Spelling Variants

This is a list of British English words that have different American English spellings, for example, colour (British English) and color (American English).

Word pairs are listed with the British English version first, in italics, followed by the American English version:

  • spelt, spelled

Derived words often, but not always, follow their root. Thus “neighbour/neighbor” give “neighbourly/neighborly”, “neighbouring/neighboring” etc. (but “licensing” is used everywhere, in spite of “licence/license”). Plurals and verb forms almost always follow even though not listed here: “analyses/analyzes”, “analysed/analyzed” etc. (but note “analysis” is universal).

Some usages identified as American English are common in British English; e.g., disk for disc. A few listed words are more different words than different spellings: “aeroplane/airplane”, “mum/mom”.

A

  • acknowledgement, acknowledgment
  • aeroplane/ˈɛərəpleɪn/, airplane /ˈɛərpleɪn/
  • aesthetic, esthetic
  • ageing, aging
  • aluminium/ˌæljəˈmɪniːəm/, aluminum /əˈluːmɪnəm/
  • amoeba, ameba
  • anaemia, anemia
  • anaesthesia, anesthesia
  • analyse, analyze
  • analogue, analog
  • annexe, annex
  • apologise, apologize
  • archaeology, archeology
  • armour, armor
  • arse/ɑːrs/, ass /æs/ – except when referring to donkeys, universally “ass”
  • artefact, artifact
  • authorise, authorize
  • axe, ax

B

  • behaviour, behavior
  • broncho, bronco

C

  • caesium, cesium – but note that is always caesium as specified by IUPAC
  • chamomile, camomile
  • cancelled, canceled
  • carburettor, carburetor
  • catalogue, catalog
  • centre, center
  • cheque, check – for the financial document only
  • chequer, checker
  • cypher, cipher
  • civilise, civilize – and derived words
  • colonise, colonize
  • colonisation, colonization
  • colour, color
  • cosy, cozy
  • counsellor, counselor
  • counselling, counseling
  • connexion, connection

D

  • defence, defense
  • demagogue, demagog
  • dialled, dialed
  • dialler, dialer
  • dialogue, dialog
  • diarrhoea, diarrhea
  • disc, disk
  • distil, distill
  • doughnut, donut
  • draught, draft
  • dreamt/drɛmt/, dreamed /driːmd/

E

  • emphasise, emphasize – and derived words
  • encyclopaedia, encyclopedia
  • enrolment, enrollment
  • equalling, equaling
  • endeavour, endeavor
  • enquire, inquire

F

  • favourite, favorite
  • favour, favor
  • faeces, feces
  • fibre, fiber
  • flaky, flakey
  • foetid, fetid
  • foetus, fetus
  • flautist, flutist
  • flavour, flavor
  • fulfil, fulfill
  • furore, furor
  • fuelling, fueling

G

  • gaol, jail – but “jail” is common in British English now
  • generalise, generalize
  • glycerine, glycerin
  • grey, gray
  • gynaecology, gynecology

H

  • haemophilia, hemophilia
  • haematology, hematology
  • haem, heme
  • harbour, harbor
  • harmonise, harmonize
  • harmonisation, harmonization
  • homologue, homolog
  • honour, honor
  • humour, humor

I

  • industrialise, industrialize
  • instalment, installment
  • italicise, italicize – and derived words.

J

  • jewellery, jewelry
  • judgement, judgment

K

  • kerb, curb – both dialects use “curb” for the verb
  • kilometre, kilometer

L

  • labour, labor
  • leapt/lɛpt/, leaped /liːpt/
  • learnt/lɜːrnt/, learned /ˈlɜːrnɪd/ – past tense of to learn; an educated person is always learned
  • leukæmia, leukemia
  • licence, license – but always licensing
  • liquorice, licorice
  • light, lite – but always “light” except when describing a low-calorie or less challenging version of a product
  • litre, liter
  • lodgment, lodgement

M

  • manoeuvre, maneuver
  • marvellous, marvelous
  • meagre, meager
  • metre, meter – for the unit of length; in British English, ameter is a measuring device
  • modelling, modeling
  • milliard, billion
  • mould, mold
  • mollusc, mollusk
  • moult, molt
  • mum, mom
  • monologue, monolog
  • moustache, mustache
  • moisturiser, moisturizer

N

  • neighbour, neighbor – and derived words

O

  • oenology, enology
  • oesophagus, esophagus
  • oestrogen, estrogen
  • odour, odor
  • offence, offense
  • omelette, omelet
  • organisation, organization
  • orthologue, ortholog
  • orthopaedic, orthopedic

P

  • paediatric, pediatric
  • paedophile, pedophile
  • paralyse, paralyze
  • parlour, parlor
  • pedagogue, pedagog
  • plough, plow
  • practise, practice – as a verb
  • pretence, pretense
  • prise, prize – the verb, meaningto lever
  • programme, program – when not speaking of a computer program
  • pyjamas, pajamas

Q

  • quarrelled, quarreled
  • quarrelling, quarreling

R

  • realise, realize
  • realisation, realization
  • rigour, rigor
  • routeing, routing – defeating completely is always routing
  • rumour, rumor

S

  • saviour, savior
  • savoury, savory
  • sceptic, skeptic
  • signalling, signaling
  • skilful, skillful
  • speciality, specialty
  • spelt, spelled
  • spoilt, spoiled – but note that in American and Canadian English, spoiled is both a past-tense verb (e.g. the milk spoiled) and a past-participial adjective (the spoiled milk). In British English, spoiled is usually the past-tense verb (the milk spoiled), and spoilt is usually the past-participial adjective (the spoilt milk)
  • storey, story – a level of a building
  • sulphur, sulfur

T

  • theatre, theater – theatre is sometimes used in the US
  • tyre, tire – the component of a wheel
  • tranquillity, tranquility
  • travelled, traveled
  • traveller, traveler
  • travelling, traveling
  • tumour, tumor

U

  • urbanisation, urbanization – and derived words.

V

  • valour, valor
  • vampyre, vampire
  • Vender, vendor
  • viceor vyce, vise – when referring to the tool
  • victual, vittle
  • vigour, vigor

W

  • wintery, wintry
  • whisky, whiskey – the former is correct for Scottish spirits, the latter for those distilled elsewhere
  • woollen, woolen