used to describe the action of adding annotations to a text, indicating that specific symbols or shorthand are being used to highlight or summarize content. "Note" in such contexts might refer to the act of taking notes during a lecture or recording minutes during a meeting, which involves writing down information in full words rather than symbolic representation.
The context in which "notate" and "note" are used can vastly change their implication. In legal or technical fields, to notate a document means to add critical symbols or codes that might have specific meanings. In daily life, to note something down usually means to write it in a way that will remind you later, without the need for any special symbols or systems.

Comparison Chart


To mark with symbols or notation
To record or observe in written form

Usage Context

Technical or specialized fields
General, everyday contexts


High, often requires expertise
Varies, usually less formal

System or Structure

Usually requires a system
No system required

Example of Usage

Music notation, scientific codes
Journal entries, reminders

Notate and Note Definitions


To add explanatory notes or comments to a text.
The editor will notate the manuscript for clarity.


A short informal letter or written message.
I left a note for the mail carrier.


To mark with a notation of some form.
Please notate the critical points in the margin.


A particular quality or tone that reflects or expresses a mood or attitude.
There was a note of sadness in his voice.


To write music using musical notes and symbols.
The composer notated the score for the orchestra.


A short comment or explanation.
The teacher made a note on the student's paper.


To indicate or specify through a standardized system.
The linguist notated the sounds using the International Phonetic Alphabet.


A banknote or piece of paper money.
She handed the cashier a twenty-dollar note.


To record or represent data in a precise format.
The scientist notated the experiment's results in a detailed chart.


A brief record of facts, topics, or thoughts, written down as an aid to memory.
She kept a note of all her appointments.


To put into notation.


A brief record, especially one written down to aid the memory
Took notes on the lecture.


To mark with spots or lines, which are often colored.


A comment or explanation, as on a passage in a text
The allusion is explained in the notes at the end of the chapter.


To add notes to; to annotate


Is noting information less formal than notating?

Yes, noting is generally less formal and does not require a specialized system.

Can I notate in everyday writing?

Notate is typically used in specialized contexts like music or scientific notation.

Do musicians note or notate music?

Musicians notate music using a system of musical notation.

What does it mean to notate something?

To notate means to mark or annotate information using a specific system of symbols.

Can I use "note" as a noun?

Yes, "note" can be a noun referring to a written reminder, message, or a banknote.

What does taking a note mean?

Taking a note means to write down information to remember or reference later.

Can "note" imply a certain tone or mood?

Yes, "note" can refer to a characteristic quality or atmosphere.

Does notating require special knowledge?

Often, yes. Notating usually requires understanding of the particular notation system.

Is it correct to say "note down" something?

Yes, "note down" means to write something down as a record.

Can "notate" be used for any kind of writing?

Notate is best used for writing that involves a specific set of symbols or notation.

Can "note" be used in the context of music?

"Note" can refer to a musical sound or its representation in writing, but not the act of writing music.

Can I notate on a digital document?

Yes, digital documents can be notated with electronic symbols or notation.

Can I use "notate" in a casual conversation?

It's unusual, as "notate" often sounds overly formal or technical in casual speech.

Is "notate" commonly used in everyday language?

No, "notate" is more common in professional or academic contexts.

Are annotations and notations the same?

Annotations are explanatory notes, while notations are often systematic symbols.

Is a sticky note an example of "note" usage?

Yes, a sticky note is a common example of a note for reminders.

Are notes always written?

Generally, yes, notes are written, but they can also be typed or digitally recorded.

Can "note" be used in a formal report?

Yes, "note" can be used formally to indicate observations or comments.

Can "note" be a verb?

Yes, "note" can be a verb meaning to observe or make mention of something.

Do "note" and "notate" share the same root?

Yes, both come from the Latin word "nota," meaning a mark or a sign.
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
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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