footer versus footnote

A reader writes: “Is the word ‘footer’, now used in documents and written on one of your pages, a correct English word? I think it was created by Microsoft, and I believe the word ‘footnote’ would be more appropriate.”

Let’s try to clear this up. I’m not sure whether the word “footer” was coined by Microsoft or not, but if it was it made it into my 1995 edition of Concise Oxford Dictionary. For the context that we are discussing, the two words can be defined as:

  • footnote (noun): a note at the bottom of a specific page usually about something on that page.
  • footer (noun): a piece of text or programming code repeated at the bottom of every page.

Footnote: the word “footer” can also be used in combinations such as “six-footer” (a man who is six feet tall) and “right-footer” (a specific kick in football etc).

  • Olga says:

    the word “footnote’ is more appropriate in the paper publications, but ‘footer’ is used more in web design, I absolutely agree with you

  • Aisha Binte Akram says:

    Please check my understanding about these words and correct my mistake.The word footer means the bottom of the page.The word footnote means the text on the bottom of the page. Is it right or wrong?

  • Hanan says:

    The English club is very important website to every home

  • David Real says:

    As Karyl correctly explains, Microsoft did not invent the words “header” and “footer.” They are construction terms to describe members that secure the bottom or top of a wall, doorway or any other structure needing to be anchored. Footers are usually poured concrete into a pattern of rebars. Headers are often large steel or wooden beams. The metaphor to word processing seems rather apt.

  • Anne says:

    “I’m not sure whether the word “footer” was coined by Microsoft or not, but if it was”
    I’m wondering why “if it was” appears on an English grammar site. I was taught in school that it is “if it were”, using the subjunctive.

  • Sam says:

    Before I came here, I didn’t even know what a footnote is. Oh my, this page is never boring. Keep up with the updates! Love it.

  • Thuy Hoang says:

    Thanks a million Joe 😀
    I’ve seen these words so many times when i use office software. To some extent, I understand them somewhat but i don’t pay attention to them at all and let them go until today, i accidentally come to your page 😀 it’s really awesome because i’ve just enriched my vocab by this way. Keep your own pace!

  • Karyl Entner says:

    Joe, you are exactly correct.

    Now, may I add to the confusion? A footer, to a building constructor is laid for the foundation of a bulding. It holds the concrete in place. That would make any ESL student wrinkle the eyebrows, would it not?

  • Hanane says:

    Thank you for your kind care.

  • Joe says:

    John in Oz: I too shudder at “should of”. But we have to understand that this is a mistake by people who hear “should’ve” (the contraction) in speech and then apply it to writing.

    Hanane: yes, the bottom of a page is also called the “foot” of a page and the top is the “head” – just as the human body has a foot (two feet) and a head.

  • Nazie says:

    Dear Josef, I knew what ”footnot” means(explanation or reference that …)but I didn’t know”footer”
    We know coinage is usually happened in any language, so we really need your knowledge here.
    Thanks you for the perfect ”MY EC”

  • Hanane says:

    Hi Dear Sir Joe,
    At the moment I glanced the title I thought that the word footer has got a meaning related to football and when I read your clarification I grasped the right definition of the word. What I want to know here is why a note at the buttom of a page is called a footnote? Is there any relationship with a foot?

  • John says:

    Thank you very much for your prompt reply relating to ‘footer’. I understand a person being a ‘six-footer’ or a ‘right-footer’, so it has to be accepted as relating to a document. At the top of a document we have a ‘header’ which I relate also to a soccer player performing an action.
    The older I become, the more annoyed I am, due to individuals in our society mis-spelling and mis-pronouncing simple words or phrases. If I wrote a list, it would be very long. One that comes to mind, “should of’ instead of ‘should HAVE’. 🙂
    Thank you for a continually interesting web site.
    Yours faithfully,
    ‘John in Oz’. [;-)

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