Spelling of disc

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For other uses, see Disc (disambiguation).

Disk and disc are the two alternative spellings of the descriptive word for things of a generally thin and circular geometry. These variations are due to the way in which the words originated. A widespread consensus has developed that one spelling should be used for certain senses and the other spelling should be used for the other senses. Generally for disk storage as an electronic medium, disk refers to magnetic storage while disc refers to optical storage.


The earlier word is disk, which came into the English language in the middle of the 17th century, and (probably following pre-existing words such as risk) it was spelled with a k.[citation needed] In the 19th century, disk became the conventional spelling for audio recordings made on a flat plate, such as the gramophone record. Early BBC technicians differentiated between disks (in-house transcription records) and discs (the colloquial term for commercial gramophone records, or what the BBC dubbed CGRs).[1]

UK vs. US[edit]

By the 20th century, the k-spelling was more popular in America, while the c-spelling was preferred in the UK.[2] In the 1950s, when the American company IBM pioneered the first hard disk drive storage devices, the k-spelling was used. Consequently, in computer terminology today it is common for the k-spelling to refer mainly to magnetic storage devices[3] (particularly in British English, where the term disk is sometimes regarded as a contraction of diskette, a much later word and actually a diminutive of disk).


Some latter-day competitors to IBM prefer the c-spelling. In 1979, the Dutch company Philips, along with Sony, developed and trademarked the compact disc using the c-spelling. The c-spelling is now used consistently for optical media such as the compact disc and similar technologies.[4]

Medical editing[edit]

The words disc and disk can appear frequently in medical journals and textbooks, especially those in ophthalmology and orthopedics, and thus style guides often foster consistency by giving rules for which contexts take which spelling. AMA style for this topic is used by many publications. AMA says, "For ophthalmologic terms, use disc (eg, optic disc); for other anatomical terms, use disk (eg, lumbar disk). In discussions related to computers, use disk (eg, floppy disk, disk drive, diskette) (exceptions: compact disc, videodisc)."[5] This can be summed up by the mnemonic that "it'd better be about CDs, DVDs, or eyeballs if it's spelled with a 'c'."[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Barry Taylor (2008-03-12). "Test Records". Retrieved 2013-08-15. 
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. The earlier and better spelling is disk, but disc is now the more usual form in British English, except in sense 2g [computing], where disk is commoner as a result of US influence. 
  3. ^ "What's the difference between a "disc" and a "disk?"". Apple Inc. Retrieved 2012-02-28. 
  4. ^ Paul Brians. "Common Errors in English". Washington State University. Retrieved 2008-06-11. 
  5. ^ Iverson, Cheryl, et al. (eds) (2007), "11.1 Correct and Preferred Usage of Common Words and Phrases", AMA Manual of Style (10th ed.), Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-517633-9. 

Further reading[edit]