What's the difference between safety and security?

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britneyM

Banned
Japan Japanese
My dictionaries say "safety is security" and "security is safety." So I'm confused. For example, I found the following expressions. Is it possible to use safety instead of security in these expressions?

e1: For security reason, we cannot tell anyone's password.
e2: security hole
e3: On April 2nd, the United States announced it would expand fingerprinting security checks.

What's the difference between safety and security?
 
  • Décodeur

    Member
    United States
    One distinction between the two words that I can think of is that "security" can be safety ensured by a professional. For instance, if one has alarms installed in one's house, they would be referred to as "security," not safety. Also, security can be used to suggest control of something, not just ensuring its safety, such as "The security of information" or "prison security." In prisons, guards make sure that prisoners are secure, the prisoner's safety, on the other hand, is not as important of a concern. I hope this helps.
     

    TriglavNationalPark

    Senior Member
    Slovenian (a.k.a. Slovene)
    In my experience, "security" is most frequently used to refer to protection from other people, such as thieves, terrorists, and vandals (examples: security gate, airport security, security check, security camera, etc.).

    "Safety", on the other hand, tends to refer to protection from everything else (examples: airplane safety, safety seat, safety distance, etc.)

    Or maybe it's just me. :confused:
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    'Safe and secure' is a common expression. The two adjectives are similar in meaning and usage but to illustrate the difference imagine a child in a play pen. The pen is safe because the child cannot be injured by the play pen, and it is secure because the child cannot leave it unless an adult lets it out. Thus the child is safe and secure.

    In your examples safety and security (nouns) are interchangeable but with similar shades of meaning:
    e1: For security reasons, we cannot tell anyone's password.
    A password protects information on a computer so that it is safe, allowing only the owner to enter and make changes. The password is your key, your security.
     

    BantyMom

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    If I saw your examples written with "safety" instead of "security"

    e1: For safety reasons, we cannot tell anyone's password.
    e2: safety hole
    e3: On April 2nd, the United States announced it would expand fingerprinting safely checks.

    The meanings would be different to me.

    e1) I would have expected the word "security" and would wonder if they were instead now referring to their own safety.
    e2) Doesn't even make sense to me with "safety" in place of "security" (and I'm guessing you mean "security breach).
    e3) It sounds like they are checking to see if when you are fingerprinted that they aren't injuring you.

    to me, security implies protection against the compromising of information, like secrets, or perhaps money. Even when you are talking about protecting a person from harm, it's the revelation of information that would eventually lead to the harm.

    "I'm worried about the security of your home." (Does someone know how to get past your locks)
    "I'm worried about the security of that web site." (I think it isn't protected against hackers who will steal your credit-card information.)

    safety, on the other hand, to me refers more to protection against direct harm, physical or mental

    "I'm worried about the safety of your home." (It's a tinder box, in a flood plain, and I hear it was built over nuclear waste.)
    "I'm worried about the safety of that web site." (I think that when you try to download that flash update, you are really going to download a destructive virus or spy program.)
     

    Décodeur

    Member
    United States
    Security comes from the Latin root secura, meaning "free of concern." However, secure can also mean "firmly fixed," thus explaining why there is also an implication of control present in security. "Safety" comes from salvus, which means "healthy," thus giving it a more personal meaning.
     

    Elwintee

    Senior Member
    England English
    One distinction between the two words that I can think of is that "security" can be safety ensured by a professional. For instance, if one has alarms installed in one's house, they would be referred to as "security," not safety. Also, security can be used to suggest control of something, not just ensuring its safety, such as "The security of information" or "prison security." In prisons, guards make sure that prisoners are secure, the prisoner's safety, on the other hand, is not as important of a concern. I hope this helps.
    I'm glad to say that in UK prisons a prisoner's safety is (theoretically at least) regarded as just as important as the security aspect. The equal priorities would be to ensure that prisoners are not burnt alive (their personal safety) and that they do not escape (prison security).
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Another example ... suppose were to talk about car safety and car security.
    Car safety is about protecting people by making the car less likely to be involved in an accident and including features that mean people are less likely to be injured if there is an accident.
    Car security is about protecting the car and it's contents from criminal activity.
     

