Difference Between Abroad and Overseas (With Table)

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The English language is rich with words that have almost similar meanings and only a slight difference. Such words are difficult to use in a sentence because many times, the meaning of the sentence is still the same even by interchanging the word with another. Two such confusing words are Abroad and Overseas.

Abroad vs Overseas

The difference between Abroad and Overseas is that Abroad is an adverb that is used for formal and professional purposes whereas Overseas is an adjective that is not preferred for professional use. In most cases, these two terms have the same meaning but the use of these words differ.

Abroad is defined as the country which is not one own’s residential country. For example, for an Indian citizen, all other countries except India are abroad countries. Abroad countries may or may not be overseas. Abroad countries may also share a border with one’s own country.

Overseas is referred to traveling to the countries for which one needs to go beyond the ocean or sea. For example, for an Indian citizen to reach Canada, he or she needs to travel beyond the sea. Overseas countries are always abroad to one’s own country.

Comparison Table Between Abroad and Overseas

Parameters of ComparisonAbroad Overseas
DefinitionAll other countries other an one’s own country.All countries to which one has to travel beyond the sea.
Part of SpeechAdverb.Adjective.
WritingGenerally used in formal writing.Generally used in informal writing.
Traveling to countriesAir transport and either one of land or water transport.Only by air or water transport.
Border SharingMay or may not share a border.Do not share a border.

What is Abroad?

Abroad is defined as the country which is not one own’s residential country. The word Abroad is an adverb, one of the eight parts of speech. According to Etymology, the word Abroad originated in the 13th Century from the Middle English word ‘Abrood’, which meant broadly scattered. Even the word Abroad is sometimes still used with similar meaning as Abrood. For example, Some trees spread their branches abroad. In this sentence, abroad refers to the scattering of branches only.

Since abroad is the original word to define other countries, it is also the one which has always been used in formal and professional writing such as formal letters, emails, etc. Since abroad is an adverb, the proper use of it strengthens the writing and makes it stand out. Even though abroad can also be used informally, but in formal writing, abroad is preferred over overseas. However, the word overseas is not always used for abroad countries as it may contradict the fact.

All abroad countries may or may not be overseas. To travel, air transport is available for all abroad countries. Furthermore, either one of the land transport or the sea transport can also be available. If a country is overseas, then only water transport is possible. On the other hand, if a country is not overseas but is still abroad, land transport is an option if the country abroad allows it.

What is Overseas?

Overseas is referred to traveling to the countries for which one needs to go beyond the ocean or sea. The word Overseas is an adjective, one of the eight parts of speech. The word Overseas originated in the 16th Century to differentiate between abroad countries which could be reached by either land or water because, in that era, air transport was not an option. Having to cross the ocean or sea in order to travel to another nation is how the word overseas originated in the first place.

Since overseas is an adjective, it is not preferred in formal writing such as formal letters, emails, etc. Adjectives are mostly considered to weaken the writer’s point and hence, they are generally avoided if not necessary. However, companies and firms that include transporting of goods through the ocean or seas professionally use the word overseas as it is more appropriate and clear with such situations.

A country that is overseas to one’s own country will always be an abroad country as well. For example, for an Indian citizen, traveling to the United States would be an overseas journey, but the United States is also an abroad country to India. Countries that are overseas can never share a border with one’s own country.

In most cases, the word overseas is used over abroad whenever we talk about traveling abroad by crossing the ocean or sea.

Main Differences Between Abroad and Overseas

  1. The word Abroad was derived from Middle English whereas the word overseas originated from abroad itself.
  2. All overseas countries are abroad whereas not all abroad countries are overseas.
  3. The word Abroad is an adverb whereas the word Overseas is an adjective.
  4. Some abroad countries can share a border with one’s own country whereas countries that are overseas don’t.
  5. The word abroad is generally preferred in formal writing over the word overseas.

Conclusion

Words in the English language can be tricky to understand at times. Words that have the same meaning in the English language are called Synonyms. There are many pairs of synonyms available but there is only a handful of pairs that can be termed as synonyms in some situations while not in some others. Abroad and Overseas is also a pair of such rare synonyms.

Abroad and Overseas mean the same thing in most cases. Abroad was a term that originated to define the boundaries between different countries and Overseas originated from abroad itself and it referred to some particular abroad countries that were beyond the ocean or sea.

All overseas countries are abroad but not all abroad countries are overseas. For the country that is overseas to one’s own country is also an abroad country to it. In such a case, the terms abroad and overseas can be used interchangeably. But for a country that is abroad but one doesn’t have to go beyond the ocean or sea to travel there, the words abroad and overseas cannot be used interchangeably. The country which is abroad but not overseas cannot be replaced by the word overseas as it will completely contradict the meaning of the statement. Hence, Abroad and Overseas is indeed a tricky pair of synonyms.

References

  1. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0047287504265516
  2. https://search.proquest.com/openview/6e10d9f81c751500741205310dde52cb/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=1819054
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