hanger vs. hangar

What is the difference between hanger and hangar?

The word hanger is formed by attaching the suffix of agency “-er” to the verb hang—it is a person or thing that performs the action of hanging or to which something is hung. For example:
  • “Please put your coat on a hanger so it doesn’t get wrinkled.”
  • “I’ve hired a professional painting hanger to find the perfect spot for my latest piece.”
The noun hangar, though, is not formed using a suffix with a base verb; rather, it is derived directly from French and has a very specific meaning: “a shelter, workshop, or other structure in which aircraft are stored,” as in:
  • “There seems to be an issue with the engine, so we’re bringing the plane back to the hangar for maintenance.”
Because this word is used in such a specific context, it can be easy to mistakenly use the much more common hanger instead (especially as they have the same pronunciation, /ˈhæŋər/). When determining which spelling is correct, it’s important to keep in mind that the “-er” denotes the agent of an action; if the noun we’re writing is not associated with the action of hanging, then the correct spelling is probably going to be hangar.
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