    BantyMom

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    Another example ... suppose were to talk about car safety and car security.
    Car safety is about protecting people by making the car less likely to be involved in an accident and including features that mean people are less likely to be injured if there is an accident.
    Car security is about protecting the car and it's contents from criminal activity.
    Yes, yes! exactly what I was trying to say.
     

    britneyM

    Banned
    Japan Japanese
    Thank you very much for your very, very kind and warm helps. I'm sure I'm making a big progress. But I'm still in the fog.

    Question 1
    In the following expressions, which is better, safety or security? Or which is usually used?
    e4: The main mission of the force shall be to protect the peace and independence and preserve the safety of the country by defending it against direct and indirect attack.
    e5: Security Treaty between Australia, New Zealand, and the United States of America

    Question 2
    Does safety include the whole of security? Or does security include the whole of safety? Or part of either includes part of the other?
    Here I mean such a thing as follows:
    Number includes the whole of odd number. Odd number includes part of number. Odd number includes none of surd number.
     
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    Shimrod

    Senior Member
    English - United States (Southern New England)
    For security, it might help to think of access control. Thus information security would be about who has access to information. Home security would be the subject of people coming near or into your home, and what happens when this occurs. Similarly airport security. Décodeur mentioned the element of "control" involved in security. National security can be looked at this way as well.

    Safety simply speaks to the issue of potential harm.

    This is a neat subject, because some languages do not have distinct words for these.

    e4: Security is preferred here. Safety would have a different shade of meaning, but it would be OK.
    e5: Security.

    Neither includes the whole of either, though in some ways they overlap. Your e4 might be a good example of such overlap although I think in all cases there would be different shades of meaning. Best to think of them as non-overlapping.

    Note that safety refers to avoidance of injury or harm. Security refers to control, access control, integrity. With safety, bad things are those which can harm. With security, bad things are those which violate procedure. If someone gets near the President who should not, it is a gross violation of security whether the interloper has a gun, or a magic lamp, or is trying to return the ten million dollars he borrowed.

    Safety: A matter or injury and health.
    Security: A matter of control, procedure, protection of property, access control.

    This is actually a tough one. I hope some of this ramble actually helped.
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    We call guards who are employed to supervise a building or other property security guards, not safety guards. Their job is to keep the property safe and this is an ongoing process.

    Troops sent out to keep the peace may be called a security force, not a safety force.

    A man who falls off one branch of a tree might land safely on the next branch down, but he will only be secure if he finds something else to hold on to before losing his balance.

    In these examples safty is a temporary state, security is the means of prolonging that state. So safety is a sub-group of security.
     

    britneyM

    Banned
    Japan Japanese
    Shimrod, may I ask a little more?
    You said "Safety would have a different shade of meaning." Could you explain what shade the different shade is? I'm so interested in the shade.
    You said "A matter or injury and health." Is it "A matter of injury and health"?

    Aardvark01, may I ask a little more?
    In the situation you gave me, what's the difference between e6 and s7?
    e6: he will only be secure if he finds something else to hold on to before losing his balance.
    e7: he will only be safe if he finds something else to hold on to before losing his balance.
    Or only e6 is correct?
     
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    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    e6: he will only be secure if he finds something else to hold on to before losing his balance.
    e7: he will only be safe if he finds something else to hold on to before losing his balance.

    Both these are correct. I appologise for not clarifying my context. There is a difference in degree of safety. When we have already used 'safe' in a sentence we can use 'secure' comparatively:
    He landed safely on the branch (temporary) and became secure (more safe) by holding on to something.



    This is also what I meant in post #4 when I said: 'shades of meaning'

    A child in a play pen or a fox cub in a den have a safe environment in which to play and learn without harmful consequences. But this is a temporary state and it only remains a safe place as long as the parents are present to maintain the den's security (by protecting from outside dangers, keeping it clean and brining provisions like food, drink and warmth in).
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I don't think of "safe" as a lesser degree of "secure." I think Shimrod does an excellent job of pointing out the difference as I see it. Something is secure when it is controlled or constrained in some way, while safe to me means "free from threat of harm" or "is not a threat to others."

