What’s the Difference Between Tap, Spigot and Faucet

When you use your sink, are you using a spigot or faucet, or a tap? What are tap faucets? We tend to use these words interchangeably in English, but is there a difference? What do these words mean? 

In this article, we’ll take a look at the key differences in these terms and give you some information about each one. 

Aren’t They All the Same Thing? 

In informal conversation, it would be normal enough to use each of these words as if they are identical. Usually what determines the difference is the dialect in your region, and what is most common there. But there are key differences used by those in plumbing industries. 


In the United States “faucet” is commonly used to describe that thing that starts and stops water flowing through the pipes in your house. In particular, people call the sink inside your home a faucet. 

Now, there are some different kinds of these faucets, of which can change depending on the make and model, handles, and uses. These include different ball, disc, and compression types of faucets. 

Ball faucets use only one handle, which is attached to a “ball”, or cap. Such a faucet is usually found in the kitchen and is convenient to move around in such a way that force and temperature can be easily controlled. 

The name of this faucet, as you might expect, comes from the ball element inside that controls water flow. 

Next, there is a disc faucet. Again, this uses just one lever. This lever is connected to the faucet’s central body, rather than a ball. The result is that the faucet’s motion changes from simply up and down, or side to side. 

These kinds of faucets are a more recent invention, and are a particular design where there is a chamber inside, called a pressure balance. 

Then there are cartridge faucets, which consist of two handles. Usually, the one on the left side is for warm or hot water, while you can use the right side for cooler water. You can adjust these at the same time to control flow and temperature, allowing you to adjust in this way. 

Cartridge faucets are most commonly found in bathrooms and are pretty popular. 

An older design is a compression faucet, which does not have handles but knobs that can be rotated to turn the water on or off. These forms of faucets are a little bit older and can be found usually in the bathrooms of older dwellings. 


As opposed to a faucet, the term spigot usually refers to a fixture located on the outside of a building. What is a spigot used for? How can I tell if a fixture is a faucet or spigot? 

As they are located outside, next to an exterior wall, these are not usually as fashionably designed. They are usually simple and come in the form of a metal pipe and valve, which can be simply turned on or off the turning a circle counter-clockwise to let water flow. 

The valve on a spigot can be turned to control how much water is expelled, but usually does not control temperature. This is the major difference between the two items. A faucet allows you to control water temperature while a spigot does not. 

There are a few forms of controlling the water in a spigot, which may come with ball, globe, or gate valves. Your spigot may include a hose bib, which lets you attach a hose, or it may be a frost-proof spigot, that places a valve inside a special part of the spigot so that it will not freeze. This is useful if your area is subject to below-freezing temperatures. 

There is an additional form of spigot called the yard hydrant. A yard hydrant includes a long pipe that travels straight in the earth and a handle that can be used to pump water from under the ground. These include what’s called an anti-siphoning system, which prevents water from flowing back down which could lead to foreign elements getting into the system. 


In UK and Australian English, “tap” would be the term most commonly used instead of either faucet or spigot. 

However, in American English, the term “tap” refers to a specific kind of faucet. This is one that only allows water to be on or off. This is in contrast to most faucets you would find in your usual indoor plumbing, which allows you to control water flow and temperature. Even a spigot can at least control the flow of water, while not being able to change temperature. 

Taps are the most basic design of the three options, allowing you only to control whether or not water will flow through. 

Speaking specifically in American English, the term “tap” would only be used for this kind of device. These would have a simple lever that can be flicked on or off. 

As stated above, the tap could be turned on or off and it may not be possible to control the flow of water you receive. If you can’t think of where you would find such a device, they are usually found on water tanks or drink dispensers such as kegs or coolers. The simple design means that they are most commonly used on cheaper, movable items that do not require as much control over temperature or water flow. 

What’s the Difference Between a Spigot, Faucet and Tap? 

As you can see from what has been discussed, there are some major differences between these three products that go beyond just the different words people may have for the same thing. While their function is pretty similar, they each offer different uses and can be differentiated. 


Usually, you will not need to worry about what the difference between a faucet, tap, or spigot is. But it could help you to know these exact terms if you are in the building industry, or just want to impress your plumber on his next visit! 

by Karens
Karens is a busy mother of two and addicted to studying, researching bathroom and toilet decoration.

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