User:SpNeo/Spelling Guide

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There are lots of British-American spelling lists on the internet, but most of them are low-quality references. That's why I created this spelling guide as a reliable reference for editors interested in British and American spellings. The lists are quite exhaustive. Acceptable variants (according to Merriam-Webster and the Concise Oxford English Dictionary) are given in parentheses. See also American and British English spelling differences.


Key examples of the most important differences about which you should know:

labour (UK) <-> labor (US)

Details: see -our, -or

centre (UK) <-> center (US)

Details: see -re, -er

travelling (UK) <-> traveling (OR travelling) (US)

Details: see -ll-, -l-

fulfil (UK) <-> fulfill (OR fulfil) (US)

Details: see -l-, -ll-

dialogue (UK) <-> dialogue (OR dialog) (US)

Details: see -logue, -log

organise (OR organize) (UK) <-> organize (US)

Details: see -ise, -ize

analyse (UK) <-> analyze (US)

Details: see -yse, -yze

defence (UK) <-> defense (US)

Details: see -ce, -se

anaesthesia (UK) <-> anesthesia (US)

Details: see -oe-/-ae-, -e-

tyre, aluminium, apprenticeship programme (UK) <-> tire, aluminum, internship program (US)

Details: see Other

-our, -or[edit]

UK                                 US                      
arbour                             arbor
ardour                             ardor
armour                             armor
armoury                            armory
behaviour                          behavior
behavioural                        behavioral
behaviourism                       behaviorism
belabour                           belabor
candour                            candor
clamour                            clamor
colour                             color
coloration (OR colouration)        coloration
demeanour                          demeanor
dolourous                          dolorous
enamour                            enamor
endeavour                          endeavor
favour                             favor
favourable                         favorable
favourite                          favorite
favouritism                        favoritism
fervour                            fervor
flavour                            flavor
glamour                            glamour (OR glamor)     'glamour' is preferred
harbour                            harbor                  in US English
honour                             honor
honourable                         honorable               'glamorous', 'honorific' 
humour                             humor                   'honorary' and 'humorous' in 
labour                             labor                   British and American English!
misdemeanour                       misdemeanor
neighbour                          neighbor
odour                              odor
parlour                            parlor
rancour                            rancor
rigour                             rigor                   'rigorous'!
rumour                             rumor
saviour                            savior
savour                             savor
splendour                          splendor
succour                            succor
tumour                             tumor
tambourine                         tamborine                ?
valour                             valor
vapour                             vapor
vigour                             vigor

CANADIAN usage: -our as in UK English (colour, favour, honour)

-re, -er[edit]

UK                                 US

calibre                            caliber (OR calibre)
centilitre                         centiliter
centimetre                         centimeter
centre                             center
centred                            centered
centring                           centering
decilitre                          deciliter
decimetre                          decimeter
epicentre                          epicenter
fibre                              fiber (OR fibre)
goitre                             goiter
kilometre                          kilometer
lacklustre                         lackluster
litre                              liter
lustre                             luster
meagre                             meager (OR meagre)
meter (device)                     meter (device)
metre (unit of length)             meter (unit of length)
micrometre                         micrometer
millilitre                         milliliter
millimetre                         millimeter
mitre                              miter (OR mitre)
mitred                             mitered (OR mitred)
philtre                            philter (OR philtre)
reconnoitre                        reconnoiter (OR reconnoitre)
reconnoitred                       reconnoitered (OR reconnoitred)
reconnoitring                      reconnoitering (OR reconnoitring)
sabre                              saber (OR sabre)
saltpetre                          saltpeter
sceptre                            scepter
sceptred                           sceptered
sepulchre                          sepulchre (OR sepulcher)
spectre                            specter (OR spectre)
theatre                            theater (OR theatre)               'theatre' is very common
                                                                      in US English

CANADIAN usage: -re, as in UK English (centre, fibre, kilometre)

-ll-, -l-[edit]

UK                                 US

cancellation                       cancellation (OR cancelation)        Spellings like travelling,
cancelled                          canceled (OR cancelled)              labelled, modelling are
cancelling                         canceling (OR cancelling)            not very common, but
counsellor                         counselor (OR counsellor)            acceptable in US English
equalled                           equaled (OR equalled)
equalling                          equaling (OR equalling)
dialler (OR dialer)                dialer
dialling                           dialing (OR dialling)
fuelled                            fueled (OR fuelled)
fuelling                           fueling (OR fuelling)
labelled                           labeled (OR labelled)
labelling                          labeling (OR labelling)
marvellous                         marvelous (OR marvellous)
modelled                           modeled (OR modelled)
modelling                          modeling (OR modelling)
quarrelled                         quarreled (OR quarrelled)
quarrelling                        quarreling (OR quarrelling)
signalled                          signaled (OR signalled)
signalling                         signaling (OR signalling)
tranquillity (OR tranquility)      tranquillity (OR tranquility)
travelled                          traveled (OR travelled)
travelling                         traveling (OR travelling)
woollen                            woolen (OR woollen)

