Difference Between Ancillary and Auxiliary

Main Difference – Ancillary vs Auxiliary

Ancillary and auxiliary are both associated with the idea of help or support. Both words function as adjectives and nouns. The main difference between ancillary and auxiliary is that ancillary refers to providing something additional to a main part or function whereas auxiliary refers to offering or providing help.

Ancillary – Meaning and Usage

Ancillary comes from Latin ancilla meaning maidservant. As this etymology suggests, ancillary is related to help and support. Ancillary is a noun and an adjective. As an adjective, ancillary refers to something additional to a main part or function. The Oxford Dictionary defines ancillary as “providing necessary support to the primary activities or operation of an organization, system, etc.” The words additional and primary in the above meanings imply that ancillary is a secondary support. Therefore, the noun ancillary refers to a person or an object that provides secondary or subsidiary support

The word ancillary implies that there is a primary function or activity, but ancillary refers to providing necessary support for this primary function. It also implies that what is described by ancillary is not as important to the main function, activity or concept. For example, ancillary plant implies that there is a primary factory, and the plant provides necessary support for the factory.

Look at the following examples to understand the meanings and usage of this word.

The ancillary workers were the first to lose jobs when the company decided to cut cost.

The factory and its ancillary plants are located in Manchester.

In addition to the main dining room, there are two ancillary dining rooms in the palace.

 A variety of ancillary support operations had to be shut down.

Main Difference - Ancillary vs Auxiliary

Some ancillary tools used by hand knitters.

Auxiliary – Meaning and Usage

Auxiliary can also be used as a noun as well as an adjective. Auxiliary comes from the Latin auxilium meaning help. Auxiliary means providing additional or supplementary support or help. Noun auxiliary refers to a person or thing that acts as an additional support or help.

This word simply implies an additional support, but it does not carry the connotations of secondary importance or subordination, unlike ancillary. For example,

The factory had an auxiliary power source.

A nursing auxiliary directed him to the correct ward.

There were two main fuel tanks and two auxiliaries.

However, it is also important to note that the meanings of these two words overlap in some cases since both imply help or support. In fact, Merriam-Webster lists auxiliary as a meaning of ancillary.

Difference Between Ancillary and Auxiliary

Auxiliary Power Unit of a jet airliner.

Difference Between Ancillary and Auxiliary


Ancillary comes from Latin.

Auxiliary comes from Latin.


Ancillary means providing necessary support to the primary activities or operation of an organization, system, etc.

Auxiliary means providing additional or supplementary support or help.


Ancillary has connotations of subordination, secondary importance, etc.

Auxiliary does not have connotations of subordination, secondary importance, etc.Difference Between Ancillary and Auxiliary - infographic

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