“Zit” vs. “Pimple”: Are They Synonyms?

We’ve all had them. Some of us when we were teens, some more recently as adults. Why do the bumps on our faces never seem to fully go away?

Well, we aren’t able to answer that question here at Thesaurus.com … but we can look into two of the words that describe those blemishes to see what we should be calling them.

Do you say zit or pimple … and do they mean the same thing?

What is a pimple?

A pimple is defined as “a small, usually inflammatory swelling or elevation of the skin; papule or pustule.” It’s as fun to read about as it is to see on your face.

Pimples are caused by acne, a skin condition in which the skin’s sebaceous glands become clogged and inflamed.

Pimples are most commonly found on the face, but they can appear on other areas of the skin, such as the neck and back. They are most common among teens and preteens due to changes in body chemistry during the period of development known as puberty, but adults can also get pimples.

What’s an example of a sentence using pimple, you ask? Try: My skin is naturally oily, so I have to buy a specific face wash to prevent pimples.

The first records of the word pimple come from around the late 1300s. It comes from the Old English pipilian, “to break out in pimples,” from the Latin papula, meaning “pimple.”

Clear out all your questions on pimples by reading more about the word here.

What are goose pimples?

Pimple is used in the phrase goose pimples, which is another way to say goose bumps, the bumps you get on your skin when you’re cold or scared. Goose pimples aren’t actually pimples—they’re what happens when your hair stands on end. In places where you don’t have hair, they just appear as bumps on your skin.

What is a zit?

In its basic definition, a zit is “a pimple; skin blemish.” That pretty much tells us all we need to know, right? A zit is a pimple.

OK, but let’s dig a little further. Why does the word zit exist then and when should you use it?

Well, zit is a slang term for a pimple. The informal terms whitehead and blackhead are used to refer to specific kinds of zits. Technical terms for types of zits include pustule and papule.

So it’d be perfectly correct to say: My skin is naturally oily, so I have to buy a specific face wash to prevent zits.

The first records of the word zit come from the 1960s. Its origin is unknown—the word seems to have just popped up like a zit.

Everyone gets zits at some point, but some people get them more than others. Acne, which causes zits, sometimes goes away on its own, but sometimes it calls for additional treatment by a dermatologist—a doctor who specializes in skin conditions.

Zip over here to read more about the word zit.

One last review

If you wake up one morning to find a nice red bump on your cheek, you can call it a zit or a pimple. They are synonyms so they can be used interchangeably.

Zit is a more informal slang term and pimple is more formal … but we doubt you’re using either of these terms in your next work email so don’t worry too much about formalities when picking a term to use.

Phew, one less thing to stress about.

They say healthy eating habits can control pimples. But what's the difference between healthy and nutritional?

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