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Reformation vs. Reform: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on November 1, 2023
"Reformation" often denotes a major historical or widespread change, while "Reform" refers to a general improvement or amendment of what is wrong or corrupt.

Key Differences

When speaking of societal and historical contexts, the term "Reformation" typically alludes to large-scale, transformative changes. It conjures images of significant overhauls and periods marked by notable shifts, such as the Protestant Reformation. "Reform," on the other hand, has a broader applicability. It can refer to any change or improvement, whether sweeping like the "Reformation" or more localized.
"Reformation" is often capitalised when discussing specific historical movements, signifying a clear demarcation in time or ideology. Conversely, "Reform" is a more generic term that can be applied to a multitude of scenarios, from policies to personal behaviors, without necessarily indicating a grand historical shift.
Another distinctive feature of "Reformation" is its inherent implication of a complete or radical change. In contrast, "Reform" implies rectifying specific aspects of a larger system or entity. While "Reformation" might suggest a complete overhaul, "Reform" might indicate targeted improvements.
From a linguistic perspective, "Reformation" is a noun that denotes an event or process, whereas "Reform" can function as both a noun, referring to the act of making changes, and a verb, describing the action of making those changes.
In summary, while both "Reformation" and "Reform" revolve around the concept of change and improvement, "Reformation" often has grander, more transformative connotations, whereas "Reform" can be both broad and specific, encompassing a variety of changes from the monumental to the minute.

Comparison Chart


Typically denotes large-scale, transformative changes.
Refers to general improvements or amendments.


Often related to major historical shifts.
Can be applied in a variety of scenarios.


Suggests complete or radical change.
Indicates targeted improvements.

Grammatical Usage

Mainly used as a noun.
Can function as both a noun and a verb.


Protestant Reformation.
Tax reform.

Reformation and Reform Definitions


Rectifying something on a broad scale.
The Reformation of the education system took several years.


An amendment of what is wrong or corrupt.
Tax reform was at the forefront of the political campaign.


A complete overhaul of an existing system or belief.
The Reformation of the judicial system was widely applauded.


To make changes to improve a system.
The committee will reform the existing guidelines.


A major change or transformation in structure or nature.
The Renaissance was followed by the Reformation in Europe.


To improve by alteration, correction of error, or removal of defects; put into a better form or condition
Reform the tax code.


The act of reforming or the state of being reformed.


To abolish abuse or malpractice in
Reform the government.


Reformation A 16th-century movement in Western Europe that aimed at reforming some doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church and resulted in the establishment of the Protestant churches.


To put an end to (an abuse or wrong).


An improvement (or an intended improvement) in the existing form or condition of institutions or practices, etc.; intended to make a striking change for the better in social, political or religious affairs or in the conduct of persons or operation of organizations.


To induce or persuade (a person) to give up harmful or immoral practices; cause to adopt a better way of life.


(law) Change or correction, by a court in equity, to a written instrument to conform to the original intention of the parties.


(Chemistry) To subject (hydrocarbons) to cracking.


The act of reforming, or the state of being reformed; change from worse to better; correction or amendment of life, manners, or of anything vicious or corrupt; as, the reformation of manners; reformation of the age; reformation of abuses.
Satire lashes vice into reformation.


To change for the better.


Specifically (Eccl. Hist.), the important religious movement commenced by Luther early in the sixteenth century, which resulted in the formation of the various Protestant churches.


Action to improve or correct what is wrong or defective in something
Health care reform.


Improvement (or an intended improvement) in the existing form or condition of institutions or practices etc.; intended to make a striking change for the better in social or political or religious affairs


An instance of this; an improvement
Reforms in education.


A religious movement of the 16th century that began as an attempt to reform the Roman Catholic Church and resulted in the creation of Protestant churches


Relating to or favoring reform
A reform candidate for mayor.


Rescuing from error and returning to a rightful course;
The reclamation of delinquent children


Reform Of or relating to Reform Judaism.


A historical movement for religious change.
Martin Luther was a key figure in the Protestant Reformation.


The change of something that is defective, broken, inefficient or otherwise negative, in order to correct or improve it
The elections need to undergo a serious reform.
A major reform is needed to improve the efficiency in the factory.


