What's The Difference Between A Reticle And A Reticule?

I'll admit it: before I began researching this topic, I had never used the word reticle in a sentence. So how did it end up as a target for Mind Your Language?

Gun picture from Shutterstock

Reader Kozo wrote in to point out that reticle and reticule are often confused:

Please point out that "reticule" is a handbag and not the centre of an eyepiece or gun sight. People are still confused between the two — a quick search on Kotaku shows up lots of matches for reticule and I'm sure none of them were about handbags.

Checking on Kotaku, our sibling gaming site, does indeed turn up a lot of references to reticules in a totally non-handbag context. For instance:

The reticule that you use for the Blink teleport ability can be hard to see/aim, making it a bit of painful guesswork to figure out if Corvo will be going exactly where you want him to.

Turning to the Macquarie Dictionary confirms the difference between the two words:

reticle a network of fine lines, wires or the like, placed in the focus of the objective of a telescope   reticule a small purse or bag, originally of network but later of silk

Tellingly, the Macquarie even includes the note "compare RETICULE" on its entry for reticle. Evidently, this is a common mistake. (Note also that "network" in the definition of reticule refers to netting.)

The lesson here? In a games context, reticle will always be the word you want (and Kotaku will now strive to maintain that distinction). In the Lifehacker universe, we're possibly more likely to write about bags than weaponry, but we'd still need to make the right choice. Accuracy matters.

Lifehacker's Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.


    Looks like I'm among the people that had this one wrong. Always good to know I can learn something new.

    Son of a gun - That line in "Sweeny Todd" finally makes sense!

    I believe it's one of the cases where both statements are correct. Reticule is also considered as Reticle since both words originate from the word Reticulum


      While interesting, word origins aren't an infallible indicator of current usage, which is what MYL concerns itself with.

        But going by current usage from the articles "reticule" would be correct, even though my dictionary auto corrects to testicular.

    Thing is, both spellings are used to mean an aiming instrument. And dictionaries document language, rather than prescribe its usage, had a nice chat with an editor from the Macquarie Dictionary about that.

    You'll also find that the OED denotes reticule as an alternate spelling for reticle - online access requires a subscription, but here's a screengrab. http://imgur.com/KYB7tAk

      Sure, but "reticle" has only one meaning (crosshairs) and "reticule" could mean crosshairs or it could mean handbag. Why not just use "reticle" and remove the ambiguity? And "reticle" is one letter shorter, so more efficient :)

        I bet you could count on two fingers the number of situations where it would be ambiguous: if you were shooting someone and had a reticule in hand (and someone extremely unintelligent thought you might be able to aim through your purse) "I can see the target under the reticule" and maybe if you were shooting someone carrying one "I've got them lined up, right under my reticule".

        Context is king, and anyone who thinks that you could practically, realistically confuse these two terms is very much mistaken. With the exception of the two scenarios I described above, and perhaps slight variants thereof, I can't really imagine any time it might be confusing.

        Plus, since we're fans of using words, you could, if you so desired, remove the ambiguity - should it ever occur - by asking for clarification. "Do you mean you can see the mark through the sights on your weapon, or have you hidden them inside your small bag there?"

    It had to happen!

    The first 'Mind your language' column that has taught me something!

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now