Language

8 Differences Between British vs. American English Spelling

scrambled letters for spelling

Have you ever found yourself unsure of how to spell a word, depending on whether you’re writing for an American or British audience? It’s not surprising, considering that there are many spelling differences between the two dialects of English.

That’s where we come in, to provide you with seven differences between British and American English spellings.

1. Words Ending in ‘our’ / ‘or’

American English often spells words ending in “our” in the UK, with “or” instead. 

Here is a table of some examples:

UK SpellingUS Spelling
armourarmor
colourcolor
flavourflavor
humourhumor
labourlabor

2. Verbs Ending in ‘ise’ or ‘ize’

In British English words can be spelt ending in “ise” or ’ize’, while in American English it’s just “ize” instead. 

Here is a table of some examples:

UK SpellingUS Spelling
analyseanalyze
catalysecatalyze
criticisecriticize
organiseorganize
realiserealize

3. Verbs Ending in ‘yse’ / ‘yze’

American English often spells words ending in “yse” in the UK, with “yze” instead. 

Here is a table of some examples:

UK SpellingUS Spelling
paralyseparalyze
tantalisetantalize
terroriseterrorize
tranquillisetranquillize
vaporisevaporize

4. Double ‘L’ in Verbs

American English often spells words with a double ‘L’ in the UK, with only one ‘L’ instead. 

Here is a table of some examples:

UK SpellingUS Spelling
cancelledcanceled
travelledtraveled
equalledequaled
labelledlabeled
quarrelledquarreled

5. Double Vowels ‘ae’ and ‘oe’ / ‘e’

American English often spells words with double vowels with “ae” or “oe” in the UK, with just “e” instead. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, ‘archaeology’ can be spelt the same in America, as well as with just an ‘e’, but the latter would be incorrect in British English.

Here is a table of some examples:

UK SpellingUS Spelling
archaeologyarcheology
diarrhoeadiarrhea
encyclopaediaencyclopedia
manoeuvremaneuver
paediatricpediatric

6. Nouns Ending in ‘ence’ / ‘ense’

American English often spells words ending in “ence” in the UK, with “ense” instead. 

Here is a table of some examples:

UK SpellingUS Spelling
defencedefense
offenceoffense
pretencepretense
licencelicense
performanceperformance

7. Nouns Ending with ‘ogue’ / ‘og’

American English often spells words ending in “ogue” in the UK, with just “og” instead. 

Here is a table of some examples:

UK SpellingUS Spelling
cataloguecatalog
dialoguedialog
monologuemonolog
prologueprolog
programmeprogram

8. Words Ending in ‘re’ / ‘er’

American English often spells words ending in “re” in the UK, with “er” instead.

Here is a table of some examples:

UK SpellingUS Spelling
centrecenter
fibrefiber
litreliter
metremeter
theatretheater

The History of Different Spellings Between American and British English

The differences in spelling between British and American English can be traced back to the colonisation of America by British settlers in the 17th century. Over time, the American dialect of English began to evolve independently, and this led to some changes in spelling.

In the early 1800s, Noah Webster published his American Dictionary of the English Language, which sought to simplify the English language and make it more American. Webster’s Dictionary dropped many of the silent letters that are common in British English, and it also changed the spelling of some words to make them more phonetic.

Today, British and American English are still mutually intelligible, but there are some notable spelling differences. It’s important to be aware of these differences when writing for a specific audience.

Final Thoughts from UK vs. USA

If you’re unsure of how to spell a word in British or American English, it’s always best to consult a dictionary. But hopefully, this guide gave you insight into the most common differences between British and American spelling.

If you found this article helpful, check out our guide on the differences between British and American English word differences.

British vs. American Spellings FAQ:

Do Americans spell phonetically?

Americans generally spell more phonetically than the British, but there are still many exceptions. For example, the word “color” is pronounced the same as the word “collar,” but they are spelled differently.

What is the most misspelled word in the US?

The most misspelled word in the US is “their.” It is often misspelled as “there” or “they’re”.

Why do Americans drop the ‘u’ in spelling?

Americans drop the “u” in spelling some words, such as “color” and “favor,” because they are trying to spell the word the way it sounds. However, there is no consistent rule for when to drop the “u.”

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