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Sleigh Vs. Sled: What's the Difference?

November 28, 2022

Have your students ever mixed up “sleigh” and “sled”? Whether they’ve just started learning English or have been speaking it for years, “sleigh” and “sled” are two winter-related words that many people still get confused.

That’s because both sleds and sleighs are winter vehicles that work in a similar way. So how can you tell them apart?

In this blog post, I’ve outlined the differences between sleigh and sled with some examples so that your students always know exactly when to use each term!

Two men sitting in a horse-drawn sleigh on snowy night.

What does "sleigh" mean?

A sleigh is a big, box-like, open-air vehicle on two ski-like runners that can transport people over snow and ice.

The main difference between a "sleigh" and a "sled" is that a sleigh is almost always pulled by a horse or a team of horses (or reindeer, if you're Santa Claus).

"Sleigh" can serve different functions in a sentence:
  • Noun: sleigh, sleighs
  • Verb: sleigh, sleighed, sleighing (Note: The verb sleigh is not common and best avoided.)

Examples of "sleigh" used in a sentence

  • The Smith family rode around the lake in a horse-drawn sleigh.
  • This hotel package includes dinner and a sleigh ride along the snowy trails around the village.
  • Every year, Santa Claus travels across the globe in a sleigh drawn by reindeer. 

Two children sitting on a wooden sled going down a snowy hill.

What does "sled" mean?

A sled is a small, open-air vehicle that is flat-bottomed or on two ski-like runners. One or two people can ride a sled down a snowy hill. Sleds can also be pulled by a person or a team of dogs.

"Sled" can serve different functions in a sentence:
  • Noun: sled, sleds, sledder
  • Verb: sled, sledded, sledding

Examples of "sled" used in a sentence

  • My dad surprised me with a bright red sled for my birthday this year.
  • Catherine went dog-sledding in Alaska last winter.
  • Mount Orford created a fun path for sledders to speed down.
  • Two kids sledded down a nearby hill, and their cries of delight echoed in the cold January air.

“Sled” also sometimes gets confused with another related term: toboggan. A toboggan is a type of sled with a flat bottom and a curved front edge. One or two people can ride a toboggan down a snowy hill.

It’s best to only use the word “toboggan” when talking about a specific type of sled.

Share your thoughts

In North America, the words “sleigh,” “sled,” and “toboggan” are all quite common. What's the most common term where you live? Share it in the comments section below. Happy Holidays!


Get into the holiday spirit and find lots of related vocabulary in our winter holiday lessons!

Editor's note: This post was originally published in December 2014 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Comments (7)

Marilena P.(Teacher)

Thanks for the explanation

Reply to Comment

Layla M.(Teacher)

It's always a great reminder. I always forget there's a toboggan, I often explain in lessons the sleigh vs sled thing.

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

I'm happy to hear this post came in handy for you, Layla! Thanks for your comment.

Marian P.(Student)

Seeing this post and understanding the difference between the words. reminded me of my childhood in the DR. that the sleigh was used as a means of transport.
Sled I remembered that when it rained I used it to descend from a high part to go down on it.

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Thanks so much for sharing those interesting tidbits from your childhood, Marian!

Yokasta M.(Student)

The differences are quite clear a sled is for one or two people. And the other sleigh is open and larger than can be slid by reindeer, but both have the same use. But in my country they call it a slide

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

That's a great way of differentiating between them, Yokasta! Thanks for sharing. What country are you from? A "slide" makes sense, but in Canada we use "slide" for the apparatus that children climb at a playground to slide down a long, metal, ramp-type structure.

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