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Yes, it's a different word from "while". Whilst and While are different.

For a while now, I've been noticing the changing use of the words "whilst" and "while", and after a while I found that some people have now completely lost the truth of the matter that "whilst" and "while" are in fact different words! Even some semi-erudite sources are failing to grasp the differences in meaning. So now, it looks like I'm going to have to do something to save the word "whilst" before it's lost completely on both sides of the Atlantic! As with the grammatical use of the apostrophe, this might make me look a bit fussy, but then again, it's a risk I'll have to take, lest the world sink into illiteracy! (You can see the trend, when "thrice" disappeared, and now even "twice" is starting to fail and be replaced by the rather ugly phrase "two times").

I don't have the complete definitive answer on the precise definitions of "while" and "whilst", but here are some facts that I know:

* The words "whilst" and "while" are different, and are not interchangeable for all circumstances. The idea that they are identical is a rumour based on ignorance, and it is false!

* In the United States, "whilst" died out much earlier than in Britain. Americans are almost always forgiven for saying "while", even when it would have been better to say "whilst".

* "Whilst" can be used in the sense of "Whereas", to declare a contrast. For example "Whilst it might be foolish to assume everyone knows the answer, the fact is that they don't". I feel that the use of "while" in that context is inappropriate!

* "While" has an implicit simultaneity associated with it. So, something is going on while something else is going on. For events which run concurrently, during a period of time, "while" is the better word to use. For example "While the tyranny ruled the land, people were plotting ways to escape". For ongoing events, "while" is correct, whereas "whilst" is inappropriate. Also, something can go on "for a while", and in that context, "whilst" would be entirely wrong. ("while" can be a noun, but "whilst" is never a noun; it's a conjunction). "While" has another usage in a temporal sense, "to while away the hours". Of course, you can't "whilst away the hours", as "whilst" is associated with instantaneous comparison.

* I have oft considered "whilst" to be a shorthand for "while<simultaneous>" to compare two situations that can be compared at a single moment in time, whereas "while" has a time duration included with it. For example "While it's raining, I'll stay indoors".

* The Compact Oxford English Dictionary (the full version but in small print) defines "whilst" and "while" in quite different ways. There's quite a lot of definition, but as a brief summary, Whilst is defined as "during that time, meanwhile" , and While is defined as "at a time or times, sometimes".

To sum up: "whilst" and "while" are different words. If someone says they are the same for all circumstances, they are wrong! Don't believe such misdirection!

Further note: whilst it is considered archaic to use the word "whilst", it's sometimes appropriate and can add extra meaning, if used properly. Though such a level of erudition is rare, it's not extinct. Indeed, it is extant, and poetic pathos shall be used ad-lib, though not necessarily ad-hoc.

(I wonder if I ought to write about "shall" versus "will", and "chronic" versus "acute", and... thrice!? Well, I have already written about apostrophes and less/fewer!)

Also, Compliment and Complement are different words!