I know that the term "rights" applies to users or groups of users (such as "the user X has the right to change system time") and the term "permissions" applies to an object (such as a folder or file, e.g. "the user X has full permissions over this folder"). This link says the same.

Then why are we not saying "user permissions" instead of "user rights"? What is the difference in the meaning of the two words "permission" and "rights"?


I don't think there really, really is a totally good reason for the distinction. It's just the way it wound up in Windows.

In everyday language rights/permissions/privileges are somewhat synonymous anyway.

Re. "User rights"

The term "User rights" on Windows usually refers to something granted to a user.

Microsoft themselves seem unsure about the terms. Here's a painful bit from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Privilege_(computing)#Nomenclature

The names used in the Windows source code end in either "Privilege" or "LogonRight". This has led to some confusion about what the full set of all these "Rights" and "Privileges" should be called.

Microsoft currently uses the term "User Rights". In the past some other terms have also been used by Microsoft, such as "Privilege Rights", "logon user rights" and "NT-Rights".

  • 1
    Exactly, I never had a problem using user right and user permission synonymously.
    – Arminius
    Nov 1 '17 at 20:11
  • Thus my personal preference in this context is to always talk about "permission". The word "right" can be confusing because of its homonyms: e.g. "right" as in correct, "right" such as human rights or "right" as in not left. These three meanings have little to do with user permissions.
    – T_D
    Jul 3 '20 at 10:18

As you noted, rights are something you have that were granted to you; while permissions are something that the resources you need are configured to require. But it's not uncommon to hear people confuse the two, saying things like "I will grant you permission to access my resource."

The distinction matters more when you start using a Role Based Access Control model. For example I would never intentionally grant a user permission to access my system. Instead, I would tell that user to request membership in an access group that has those rights. So I already think in terms of rights vs. permissions.

Once the concepts were split along those lines, I've found myself less likely to interchange the two terms.

But the bottom line is that the distinction is not very important. If you want to grant permission to access your folder, go right ahead. :-)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.