Award Vs. Reward

I received a question from the Peanut Gallery today.

Hany asks what the difference may be between “award” and “reward.”

Awards are given out by judges who deliberate on the merits of the applicant, make a decision, then bestow something good (e.g., a prize or contract) upon the selected recipient. The award is definitely going to be given; the question is: to whom?


The contract award was given to the second-lowest bidder because the committee determined that the lowest bidder did not have the proper technical qualifications.

Rewards are given by a person or group to show appreciation for a certain good deed or behavior – or retribution for bad deeds. Rewards are usually optional; the giver decides whether a reward is going to be offered or not.

Sometimes a reward is announced in advance (Wanted, dead or alive, $25,000 reward), and sometimes the decision happens after the deed is done (You returned my wallet with all the money still in it? What a good boy! Here’s $10 to reward your honesty.)


The mice that received food rewards completed the second maze faster than the mice that received no reward.

Therefore, the award process includes some form of judging or deciding among various options, whereas rewards are given individually, based solely upon the will and generosity of the giver.


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