Posted by: Jack Henry | March 1, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Colonel Mustard, in the Conservatory, with a Candlestick

When we were kids, my mom often took us to the Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle.

Volunteer Park Conservatory, Seattle, Washington

Later in life, I was referring to a conservatory, but then I had that sinking feeling that I was using the wrong word. Isn’t a conservatory a place where music is played? Isn’t it a room in the game Clue where you might be murdered with a candlestick or lead pipe?

Well, I received one of my weekly newsletters on this exact topic, so I’d like to share the answers with you from the Grammarist.

Conservatory, solarium or sunroom

The words conservatory, solarium, and sunroom are often used interchangeably, though there are slight differences in meaning. We will look at the difference between conservatory, solarium, and sunroom, where the terms come from and some examples…

A conservatory is a room or small outbuilding built with glass walls and a glass roof in order to let in great amounts of sunlight. A conservatory is primarily built for horticultural purposes, to grow tropical plants in a climate that is not tropical or to grow plants and vegetables out of season. In North America, the word conservatory is also used to describe a college that teaches music or other arts. The plural form is conservatories.

A solarium is also a room with glass windows and sometimes a glass roof built in order to let in great amounts of sunlight. A solarium is built as a recreation area, a place for people to enjoy the sun on cold days. Solariums were common features in tuberculosis sanatoriums. The plural of solarium may be rendered as either solariums or solaria.


Sunroom is a North American word that describes a room that has large windows in order to allow the sun to shine in. Sunrooms are also recreation areas, often converted porches. The plural is sunrooms. Remember, the difference between a conservatory and a solarium is the purpose for which it is used. A sunroom differs from a conservatory and a solarium in that it is simply a room with large windows, not a structure made of glass.


Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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