lobby and foyer - any difference?

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The Slippery Slide

Senior Member
British English
I'm trying to write realistic listening exercises to put in an English study text for non-native students, and dithering over whether 'foyer' or 'lobby' would be best understood around the world. Is there any difference in meaning or region of use between these words?
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    You have very curiously not revealed what you are referring to :)
    In the UK, for example, both lobby and foyer would be readily understood.
    But they would be understood to mean different things.

    A lobby is a communal area in a multi-occupancy building - or more specifically, an area in the Houses of Parliament where members and the public (those lobbying for political support) can meet.

    A foyer is the entrance to a hotel, or the waiting area in a theatre.
    (Sometimes this is also known as the lobby:))
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I'm trying to write realistic listening exercises to put in an English study text for non-native students, and dithering over whether 'foyer' or 'lobby' would be best understood around the world. Is there any difference in meaning or region of use between these words?
    Hello Slippery Slide,

    I don't think there's much difference really. The etymologies are very different - lobby comes from a covered walk in a monastery, foyer from the French for fireplace. Lobby sound a more workaday word, perhaps, and so the pretentious - grand hotels and people - tend to prefer foyer.
    But even the grandest hotels have lobbies and they are the same things as their foyers. I've just read Panj.'s post and I'm confident he's right about the particular use of lobby.
     

    esgrad

    New Member
    USA, English
    My dictionary says they are synonyms. However, it seems to differentiate the two saying that "foyer" refers to the hall or room right off the entrance of any public building or residence, whereas "lobby" is used only in reference to hotels, apartments, and theatres. In my personal experience, "lobby" is used for public buildings, and "foyer" is used for private residences.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    My dictionary says they are synonyms. However, it seems to differentiate the two saying that "foyer" refers to the hall or room right off the entrance of any public building or residence, whereas "lobby" used only in reference to hotels, apartments, and theatres. In my personal experience, "lobby" is used for public buildings, and "foyer" is used for private residences.
    I'm surprised Esgrad. Haven't you heard people speak of a hotel foyer?
     

    The Slippery Slide

    Senior Member
    British English
    Thanks. Panjandrum, I was thinking about hotels. Sorry for omitting that piece of context, but I wanted to see what ideas people would come up with about general meaning. In Japanese English, entrance areas are always known as lobbies, and this has clouded my judgment on this point. As an Englishman, I wanted to write foyer.
     

    esgrad

    New Member
    USA, English
    TT,

    Sorry, I have not. Perhaps it is an American/British nuance. After all, you Brits use "lift" for our "elevator," among many others.
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    esgrad said:
    In my personal experience, "lobby" is used for public buildings, and "foyer" is used for private residences.
    If the goal is to be understood in AE, I agree with esgrad, regardless of the formal meaning of both words and using them interchangeably.

    I've never heard someone say, "hotel foyer."

    It's always "hotel lobby."

    Maybe it's become colloquial where we live.

    One exception would be an apartment building that used to be a private home. (I used to own one of these.) The Common Area at the front door would be known as the "apartment building foyer."

    AngelEyes
     

    tinlizzy

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I've never really thought about the two words before.

    Our local high schools use foyer for the large communal area on the main floor near the entrances. Like AngelEyes said both words are used interchangeably in the US but the word lobby has become almost exclusively associated with a business. Foyer is also used for the area beyond the entrance at the State Capitol Bldg.
     

    The Slippery Slide

    Senior Member
    British English
    Thanks, everyone. I'd better stick to lobby, just to be safe. I have certain language targets to stick to in this listening exercise, so I'd better not throw extra uncertainties into the mix. It's really interesting to see how we all take certain words for granted in totally different ways.
     

    Pierreduelz

    New Member
    English - US & French
    I've lived in the US for 46 of my 61 years and I've never heard someone say "Come in the lobby of my house". This anteroom is always referred to as a foyer in a house. Likewise, I've always heard people say lobby for a hotel or cinema. This leads me to conclude that lobby is used for larger and more public situations, and foyer for smaller more private settings.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I've lived in the US for 46 of my 61 years and I've never heard someone say "Come in the lobby of my house". This anteroom is always referred to as a foyer in a house. Likewise, I've always heard people say lobby for a hotel or cinema. This leads me to conclude that lobby is used for larger and more public situations, and foyer for smaller more private settings.
    You may say that but I assure you that the foyer of the Royal Opera House in London is anything but small and private.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    I've lived in the US for 46 of my 61 years and I've never heard someone say "Come in the lobby of my house". This anteroom is always referred to as a foyer in a house...
    In Britain, anyone who called the hall of his house a foyer would be thought of as insufferably pretentious.

