What Do “Aerial” And “Areal” Mean?

Homophones are one of the most difficult aspects of the English language. Although words may sound similar, they may have vastly different meanings. One common homophone pair is “aerial” and “areal,” which are often mixed up by many English readers and writers. 

As a general tip, “areal” refers to things that involve the air/sky, whereas “areal” relates to the idea of area. With no further ado, let’s understand what these phrases mean and how you can use them in your writing! 

What Does “Aerial” Mean?

Aerial” is an adjective that describes something related to the sky, air, or atmosphere. It can be traced back both to the Latin word “aerius” (airy) and the Greek word “aerios” (of the air). When acting as a noun, “aerial” refers to a rod or wire through which radio waves are transmitted/received. For instance: 

  • Now that we have seen a ground-level view let’s look through the aerial camera.
  • Throughout World War I and II, we saw increased aerial combat. 
  • Monstera Deliciosa plants are known for making large aerial roots. 

What Does “Areal” Mean? 

Areal” is an adjective that refers to things that pertain to or relate to an area. It can also be used in linguistics to refer to the studying of languages and dialects concerning geographic location. 

  • The areal density of Creole speakers is higher in Louisianna.
  • In an areal analysis of Washington, it was found that there is more residential land than forested land. 
  • Typology and areal distribution.

Additionally, “areal” can be used in computer science as “areal density.” This term usually refers to the bits per square inch on a storage device (typically a hard drive). 

Is “Ariel” A Word? 

Surprisingly, “ariel” is also a word related to the air. More specifically, it is thought that “ariel” has a specific correlation with spirits/animals in the air. For example, many early biology references from the 19th century point out that most “aerials” (flying animals) have feathers and wings. 

Because this word is more connected to creatures and animals than the air itself, it has been used throughout history in mythological tales and fables. For instance, Shakespeare used it as the name of a flying sprite in one of his famous works! 


In the end, these words can be a little tricky to distinguish from each other. Luckily, even though they sound the same, they have different meanings. In general:

  • Aerial” is a noun and adjective that can describe things that relate to the air or radio antennas. 
  • “Areal” is an adjective that can refer to things relating to a particular area. Additionally, it has specific uses in linguistics and computer science as well.
  • “Ariel” is another word that also relates to the air. However, it focuses more on animals and creatures that can fly.

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By Ryan Fisher

Ryan holds degrees from Pacific Lutheran University and specializes in proofreading, editing, and content writing with an emphasis on business communication.

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