A council is a group of people that gathers for the purpose of giving advice or making decisions. If you’re president of the student council, for example, you might organize people to get the hallways at your school painted purple.

Council comes from the Latin word concilium for "group of people, meeting," which is what it basically means today. There are student councils, honor councils, or city councils, to name a few. People working together to take care of business — that’s a council. Of course, that council might give advice, or counsel (with an s) people on what to do. Not the same word — an honor council might counsel a principal about how to address cheating in school, for example.

Definitions of council
  1. noun
    a body serving in an administrative capacity
    “student council
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    the supreme judicial and ecclesiastical council of ancient Jerusalem
    SC, Security Council
    a permanent council of the United Nations; responsible for preserving world peace
    TC, Trusteeship Council
    a permanent council of the United Nations that commissions a country (or countries) to undertake the administration of a territory
    ECOSOC, Economic and Social Council
    a permanent council of the United Nations; responsible for economic and social conditions
    NAC, North Atlantic Council
    a council consisting of permanent representatives of all the member countries of NATO; has political authority and powers of decision
    city council
    a municipal body that can pass ordinances and appropriate funds etc.
    executive council
    a council that shares the supreme executive power
    panchayat, panchayet, punchayet
    a village council in India or southern Pakistan
    privy council
    an advisory council to a ruler (especially to the British Crown)
    works council
    (chiefly Brit) a council representing employer and employees of a plant or business to discuss working conditions etc; also: a committee representing the workers elected to negotiate with management about grievances and wages etc
    an elected governmental council in a communist country (especially one that is a member of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics)
    world council
    a council with representatives from different nations
    divan, diwan
    a Muslim council of state
    World Council of Churches
    an ecumenical organization of Protestant and eastern churches; intended to promote unity and cooperation in religious and secular matters
    type of:
    administrative body, administrative unit
    a unit with administrative responsibilities
  2. noun
    (Christianity) an assembly of theologians and bishops and other representatives of different churches or dioceses that is convened to regulate matters of discipline or doctrine
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    ecumenical council
    (early Christian church) one of seven gatherings of bishops from around the known world under the presidency of the Pope to regulate matters of faith and morals and discipline
    Constantinople, Fourth Council of Constantinople
    the council in 869 that condemned Photius who had become the patriarch of Constantinople without approval from the Vatican, thereby precipitating the schism between the eastern and western churches
    Lateran Council
    any of five general councils of the Western Catholic Church that were held in the Lateran Palace
    First Council of Lyons, Lyons
    the council of the Western Church in 1245 that excommunicated Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and planned a new crusade against the Holy Land
    Lyons, Second Council of Lyons
    the council in 1274 that effected a temporary reunion of the Greek Orthodox with the Roman Catholic Church
    Council of Vienne, Vienne
    the council in 1311-1313 that dealt with alleged crimes of the Knights Templar, planned a new crusade, and took on the reformation of the clergy
    Constance, Council of Constance
    the council in 1414-1418 that succeeded in ending the Great Schism in the Roman Catholic Church
    Council of Basel-Ferrara-Florence
    the council in 1431-1439 that concentrated on the elimination of heresies and on reforms within the Roman Catholic Church
    Council of Trent
    a council of the Roman Catholic Church convened in Trento in three sessions between 1545 and 1563 to examine and condemn the teachings of Martin Luther and other Protestant reformers; redefined the Roman Catholic doctrine and abolished various ecclesiastical abuses and strengthened the papacy
    Vatican Council
    each of two councils of the Roman Catholic Church
    First Council of Nicaea, Nicaea
    the first ecumenical council in 325 which produced the wording of the Nicene Creed and condemned the heresy of Arianism
    Constantinople, First Council of Constantinople
    the second ecumenical council in 381 which added wording about the Holy Spirit to the Nicene Creed
    Council of Ephesus, Ephesus
    the third ecumenical council in 431 which declared Mary as mother of God and condemned Pelagius
    Chalcedon, Council of Chalcedon
    the fourth ecumenical council in 451 which defined the two natures (human and divine) of Christ
    Constantinople, Second Council of Constantinople
    the fifth ecumenical council in 553 which held Origen's writings to be heretic
    Constantinople, Third Council of Constantinople
    the sixth ecumenical council in 680-681 which condemned Monothelitism by defining two wills in Christ, divine and human
    Nicaea, Second Council of Nicaea
    the seventh ecumenical council in 787 which refuted iconoclasm and regulated the veneration of holy images
    First Lateran Council
    the first council of the Western Church held in the Lateran Palace in 1123; focused on church discipline and made plans to recover the Holy Lands from the Muslim `infidels'
    Second Lateran Council
    the second council of the Western Church in 1139 which put an end to the dogmatic errors of Arnold of Brescia
    Third Lateran Council
    the Lateran Council in 1179 that condemned the heresies of the Albigenses and the Waldenses
    Fourth Lateran Council
    the Lateran Council in 1215 was the most important council of the Middle Ages; issued a creed against Albigensianism, published reformatory decrees, promulgated the doctrine of transubstantiation, and clarified church doctrine on the Trinity and Incarnation
    Fifth Lateran Council
    the council in 1512-1517 that published disciplinary decrees and planned (but did not carry out) a crusade against Turkey
    First Vatican Council, Vatican I
    the Vatican Council in 1869-1870 that proclaimed the infallibility of the pope when speaking ex cathedra
    Second Vatican Council, Vatican II
    the Vatican Council in 1962-1965 that abandoned the universal Latin liturgy and acknowledged ecumenism and made other reforms
    type of:
    a group of persons who are gathered together for a common purpose
  3. noun
    a meeting of people for consultation
    “emergency council
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    a council at which indigenous peoples of southern Africa meet to discuss some important question
    a Pashto term for a decision making assembly of male elders
    a council of or with Native Americans
    a council convened to discuss ecclesiastical business
    Loya Jirga
    a grand council or grand assembly used to resolve political conflicts or other national problems
    type of:
    group meeting, meeting
    a formally arranged gathering
Commonly confused words

council / counsel

A council is meeting for discussion or advice, but to counsel is a verb meaning to give advice. They sound exactly the same, but the language council met and decided to counsel you on how to keep them straight.

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