    A man locked in a lion's cage is secure in the sense that he is contained within the cage but he is certainly not safe.

    A deadly virus in an isolation room is secure but it is completely unsafe.

    There are many shades of meaning for both words. It is an interesting question.
     

    britneyM

    Banned
    Japan Japanese
    JamesM, may I ask a little more?

    You said as e7 and does it mean e8?
    e7: A deadly virus in an isolation room is secure but it is completely unsafe.
    e8: A deadly virus in an isolation room is secure because it is protected against the attack or danger from outside the isolataion room but it is completely unsafe to mankind because it will come out if the isolation is broken.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    No, that's not what I meant. "Secure" has many meanings.

    A deadly virus in an isolation room is secure because there is no risk of it escaping and harming others. It is controlled and contained. However, to walk in to the room and take no precautions for your own safety because it is in a secure environment would be foolish. The virus is still completely unsafe even when it is contained within the isolation room.
     
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    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    I don't think of "safe" as a lesser degree of "secure." I think Shimrod does an excellent job of pointing out the difference as I see it. Something is secure when it is controlled or constrained in some way, while safe to me means "free from threat of harm" ...
    I agree with your later points, but to imlpy "safe" is never used as a lesser degree of "secure" is as wrong as saying that is what it always means.

    A man slipping from a branch is free from the threat of falling if he lands on another branch, he further controls this threat when securing his hold. So in this context there clearly is a comparison of degree.

    I think your/shimrod's definition of safe should read: "free from threat of immediate harm"
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I still disagree. :) A man who is "safe from proecution" is not "secure from prosecution" the more that time passes.

    A child who is safe from harm is not secure from harm because he has spent several years being safe from harm.

    If I am strapped into a seat in a rocket that is about to blast into outer space I am secure but I am not safe. :)

    I don't think there is a direct correlation of lesser/greater.
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    I still disagree. :) A man who is "safe from proecution" is not "secure from prosecution" the more that time passes.

    A child who is safe from harm is not secure from harm because he has spent several years being safe from harm.

    If I am strapped into a seat in a rocket that is about to blast into outer space I am secure but I am not safe. :)

    I don't think there is a direct correlation of lesser/greater.
    You say you disagree, but with what? These examples, fine as they are, make no impact at all on contexts where there is a correlation of degree. :p

    As for the passage of time, it is more often the enemy of safety:

    The bank may agree that I have made a safe buisness arrangement but it will still insist on securing my loan (against my property).

    The factory may be safe from criminals but I have to employ IT experts, maintenance workers and security staff to keep it that way.

    The cradle may be safely/securely tied to the bough of a tree, but when the bough breaks the cradle will fall...
    Were we to employ nannies with better arborial expertise would we call them safety nannies of security nannies??
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    What I disagreed with was your reinterpretation of "safe" as "free from threat of immediate harm." I gave examples where "safe" over a period of time (no longer immediate) did not become "secure."
     

    britneyM

    Banned
    Japan Japanese
    I have some more questions.

    What's the difference between the sentences of each set?

    e11: The main mission of the force shall be to protect the peace and independence and preserve the safety of the country by defending it against direct and indirect attack.
    e12: The main mission of the force shall be to protect the peace and independence and preserve the safety of the country by defending it against direct and indirect attack.

    e21: It is not safe for very old people to walk around alone.
    e22: It is not secure for very old people to walk around alone.
    note. Please think that 'very old' means 80 or 90 years old.

    The meaning of e11 is clear to me but the others are difficult.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    e11: The main mission of the force shall be to protect the peace and independence and preserve the safety of the country by defending it against direct and indirect attack.
    e12: The main mission of the force shall be to protect the peace and independence and preserve the safety of the country by defending it against direct and indirect attack.
    When you invent peculiar sentences it is very difficult for some native speakers to comment.
    This one abstains.
    I can, however, note that e11 and e12 are identical.
     

    britneyM

    Banned
    Japan Japanese
    Sorry, I mistook.
    I corrected the typos. Please ignore my last post #22 and read from [start] to [end] instead of #22.

