“Cubical” vs. “Cubicle”

by Joey deVilla on May 3, 2009

I’ve seen too many misuses of the word cubical in the past couple of days, so I thought I’d post this quick guide.

A cubicle is the office workspace created in by a system of dividing walls, such as the one below:

An office cubicle with a computer, a phone and little else.

The cubicle system evolved from Herman Miller’s Action Office, a system for open-plan offices designed by Robert Propst. Propst wanted to design a system that boosted productivity; it was never his intention to build something whose primary purpose was to pack as many workers as possible into as little space as possible. He is said to have denounced the cubicle systems inspired by Action Office as “monolithic insanity”.

Cubical means “shaped like a cube” or “having the qualities of a cube”, such as the Borg ship in the photo below:

A Borg cube, as seen from the main screen on the U.S.S. Enterprise.

Perhaps the confusion between the two words arises because both cubicles and the cubical Borg ship are designed to house interchangeable drones who work in the service of a hive mind. Remember: they don’t have “Casual Fridays” on the Borg Cube!

Guy in shorts and golf shirt in a Borg chamber at "Star Trek: the Experience"

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Barb September 15, 2010 at 7:55 am

That is way too cute, and interesting and so true.

Anonymous October 16, 2011 at 11:24 pm

Thanks man. i was looking for the difference.
It was really hard to make out the difference as a cubicle is also usually shaped like a cubical :)

theaweseomest December 5, 2013 at 10:17 am

Cubicles things are wretched.
Cubical things are blocks.
Got it! :)

la+zy January 28, 2015 at 6:21 am

Informative and mega-nerdy. Nice work, thanks.

Anon May 11, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Thanks! Cubicles are cubical.

Anthony Harkins November 23, 2015 at 11:19 am

Doesn’t an office cubicle have a cube like shape as well? That is where the confusion lies! BTW, the Borg ship is not the most aerodynamic design in the universe, those brain heads couldn’t come up with anything better?

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