Differences between British English and American English spelling

British English spellings This English spelling course has been written in the UK, by a teacher from the historic city of York. However the course is designed to work for both British and American English spelling. Where there is a difference we highlight it and therefore it is possible to learn British English, American English or both spellings. American English spellings

If the words are used in a course test, you can choose which version of the test you wish to do - British or American. By covering both British and American English spellings Spellzone is appropriate for teaching all over the world.

Unit 36 includes more information about the differences in English spelling in Britain and in the USA.

Here is an overview of the main differences between British and American spellings:

colour - color, British and American English spelling differences
British English spelling our endings change to or
colour > color
American English spelling
armour
armoury
behaviour
candour
clamour
colour
demeanour
endeavour
favourite
flavour
glamour
harbour
honour
humour
labour
neighbour
odour
rancour
rigour
rumour
saviour
savour
savoury
splendour
valour
vapour
vigour
armor
armory
behavior
candor
clamor
color
demeanor
endeavor
favorite
flavor
glamor
harbor
honor
humor
labor
neighbor
odor
rancor
rigor
rumor
savior
savor
savory
splendor
valor
vapor
vigor


theatre - theater, British and American English spelling differences
British English spelling re endings change to
theatre > theater
American English spelling
amphitheatre
calibre
centimetre
centre
fibre
kilometre
litre
louvre
lustre
manoeuvre
meagre
metre
millimetre
sabre
sceptre
sombre
spectre
theatre
amphitheater
caliber
centimeter
center
fiber
kilometer
liter
louver
luster
maneuver
meager
meter
millimeter
saber
scepter
somber
specter
theater
Note: These words are spelled with -re in both Britain and the USA:

acre massacre mediocre ogre

There is a logical reason for this. Can you work out why these spellings are not changed to in the USA? Join us to find out.


catalogue - catalog, British and American English spelling differences
British English spelling ogue endings change to og
catalogue > catalog
American English spelling
analogue
dialogue
catalogue
epilogue
monologue
prologue
travelogue
analog
dialog
catalog
epilog
monolog
prolog
travelog
Note:
-ogue can also be used in the USA


traveller - traveler, British and American English spelling differences
British English spelling l endings do not double in US spellings
traveller > traveler
American English spelling
cancelled
counsellor
equalled
fuelling
fuelled
grovelling
jeweller
jewellery
levelled
libelled
marvellous
modelling
panelled
quarrelling
revelled
woollen
canceled
counselor
equaled
fueling
fueled
groveling
jeweler
jewelry or jewelery
leveled
libeled
marvelous
modeling
paneled
quarreling
reveled
woolen
To review the doubling rules, look back at Unit 34 page 7
British English spelling Some British English words ending in one l may have double ll in the USA spelling: American English spelling
appal
distil
enrol
enthral
fulfil
instil
skilful
wilful
appall
distill
enroll
enthrall
fulfill
instill
skillful
willful


encyclopaedia - encyclopedia, British and American English spelling differences
British English spelling ae and oe words change to e
encyclopaedia > encyclopedia
American English spelling
diarrhoea
oestrogen
foetus
manoeuvre
mementoes
anaemia
caesarean
gynaecology
haemorrhage
leukaemia
palaeontology
paediatric
diarrhea
estrogen
fetus
maneuver
mementos
anemia
cesarean
gynecology
hemorrhage
leukemia
paleontology
pediatric


apologise - apologize, British and American English spelling differences  
British English spelling ise endings change to ize
apologise > apologize
American English spelling
Spelling rule breakers - American English and British English spellings
Some words are the same in both countries:
appetiser
authorise
capitalise
characterise
civilise
colonise
criticise
dramatise
emphasise
equalise
mobilise
naturalise
organise
popularise
realise
recognise
satirise
standardise
symbolise
vaporise
**************
analyse
paralyse
appetizer
authorize
capitalize
characterize
civilize
colonize
criticize
dramatize
emphasize
equalize
mobilize
naturalize
organize
popularize
realize
recognize
satirize
standardize
symbolize
vaporize
**************
analyze
paralyze
size
capsize
prize
seize
**************
advise
surprise
advertise
Note: Some British spellers do use the -ize ending - either is correct - but the American spelling is almost always -ize.  


British English spelling You may remember these -ce and -se words from Unit 20 (Soft c). In some of them, the spelling depends on whether the word is a noun or a verb. American English spelling
defence defense
offence offense
pretence pretense
vice
(workbench tool)
vise
licence (as a noun):
I've lost my driving licence.
license (noun and verb)
license (as a verb) is the same in both countries:
He is licensed to drive large trucks
practise (as a verb):
I practise the piano every day.
practice (noun and verb)
practice (as a noun) is the same in both countries:
Get some practice in these words.

Some more examples of spelling differences:

Spelling change British English spelling American English spelling
ph > f sulphate  sulphide  sulphur sulfate  sulfide  sulfur
ugh > f or w draught  plough draft  plow
y > i tyre (on a wheel)  gybe tire  jibe
ou > o mould  moult  smoulder mold  molt  smolder
mme > m programme program
que > ck cheque (money)
chequer (game)
check
checker
ge > g acknowledgement
ageing
judgement
acknowledgment
aging
judgment
Miscellaneous: aluminium aluminum
  axe ax
  cosy cozy
  kerb (edge of road) curb
  furore furor
  grey gray
  carat (gold) karat
  liquorice licorice
  moustache mustache
  nought naught
  pyjamas pajamas
  sceptic skeptic
  phial vial
  whisky whiskey

The lists above show the most common spellings that are different in Britain and the USA. With the growth of the Internet, it is likely that the American spellings will become the most used - despite any British objections!

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