“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"

{ 12 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?

Bo Len Grass December 4, 2015 at 1:45 pm

In outer space there is no atmosphere, therefore no air resistance, therefore no need for aerodynamic shape.
Not much atmosphere in any cubicles either…

Jane October 21, 2016 at 1:31 pm

I love this so much. I was just looking for an explanation to clarify cubical vs cubicle for a spelling-challenged colleague.

This is perfect, and a wonderful surprise to cheer up a long day!
I have read it 3 times and am still enjoying it! Thank you!

Joan Bryant November 2, 2016 at 3:28 pm

Since I work as a commercial furniture salesperson, I wish I could write the definition in large letters and give it to many of my customers. I have even seen some business cards from a competitor referring to “CUBICALS”! By the way, office cubicles come in many other shapes than just square. You’d be surprised what our designers dream up.

Thanks for letting me get this off my chest!

Waleska Alvarado February 23, 2017 at 12:08 pm

I knew I was right! My coworkers always write “cubical” when they refer to cubicles.

Thanks for the explanation!

Lady Gwyneth August 24, 2017 at 11:16 am

Even my boss calls cubicles cubicals! Drives me nuts! And of course I can’t correct her or I would seem “uppity” — at least I can come here to confirm that I’m right!

Becks June 27, 2018 at 8:10 am

Best read in a long time. Love all the comments.

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: