At a glance, stationary and stationery look very much alike. But they couldn’t be further apart in meaning and function. So confusing them—and they’re often confused— is a noticeable mistake.
Stationary with an a is the older of these two terms, and it means “fixed in one place and not moving,” like a stationary bicycle at the gym. Stationery with an e stems from the term stationer, which refers to “a person who sells the materials used in writing, such as paper, pens, pencils, and ink.”
What Does Stationary Mean?
When something is fixed, immobile, or not subject to change, we can use the adjective stationary to describe it:
I don’t care much for the stationary bike; I prefer riding a real one.
It stands in the square as a stationary reminder of the march of history.
Stationery refers to the collection of papers, envelopes, and other things you’d use to write letters or cards:
The hotel offered complimentary stationery to guests who wished to write letters.
She wanted to write a letter, but the drawer where she stored her stationerywas empty.