A period marked by large-scale shifts or changes.
The Reformation brought about significant cultural changes.


(transitive) To put into a new and improved form or condition; to restore to a former good state, or bring from bad to good; to change from worse to better
To reform a profligate man; to reform corrupt manners or morals; to reform a criminal


(intransitive) To return to a good state; to amend or correct one's own character or habits
It is hoped that many criminals, upon being freed, will eventually reform.


To form again or in a new configuration.
This product contains reformed meat.
The regiment reformed after surviving the first attack.


To put into a new and improved form or condition; to restore to a former good state, or bring from bad to good; to change from worse to better; to amend; to correct; as, to reform a profligate man; to reform corrupt manners or morals.
The example alone of a vicious prince will corrupt an age; but that of a good one will not reform it.


To return to a good state; to amend or correct one's own character or habits; as, a man of settled habits of vice will seldom reform.


Amendment of what is defective, vicious, corrupt, or depraved; reformation; as, reform of elections; reform of government.


A change for the better as a result of correcting abuses;
Justice was for sale before the reform of the law courts


A campaign aimed to correct abuses or malpractices;
The reforms he proposed were too radical for the politicians


Self-improvement in behavior or morals by abandoning some vice;
The family rejoiced in the drunkard's reform


Make changes for improvement in order to remove abuse and injustices;
Reform a political system


Bring, lead, or force to abandon a wrong or evil course of life, conduct, and adopt a right one;
The Church reformed me
Reform your conduct


Produce by cracking;
Reform gas


Break up the molecules of;
Reform oil


Improve by alteration or correction of errors or defects and put into a better condition;
Reform the health system in this country


Change for the better;
The lazy student promised to reform
The habitual cheater finally saw the light


The action of improving or rectifying something.
The senator pushed for prison reform.


An improvement or change for the better.
His life took a positive turn after his personal reform.


To amend or improve by change of form or removal of faults.
He took it upon himself to reform the outdated practices.


Can Reform be both a process and an action?

Yes, "Reform" can refer to the act of improving (noun) or the action of making changes (verb).

Is Reformation always related to religion?

No, while often associated with the Protestant Reformation, "Reformation" can refer to any major change.

What's a famous example of a Reformation?

The Protestant Reformation in the 16th century is a notable example.

What drives the need for Reform?

Various factors, like societal needs, political pressures, or economic challenges, can drive "Reform."

Does every Reform lead to a Reformation?

No, while "Reform" indicates improvements, not every "Reform" leads to large-scale "Reformation."

How do you use Reform as a verb?

As a verb, "Reform" means to make changes, e.g., "The government plans to reform healthcare."

Can reforms lead to negative outcomes?

While the intent is improvement, some reforms can have unforeseen negative impacts.

Was the Protestant Reformation a Reform?

While it involved many reforms, its large scale makes it a Reformation.

Are Reformation events always positive?

While aiming for positive change, the outcomes of a Reformation can vary in perception.

Can a Reform be reversed?

Yes, like any change, reforms can be reversed or modified.

Do all countries undergo Reformations?

Not necessarily, but most countries experience periods of significant change or "Reformation."

Can personal changes be termed as Reform?

Yes, personal improvements or changes can be referred to as personal "Reform."

How long does a Reformation last?

The duration can vary; some Reformations span decades, while others may be shorter.

Is every change in policy a Reform?

Not necessarily; while policy changes can be reforms, not every change qualifies as a significant "Reform."

Was the Renaissance a Reformation?

While both transformative, the Renaissance focused on cultural rebirth, whereas Reformation often implies structural changes.

Is the term Reformation used in modern contexts?

While historically rooted, "Reformation" can describe modern large-scale changes too.

Are reforms always initiated by governments?

No, reforms can stem from grassroots movements, NGOs, or even individuals.

What's the verb form of Reformation?

"Reformation" is primarily a noun; the verb form related to it is "reform."

Are there modern examples of Reform?

Yes, topics like climate change and social justice see ongoing reforms globally.

Can a Reformation involve multiple Reforms?

Yes, a Reformation can encompass numerous individual reforms.
About Author
Written 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.
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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