    Lobby and foyer are generally only used for public buildings. The lobby is usually the common area between the doors of flats and their stairs or lift. The foyer is the much larger waiting area in a theatre or hotel.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Thanks, everyone. I'd better stick to lobby, just to be safe. I have certain language targets to stick to in this listening exercise, so I'd better not throw extra uncertainties into the mix. It's really interesting to see how we all take certain words for granted in totally different ways.
    Another reason to stick to "lobby," since this is a listening exercise: the pronunciation of "lobby" is much the same around the world, but that of "foyer" differs dramatically. I have heard "fwa-yay," "fo-yay" (mostly from Brits), "foe-yer" (mostly from Americans), "foe-yah" (mostly from non-rhotic Americans, e.g. from Boston) and perhaps more. People who use any pronunciation all think theirs is the only correct one. Since you have a good way to avoid this word, use it.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    The usual BrE pronunciation of foyer is /ˈfɔɪeɪ/ - ie FOI-eh, and this is almost the only pronunciation that I hear. I think a foyer has to be a large area, whereas a lobby needn't (eg a lift lobby).
     

    Pierreduelz

    New Member
    English - US & French
    I appreciate you Brits who replied to my post with how foyer is used versus lobby in your country. But as I listed in my post, I was referring to how they are used in the United States.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    < Response to deleted post removed. Cagey, moderator >

    I'm sure from the thread that usage differs. BE me associates both foyer and lobby with public buildings, or areas used by the public, in an apartment building, for example, the area inside the front door.
    Where I live, there's one seat for people waiting for taxis, or whatever. When you come out of the lift or walk down the stairs, you find yourself in the 'lobby'.

    When you come into my apartment there's a smallish but wide 'hall' that turns into a wide corridor. We do have a couple of chairs in this hall-cum-corridor because itls so spacious, ( if seating has anything to do with it). I've never heard 'lobby' or 'foyer' used for typical domestic British/English dwellings of any era, whatever the status of the property.
    There are, in very grand houses, some places that might be called 'lobby', but are called 'rooms', such as the 'boot-room', the 'mud-room', the 'gun-room'. Much of this terminology has to do with usage and convention.

    I simply can't remember what the area is called that's inside the front door of apartment buildings in Manhattan, with the doorman's desk, the elevators, the seating and the mail boxes.
     
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    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    In AE, a lobby is the main waiting area of a theater or a hotel, for instance. A commercial or business building. A foyer is the area immediately inside the front door of a private home - although not all American homes have such an area. It depends on the size of the home. American homes don't, in general, have what's called a drawing room. That's an antiquated word in AE.

    The space inside the front door of a NY apartment building might be called a front entrance or a main entrance. High-paying tenants might have a specially reserved area called a private entrance, which could be in another area of the building.
     
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    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    In Britain, anyone who called the hall of his house a foyer would be thought of as insufferably pretentious.
    Keep in mind that most of those people (by my best guess) who refer to that area beyond their front door as a foyer are not using a grandiloquent, Frenchified pronunciation. They are saying FOY-yer (with a fully-voiced r - rhymes with lawyer - not fwa-YEAH). It doesn't sound very grand. It sounds like a closet.

    This could be referred to as a FOY-yer.
    transitional-entry.jpg


    8 Ways To Enhance A Small Foyer
     
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    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    It's not irrelevant. Sounds carry connotations, too.

    If someone used that pronunciation here, they would also most likely be thought of as pretentious.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    For British people, that's the (entrance) hall.
    :thumbsup:
    It's a hall or the start of a corridor. It's the space on the inside of the front door. 'Foyer' would be ridiculous however it was pronounced. Pronouncing it as French would be way beyond ridiculous!
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I don't know if the use is standard or not in AE, but I use and occasionally hear "entryway" in reference to very short "halls" that lead from the front door into the rest of the dwelling.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    In a private house, if that area is not part of the hall/corridor that leads to various main rooms, but separated from it by a door, it would be called a vestibule (especially if there is a stand, or wall hooks, on which to hang you hats and coats).
     

    sb70012

    Senior Member
    Azerbaijani/Persian
    [This question and the following posts have been added to a previous thread on the same topic. Please read down from the top. DonnyB - moderator]
    Hello,
    As you know "foyer" and "lobby" both mean a large hall just inside the entrance to a public building. I know what it looks like.

    This is my question => Is there any difference between "foyer" and "lobby"? <——-Additional question removed by moderator (Florentia52)——->

    Thank you.
     
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    Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    Please give us the complete sentence in which you would use the word, and enough context to help us understand which term is more appropriate.
     

    sb70012

    Senior Member
    Azerbaijani/Persian
    foyer.jpg


    Suppose that this is a big hotel or a big house and I have some guests waiting for me here. Someone on the phone is asking me where my guests are. I want to say my guests are in the "lobby" or "foyer".
    But don't know the difference. Which one do you use in the US and UK?

