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Vernacular vs. Colloquial: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 25, 2024
Vernacular refers to the native language or dialect of a specific population, while colloquial pertains to informal, conversational language used in everyday speech.

Key Differences

Vernacular language is the native language or dialect spoken by people of a particular region or country. Colloquial language, however, refers to the informal, everyday speech that may include slang and idioms.
Vernacular is a broad term that encompasses any native language or dialect, irrespective of formality. In contrast, colloquial language specifically denotes a more relaxed, casual form of speech often used in informal settings.
Vernacular languages have significant cultural and historical importance, often reflecting a region's identity and heritage. Colloquialisms, while a part of vernacular language, are more transient and can change rapidly with social trends.
In literature, vernacular is used to give authenticity to characters from a specific region, whereas colloquial language is employed to create realistic dialogue and relatable narratives.
Vernacular can be both standard and non-standard forms of a language, including regional dialects. Colloquial language, on the other hand, typically strays from the standard form, embracing informal expressions and slang.

Comparison Chart


Native language or dialect of a specific group
Informal, everyday speech and expressions


Can be formal or informal
Usually informal

Usage Context

Broad use across various contexts
Primarily used in casual conversation

Cultural Importance

Reflects regional or national identity
Reflects current trends and social norms

Stability and Change

Relatively stable over time
Changes frequently with social dynamics

Vernacular and Colloquial Definitions


Vernacular is the language or dialect spoken by ordinary people in a particular region.
The novel was written in the vernacular of rural Georgia.


Colloquial language refers to informal or conversational speech patterns.
His writing is full of colloquial expressions that give it a conversational tone.


Vernacular encompasses the speech patterns, idioms, and phrases native to a particular community.
His poetry captures the rich vernacular of his hometown.


Colloquialism involves the use of slang or informal terms in speech or writing.
She often uses colloquial terms from her childhood in her stories.


Vernacular is the non-standard linguistic expressions unique to a particular group.
She learned the vernacular of the urban youth to better understand her students.


Colloquial pertains to words or phrases used in everyday conversation but not in formal speech.
The teacher asked the students to avoid colloquial language in their essays.


Vernacular refers to the everyday language used by people as opposed to literary or formal language.
Folk songs often use the vernacular of the region they originate from.


Colloquial speech is characterized by casual and relaxed language.
The dialogue in the play was intentionally colloquial to make the characters relatable.


Vernacular can also mean using the native language of a country rather than a foreign or formal language.
The government documents were translated into the local vernacular.


Colloquial language is often region-specific, reflecting local idioms and expressions.
His use of colloquial language instantly revealed his regional background.


The everyday language spoken by a people as distinguished from the literary language.


Characteristic of or appropriate to the spoken language or to writing that seeks the effect of speech; informal.


A variety of such everyday language specific to a social group or region
The vernaculars of New York City.


Relating to conversation; conversational.


(linguistics) Characteristic of familiar conversation, of common parlance; informal.


Of or pertaining to a conversation; conversational or chatty.


A colloquial word or phrase, colloquialism


Pertaining to, or used in, conversation, esp. common and familiar conversation; conversational; hence, unstudied; informal; as, colloquial intercourse; colloquial phrases; a colloquial style.
His [Johnson's] colloquial talents were, indeed, of the highest order.


Characteristic of informal spoken language or conversation;
Wrote her letters in a colloquial style
The broken syntax and casual enunciation of conversational English


Can vernacular be a written language?

Yes, vernacular can be used in writing, especially in literature to give authenticity to regional characters.

Are colloquialisms accepted in formal writing?

Generally, colloquialisms are not suitable for formal writing due to their informal nature.

How does vernacular language impact culture?

Vernacular language is a key component of cultural identity, reflecting the history and customs of a region.

What does colloquial mean?

Colloquial refers to informal, conversational language used in everyday speech.

What is vernacular language?

Vernacular language is the native language or dialect spoken by the ordinary people in a particular area.

Do colloquial expressions vary by region?

Yes, colloquial expressions often vary greatly from one region to another.

Is it important to learn colloquial language in a new language?

Learning colloquial expressions can be important for effective everyday communication in a new language.

How does vernacular differ from slang?

Vernacular is the broader language or dialect of a region, while slang is more specific, informal, and often transient language within the vernacular.

Do translators consider vernacular in their work?

Yes, translators often have to consider the vernacular to accurately convey the meaning and cultural context.

Is vernacular language always non-standard?

Not necessarily. Vernacular can be both standard and non-standard language, depending on the context.

Can colloquial language become standard over time?

Yes, some colloquial expressions can become standard as they gain widespread acceptance.

Are dialects considered part of vernacular language?

Yes, dialects are a significant aspect of vernacular language.

Are vernacular languages endangered?

Some vernacular languages, especially those of small communities, are endangered due to the dominance of global languages.

Can colloquial language be used in literature?

Yes, colloquial language is often used in literature to create realistic and relatable dialogue.

Can colloquial language hinder understanding in a formal context?

Yes, using colloquial language in a formal context can sometimes hinder clear and professional communication.

How do writers use colloquial language in character development?

Writers use colloquial language to add depth, realism, and regional flavor to their characters.

Why is understanding colloquial language important in communication?

Understanding colloquial language is important for effective, natural, and culturally aware communication.

How do colloquialisms reflect societal changes?

Colloquialisms can change with societal trends, reflecting current attitudes and norms.

Is vernacular language taught in schools?

This depends on the educational system; in some regions, the vernacular language is part of the curriculum.

How does vernacular language contribute to linguistic diversity?

Vernacular languages contribute significantly to linguistic diversity, showcasing the range of human language and expression.
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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