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Stairway vs. Staircase: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on September 18, 2023
A set of steps leading from one floor to another. A structure containing a flight of stairs, often including its balustrades and handrails.

Key Differences

A Stairway primarily refers to the steps or a set of steps that facilitate vertical movement between different levels of a building. A Staircase, on the other hand, usually includes not just the steps but also additional elements like handrails, balustrades, and sometimes landings that make up a more comprehensive structure.
The term Stairway is often used to describe functional aspects, emphasizing the utility of allowing people to move between floors. In contrast, the term Staircase can imply both function and form, often focusing on the design and architectural aspects that make the set of stairs a cohesive unit.
Grammatically, both Stairway and Staircase are predominantly used as nouns. While Stairway is rarely used in an adjectival form, phrases like "staircase design" show that Staircase can serve as a noun adjunct. Despite this grammatical similarity, the terms aren't always interchangeable because of their nuanced differences.
Stairways are often considered less formal than staircases and may be seen in outdoor settings or as secondary routes in a building. Staircases, conversely, can be more elaborate and are commonly found in the main areas of homes or commercial buildings where they serve as both functional and aesthetic elements.
When speaking about safety, a Stairway might only require basic handrails to be considered up to code. A Staircase, on the other hand, could require more intricate safety features like specific handrail designs and balustrades, in addition to the structural integrity of the entire assembly.

Comparison Chart


Primarily steps
Steps, handrails, balustrades, and landings


Both function and form

Grammatical Use

Mainly a noun
Mainly a noun, can be a noun adjunct


Generally less formal
Usually more formal and elaborate

Safety Requirements

Basic handrails usually suffice
May require specific design features

Stairway and Staircase Definitions


A set of steps between floors.
The Stairway led to the basement.


A designed set of steps with balustrades.
The Staircase was adorned with ornate railings.


A path of vertical ascent.
The Stairway was steep and narrow.


A primary means of ascending and descending between levels.
The main Staircase was made of oak and iron.


A route to a different level.
The Stairway was blocked by debris.


An architectural structure containing stairs.
The mansion had a grand Staircase.


A functional component in architecture.
The building had an exterior Stairway.


A complete unit for vertical movement.
The Staircase included several landings.


A means of vertical travel.
The emergency Stairway was well lit.


A decorative and functional assembly.
The spiral Staircase was the highlight of the room.


See staircase.


A flight or series of flights of steps and a supporting structure connecting separate levels. Also called stairway.


A set of steps, with or without a case, that allow one to walk up or down.
The phrase "stairway to heaven" has a variety of cultural significances.


A flight of stairs; a stairway.


A flight of stairs or steps; a staircase.


A connected set of flights of stairs; a stairwell.


A way of access consisting of a set of steps


A set of locks (enclosed sections of waterway) mounted one above the next.


(transitive) To modify (a signal, a graph, etc.) to reduce a smooth curve to a series of discrete steps.


(real estate) To increase one's share in a co-ownership.


A flight of stairs with their supporting framework, casing, balusters, etc.
To make a complete staircase is a curious piece of architecture.


A way of access consisting of a set of steps


Are Stairway and Staircase interchangeable?

No, a Stairway primarily refers to the steps, while a Staircase includes additional elements like handrails.

What is a Stairway?

A Stairway is a set of steps allowing vertical movement between floors.

What is a Staircase?

A Staircase is a structure that includes a flight of stairs, handrails, and often balustrades.

Can Stairway be used adjectivally?

Rarely, it is mainly a noun.

Are Staircases usually indoors?

Typically, yes, and they are often more decorative.

What are the safety requirements for a Staircase?

Safety features can be more intricate, including specific handrail designs.

Do all buildings have a Stairway?

Not necessarily, some small or single-level buildings may not have one.

What are the safety requirements for a Stairway?

Basic handrails are usually sufficient for safety.

Can a Stairway be part of a Staircase?

Yes, the steps in a Staircase can be considered a Stairway.

Can Staircase be used adjectivally?

Yes, as in "staircase design."

Can you have a Stairway outside?

Yes, Stairways are often found in outdoor settings.

Do all buildings have a Staircase?

No, Staircases are often found in larger or more elaborate buildings.

How many steps are in a Staircase?

This also varies and may include landings.

Is a Stairway less formal than a Staircase?

Generally, yes, Stairways are often less formal and elaborate.

How many steps are in a Stairway?

It varies, depending on the height and design.
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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