    [start]
    I have some more questions.

    What's the difference between the sentences of each set?

    e11: The main mission of the force shall be to protect the peace and independence and preserve the safety of the country by defending it against direct and indirect attack.
    e12: The main mission of the force shall be to protect the peace and independence and preserve the security of the country by defending it against direct and indirect attack.
    note. These are the sentences about which Shimrod said "there would be different shades of meaning" in #11.

    e21: It is not safe for very old people to walk around alone.
    e22: It is not secure for very old people to walk around alone.
    note 1. Please think that 'very old' means 80 or 90 years old or around that.
    note 2. These are new sentences and not shown in the former posts.

    The meaning of e12 is clear to me but the others are difficult.
    [end]
     
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    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    What I disagreed with was your reinterpretation of "safe" as "free from threat of immediate harm." I gave examples where "safe" over a period of time (no longer immediate) did not become "secure."
    I gave examples of how (immediately) safe does not remain safe unless measures are taken to preserve (secure) it.

    I never said that safety became security with time.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Sorry, I mistook.
    I corrected the typos. Please ignore my last post #22 and read from [start] to [end] instead of #22.

    [start]
    I have some more questions.

    What's the difference between the sentences of each set?

    e11: The main mission of the force shall be to protect the peace and independence and preserve the safety of the country by defending it against direct and indirect attack.
    e12: The main mission of the force shall be to protect the peace and independence and preserve the security of the country by defending it against direct and indirect attack.
    I would choose e12. Sentence e11 sounds odd to me, partly because "preserving safety" is not a common collocation, in my experience. The safety of a country is not the same as the safety of the people in the country. I can see something like "to ensure the safety of our food supply" but not "to ensure the safety of our country."

    note. These are the sentences about which Shimrod said "there would be different shades of meaning" in #11.

    e21: It is not safe for very old people to walk around alone.
    e22: It is not secure for very old people to walk around alone.
    note 1. Please think that 'very old' means 80 or 90 years old or around that.
    note 2. These are new sentences and not shown in the former posts.

    The meaning of e12 is clear to me but the others are difficult.
    [end]
    e21 makes sense to me. I can make sense out of e22 if I work at it but it seems odd to me.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    britneyM,

    Here are a few sentences that illustrate a difference for me:

    A: This building has been remodeled to be safe for the elderly.
    B: This building has been remodeled to be secure for the elderly.

    A: If a building is safe for the elderly it should have easy access for those who are physically infirm or in wheelchairs, handrails in the bathroom, temperature controls on the hot water to avoid scalding, and other similar features.

    B: If a building is secure for the elderly I would expect it to have some sort of controlled access to get into the building, perhaps an ID tag of some kind and an approved visitor's list, possibly a receptionist to control access and check for tamper-proof latches on the doors, an intercom for emergencies, an alarm system of some kind, bars on the lower windows if the neighborhood is not a good one, as well as other features.
     

    Shimrod

    Senior Member
    English - United States (Southern New England)
    britneyM:

    Hi, again. This is still going because it really is a tough one. Some languages don't even distinguish between these concepts, yet most native speakers over a certain age would know which one they intend and I think it is fair to say that they would RARELY use them interchangeably.

    Now I see the e11 and e12 constructs that I commented on way back, and it looks to me like e11 is just plain wrong, or maybe better to say awkward and weird. National security is a thing in and of itself and should not entail any ambiguities.

    e21 is great. That is the simplest and most common, correct way convey that idea.

    e22 is strange, and would only have meaning to me in a strange place where old people were themselves a threat to something else.

    Don't despair over this one. As you learn English and read and read and read, you will acquire a feeling for the difference.

    A couple of things to keep in mind.

    1. We have thoroughly developed the idea that when you are referring to the integrity (remember access control) of a location or system, whether or not it is clearly identifiable in space, the word security is called for. Thus, airport security, home security, network security, etc.

