Learn English – Is size inherent in the meanings of “plant” and “factory”


I always had the impression that a plant was bigger than a factory and that a plant might contain several factories, but we wouldn't say that a factory contains several plants.

According to oxforddictionaries.com,

  • plant: a place where an industrial or manufacturing process takes place
    the company has 30 plants in Mexico

  • factory: a building or group of buildings where goods are manufactured or assembled chiefly by machine

Not very specific.
Disregarding adjectives like "small plant" and "large factory," just looking at the words plant and factory, is one bigger than the other to the average native English speaker?

Best Answer

Merriam-Webster says this:

"plant (noun) 2 a : the land, buildings, machinery, apparatus, and fixtures employed in carrying on a trade or an industrial business; b : a factory or workshop for the manufacture of a particular product; also : power plant; c : the total facilities available for production or service; d : the buildings and other physical equipment of an institution"

"factory (noun) 2 a : a building or set of buildings with facilities for manufacturing"

There's no difference between them in my dialect. One word's shorter than the other's all that I can see. It's probably a matter of regional dialect and local (what they say at work, plant or factory) parlance.

However, one wouldn't call a power plant a power factory.