key card vs card key

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  • boozer

    Senior Member
    As a matter of general principle, the second noun in a combination like 'key card' describes the nature of the object. Thus, a key card is a card that works/look/functions, etc. as a key, whereas a 'card key' would be a key that works/look/functions, etc. as a card. In your case, I have seen and heard of cards that function as keys (e.g. in hotels) but I have no idea what a 'card key' would be.


    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Hi olga69,

    Please give us some context for these terms - where did you come across them? We need a complete sentence to show us how you saw the word used or how you are planning to use it.


    Senior Member
    Alternatively, a 'card key' might be some key (possibly a code) that unlocks a card, but, as I said, I cannot know what exactly it is out of context...


    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    It's true that the definition you link to says:

    card key
    (especially North American English)
    (also key card British and North American English)

    a special plastic card with information recorded on it that can be read by an electronic device, which can be used instead of a door key​
    However, like boozer, I am not familiar with the variation 'card key'. When I did an Internet search for "card key" most of the results were for "key card" or "keycard," including this one from Wiki:

    A keycard lock is a lock operated by a keycard, a flat, rectangular plastic card with identical ... RFID proximity cards. Keycards are frequently used in hotels as an alternative to mechanical keys. The first commercial use of key cards was to raise and lower the gate at automated parking lots where users paid a monthly fee.​
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