    2. Regarding adjectives, you will see the word "safe" much more often than the word "secure". People know what they mean when they say "safe". A person or thing not harmed, a person or thing unlikely to suffer harm, or a situation unlikely to cause harm. I'm glad you're safe! (You are not hurt). Are your children safe? (No threat of injury to children). Is this intersection safe? (Are people likely to get hurt here?)

    3. Secure is a verb, as safe is not. "Secure that load!" Make sure the load does not shift. "Secure that neighborhood, soldier!" Root out any enemies in the area in question, and do whatever soldiers do in order to call an area "secure".

    4. Secure and security are also financial terms. Thus you would "secure" a loan, by offering the bank title to some object of value, the loan's "security". "Securities" are also stock certificates.

    5. There is a usage of security that means freedom from emotional distress. Thus:

    She is not a golddigger; she just married a rich man for the security of always knowing she won't starve.

    For my piece of mind and security, I insist that my children are safe at home by nine every night.

    And so it goes. Sorry we can't supply any general rules in lieu of examples, but such do not seem to exist. I hope this helps.
     

    britneyM

    Banned
    Japan Japanese
    JamesM, thank you very much for your quick and detailed reply. I understand well.

    But I have a question. Why e9 is OK and e10 is not?
    e9: to ensure the safety of our food supply
    e10: to ensure the safety of our country

    I'm sorry to ask so many things but I think I'm coming to the very point.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Food is safe to eat.
    A country is safe to ???

    A person is safe from attacks.
    A country is safe from ???

    I suppose it could be argued that a country is safe from attacks or safe from invasion, but it doesn't seem to me to be a typical use of "safe".

    The security of a country has to do with the ability to maintain control, to determine who has the right to have access to the country, to protect it from attack.

    The safety of a country would be protecting the country from harm. It's hard to see how someone would "harm" a country. I don't mean the citizens but the country itself. You could do harm to its image, its reputation, its credibility, its standing, it institutions, but I have a hard time imagining how you would do harm directly to the country.

    You are asking very good questions. I don't know that I've ever thought this much about the differences. :)
     

    britneyM

    Banned
    Japan Japanese
    JamesM, Shimrod, Aardvark01, panjandrum, BantyMom, Elwintee, Decodeur, TriglavNationalPark,

    I think I reached the final, full, and complete understanding. I solved all of the example sentences you gave me by myself and have no question. I read it! I got it! I did it!

    Shimrod, the most surprising was your reply at #11, which was a hurricane that blew up everything in my mind and settled down them again in a very easy way for me to understand. You also gave me a very, very precise definition for safety and security. It was surprising!

    JamesM, you gave me many puzzle-looking example sentences and situation examples such as secure building and safe building and they helped me to understand every corner of my mixed-up questions.

    Aardvark01, you told me what is the problem through the discussion with JamesM.

    panjandrum, your explanation gave me a lightening of understanding.

    The problem of the difference between safety and security was a nasty one that has kept on smoking in my mind for a long time, about five years. But now it's solved. It's a happy moment.

    Please let me thank you all the teachers who gave me warm helps in the thread.
    Thank you.
     
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    takysoft

    New Member
    Hungarian
    Safe means that the condition is protected.
    Car safety = safety belt, airbar, etc.

    Secure means only people allowed by the owner are able to access it.
    Car security = lock, alarm, gps tracking, etc.

    Secure means it cannot be stolen. Like passwords, or money.
    Safe means it cannot be destroyed. Like health.. Or a painting is safer in the right conditions, like perfect humidity...

    Safe location = you will not be killed here.
    Secure location = you will not overheard here. It's OK, to talk.

    If both is important, or we talk about organizations, we usually use the word security. Airport secutiry, building secutirty, national security, secure location (in military... it means safe too)
     
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    fabaya

    New Member
    Español
    Some are so bad to classify like Im on english. Safe is free from unvoluntary and natural risks and Secure is free from voluntary or deliberated risk. If you find 1 case where this rule doesnt apply let me know. In the industry of security and safety the last one (fire suppresion methods, etc) is also wrongly called PROTECTION. IS wrong because you protect in both cases: security and safety. And there is a correlation between the two words in spanish <--->.


    < English Only in this forum, please. Cagey, moderator. >
     
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