    Thank you.
     

    sb70012

    Senior Member
    Azerbaijani/Persian
    Really? Isn't "foyer" the same as "lobby"? I thought they were the same thing.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    For American English, in my experience:
    Hotels and theaters have lobbies. A church has a foyer (or, sometimes, a narthex).
     

    sb70012

    Senior Member
    Azerbaijani/Persian
    Because some of the dictionaries say "lobby" equals (=) "foyer".

    foy‧er /"féûeû $ "féûër/ [countable]
    1. a room or hall at the entrance to a public building [= lobby]

    Source: Longman Dictionary
     
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    bicontinental

    Senior Member
    English (US), Danish, bilingual
    I agree with Myridon...a hotel lobby. Also, a private home can have a foyer (not just public buildings)
     
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    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    A home (free standing, not an apartment building) would have a foyer. It would not have a lobby.

    I would say that a "foyer" is a "baby lobby". :)
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    The simple fact is that Americans use foyer and lobby in a different way from British speakers. In Britain:
    • A foyer is for theatres, hotels and other public buildings.
    • A lobby is for political buildings (where people used to do their lobbying). It's not much used otherwise.
    • Private homes have a(n entrance) hall. Or, if very small, a lobby.
    But don't try to reduce it to simplicities like "foyer" is a "baby lobby". They only work sometimes.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    A home (free standing, not an apartment building) would have a foyer. It would not have a lobby.
    While correct, foyer sounds old-fashioned and pretentious in this part of the country. We are more likely to use "entry way" or "entry hall".
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    While correct, foyer sounds old-fashioned and pretentious in this part of the country. We are more likely to use "entry way" or "entry hall".
    I watch some of the home improvement shows on HGTV and they use both terms often. When pronounced as the French would, it sounds very pretentious. But with the American pronunciation it sounds fine to me. "Foy-yur" is the American pronunciation.

    The etymology is interesting. The term "green room" is still used in the theater and in nightclubs as an area for performers to rest.

    foyer | Origin and meaning of foyer by Online Etymology Dictionary
    foyer (n.)
    "lobby of a theater or opera house," 1859, from French foyer "green room, room for actors when not on stage," literally "fireplace," from Old French foier "furnace, stove, hearth, fireplace" (12c.), from Latin focarium, noun use of neuter of adjective focarius "having to do with the hearth," from focus "hearth, fireplace" (see focus (n.)).
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    If my memory serves, the only place I've lived where I heard foyer used routinely (but certainly not exclusively) for houses was in Texas.

    This is from the COCA database in a story or book (they don't say what type of publication) titled "Texas".

    She punched numbers on a keypad and opened the door. It was cool in the house. He set his suitcase down in the foyer: the living room had a fake-zebra rug and a black leather sectional, whose longer side faced a white brick fireplace. On the far wall -- it had to be there, right? -- the fucking Picasso Don Quixote.​

    It doesn't seem too high-falutin' to me. And remember what Packard said, it's foy-yer, not fwah-yay. No imitation French accent.
     
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    Ponyprof

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Here in Canada the word foyer is in the vocabulary but I haven't heard it used in speech for years. I think we have lobbies in all public buildings and front halls in houses. Specific buildings might refer to specific parts of themselves as a foyer. I would swear we had a foyer in my old high school but I cannot remember what exactly it was. We didn't have anything that was a lobby.

    I could also imagine foyer being applied to the spacious entrance halls in the big new condominium towers where the elevator banks are. You could also call this a lobby but no one lingers there or waits there.
     

    ewhite

    Senior Member
    USA/English
    Foyer can refer to the open space directly inside the front door of an apartment in New York City. So it's not just a Texas thing.
     

    Shandol

    Senior Member
    Persian - Persia
    That is why we don't use photo dictionaries as the final arbiter of the meaning of a word. They are always simplified of necessity.
    You would do well to be more careful with the intensifier you choose. "Always"? I have some grave reservations about that. :rolleyes:
    Let me consult my dictionaries <;)>:

    1. Oxford Advanced American Dictionary
    - a large open space inside the entrance of a theater or hotel where people can meet or wait
    synonym lobby
    2. Merriam Webster
    Definition of foyer
    - an anteroom or lobby especially of a theater also an entrance hallway : vestibule
    3. Longman
    - a room or hall at the entrance to a public building SYN lobby
    hotel/theatre/cinema etc foyer
    - [American English] a small room or hall at the entrance to a house or apartment
    < And utter disregard for the remaining ones>

    All of them buttress the validity of the terms utilized by the book for the shown picture. #post 45
     

    Ponyprof

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Absolutely pictures are useful in language learning. I don't dispute that. But just in general a picture dictionary does not take precedence over a more extensive dictionary, and many "learner's dictionaries" are also simplified.

    This does seem to be a situation where there are two words for the same general thing, or rather a Venn diagram where some things can be both a foyer or a lobby (depending on the regional usage) but some things cannot. There is never a lobby in a private house. You can have a foyer or an entrance hall or a mudroom or an enclosed porch, but not lobby.
     
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