In the application I'm working on, we have two forms of getting rid of an item.

  • Delete: Permanently deleting an item from the system. Once removed, the data is gone.
  • Remove: Removing a linked item from a group within the system. Data is not deleted and item can be added back into a group

Got 2 related questions

  1. Is "Delete" and "Remove" as describe above common verbiage for these two actions?
  2. What icons should be associated to these actions?

Currently I've been using the Trash icon to represent Delete and "X" to represent Remove. I have comments from people in Dev saying Trash icon represent something that is recoverable when Delete isn't, would "X" be more representation for Delete.

I've also considered relabelling Remove as "Unlink/Unassociate", but those do not fit well since the user is putting items into a group instead of loosely associating them together. An un-link icon also has a more complex form and is less easy to recognize as compared to Trash and X.

  • To clarify - the "Delete" is a hard delete, and "Remove" is a soft delete? May 22, 2014 at 23:14

3 Answers 3


Depending on the kind of group and association of your app, I'd suggest to go for something like "remove from this group" or "unpublish" or "detach". To avoid mystakes be more precise and replace "delete" by "delete item".

Regarding icons there is lots of technics and methods to generate ideas (you can find them on this site and others). The delete link should not be a problem and as regards of the remove one, try to symbolize the action.

Some quick metaphors :


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

  • I was referring to Delete and Remove in the general sense. The buttons already refer specific item being affect... e.g. Delete Tax Group or Remove Tax from Tax Group. And yes, I definitely agree with you that it's important to be specific in labelling. Thanks for the metaphor examples. Option 3 is a clear representation of the action.
    – nightning
    May 23, 2014 at 19:52
  • Ok so the answer is : no, "delete" and "remove" are not enough different and may be confuse for users. But I think you managed it well "Delete Tax Group" and "Remove Tax From Tax Group" is well spelled. It would be even more clear with an other verb but it depends of the situation. For example, behance use "Delete" to delete a project and "Unpublish" to remove it. Blogs use "drafts", etc.
    – Gabin
    May 24, 2014 at 7:10

First thing to consider is, irrespective delete or remove the verbiage usage should be different when the listing on which you perform action has list of human beings or objects. In case of human or living things it is rude to say trash him/her or delete him/her. Assuming it is list of objects. I am not sure who your target audience are, if they are mid level computer users then what your dev team says will sound true to them. In general for good UX do not hesitate write in full or caption it. If you just use icons use tooltip to indicate what that icon will perform like "Remove this item from list" and "permanently remove this item forever" . For usage of icons, use X to remove permanently and crossed-eye or crushed paper to remove temporarily. Usage of trash icon will mislead because not all will be sure if it is permanent or temporary.

  • I was referring "items" in the generic sense because it applies to several objects within the system. But, no we're definitely not deleting people nor animals. :) Closest we have is Delete Contacts. And yes button labels should be precise and right now Remove is always labelled as "Remove X from Y" Interesting that you brought up crushed paper for as a temporarily remove metaphor. I'll keep that one in mind for soft deletes.
    – nightning
    May 23, 2014 at 19:58

I think the word Hide or Archive might provide more accurate verbiage than "Remove," which could be seen as synonymous with "Delete." If something can be retrieved, presumably it is being placed somewhere from which it can be retrieved.

As for which icon to use, the Trash can icon is pretty universal for Delete... but some systems may keep a Trash Bin that the user can go into to retrieve trashed items before they are ACTUALLY deleted. The implication, however, is that trashing means you are not likely to recover it, which Archiving an item indicates you WILL want to retrieve it at some point.

Depending on your interface, the words and/or the actions required to accomplish the task may be more useful indicators of intent than the icons.

  • I'm not sure either "hide" or "archive" make sense in this case as the replacement for "Remove". Suppose we have a bunch of contacts. User can create a contact group call "friends" and add contacts into this group. We're looking for a term for taking a contact out of this group. Hope that example helps.
    – nightning
    Aug 22, 2016 at 17:01
  • Perhaps "Move" would make more sense, based on that example. That is a fairly common term for "Take this item out of one context and put it into another context." Might the user WANT the contact in both places, though? I know I might get vexed if I put a contact into a group but it disappeared from any other context.
    – Mattynabib
    Aug 22, 2016 at 19:40
  • You hit on the problem. A contact can belong to multiple contact groups. E.g. Bob is both a friend and a co-worker. Bob recently changed jobs and so I'd like to take him out of the "co-worker" group, but keep him in my "friends" group.
    – nightning
    Aug 22, 2016 at 20:21
  • Ah - so you could have Delete as an option from the main list (which might delete the contact from ALL groups as well), and Remove, which would only take that contact out of the current group, but would not be an option at the main list level. If this is the situation, then I think those two words are appropriate... though you might want to consider "Remove from Group" rather that just "Remove," to take out any ambiguity that might make people afraid to click it.
    – Mattynabib
    Aug 23, 2016 at 4:19

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