CANADIAN usage: -ll-, as in UK English (counsellor, labelled, travelling)

-l-, -ll-[edit]

UK                                 US

enrol                              enroll (OR enrol)            Spellings like fulfilment and enrol
enrolment                          enrollment                   are not very common, but acceptable 
fulfil                             fulfill (OR fulfil)          in US English
fulfilment                         fulfillment (OR fulfilment)
install (OR instal)                install (OR instal)
instalment                         installment (OR instalment)
skilful                            skillful
wilful                             willful (OR wilful)

-logue, -log[edit]

UK                                 US

analogue                           analogue (OR analog)
catalogue                          catalog (OR catalogue)     'catalogue' is also common     
dialogue                           dialogue (OR dialog)       in U.S. English
monologue                          monologue (OR monolog)
prologue                           prologue (OR prolog)       'analog' and 'dialog' are sometimes
travelogue                         travelogue (OR travelog)   found in British English sources, but                               
                                                              only in a technical context

-ise, -ize[edit]

Important: Both -ise and -ize can be used in UK English. Contrary to widespread belief, -ize is NOT an Americanism. Read more...

UK                                 US

apologise (OR apologize)           apologize
emphasise (OR emphasize)           emphasize                 In UK English, -ise spellings
colonise (OR colonize)             colonize                  are more common. 
globalisation (OR globalization)   globalization             
maximise (OR maximize)             maximize                  The OED prefers -ize.
organisation (OR organization)     organization
privatisation (OR privatization)   privatization
realise (OR realize)               realize                   
recognise (OR recognize)           recognize
recognisable (OR recognizable)     recognizable
standardise (OR standardize)       standardize
            .                           .
            .                           .
            .                           .
     -ise (OR -ize)                   -ize

The following words always end in -ise: advertise, advise, apprise, arise, chastise, 
circumcise, comprise, compromise, demise, despise, devise, disguise, enfranchise, enterprise, 
excise, exercise, franchise, improvise, incise, merchandise, premise, revise, supervise, 
surmise, surprise, televise...

CANADIAN usage: generally -ize instead of -ise.

-yse, -yze[edit]

The -yse/-yze ending is a different case! In UK English, the ending is always -yse. In US English, the ending is always -yze.

UK                                 US

analyse                            analyze
analysing                          analyzing
breathalyser                       breathalyzer
catalyse                           catalyze
catalysing                         catalyzing
dialyser                           dialyzer
hydrolyse                          hydrolyze
hydrolysing                        hydrolyzing
paralyse                           paralyze
paralysing                         paralyzing
photolyse                          photolyze
photolysing                        photolyzing

CANADIAN usage: -yze is preferred

-ce, -se[edit]

UK                                 US

defence                            defense
licence (noun)                     license (OR licence) (noun)            'to licence' is wrong.
license (verb)                     license (verb)
offence                            offense
practice (noun)                    practice (noun)
practise (verb)                    practice (OR practise) (verb)
pretence                           pretense (OR pretence)

-oe-/-ae-, -e-[edit]

UK                                 US

aeon (OR eon)                      aeon (OR eon)
aesthetic                          aesthetic (OR esthetic)
amoeba                             amoeba (OR ameba)
anaemia                            anemia
anaesthesia                        anesthesia
archaeology                        archaeology (OR archeology)
caesium                            cesium
diarrhoea                          diarrhea
encyclopedia (OR encyclopaedia)    encyclopedia
faeces                             feces (OR faeces)
foetus (OR fetus)                  fetus                    According to the Concise Oxford English                     
gonorrhoea                         gonorrhea                Dictionary, "fetus" is an acceptable
gynaecology                        gynecology               variant in British English, especially 
haemoglobin                        hemoglobin               in technical use.
haemophilia                        hemophilia               UK medical journals prefer "fetus".
haemorrhage                        hemorrhage
homeopathy (OR homoeopathy)        homeopathy
ischaemic                          ischemic
leukaemia                          leukemia
manoeuvre                          maneuver                 
manoeuvring                        maneuvering
medieval (OR mediaeval)            medieval (OR mediaeval)  
oedema                             edema
oenology                           oenology (OR enology)
oesophagus                         esophagus
oestrogen                          estrogen
orthopaedic                        orthopedic
paediatrics                        pediatrics
paedophile                         pedophile
palaeontology                      paleontology


UK                                 US

ageing (OR aging)                  aging (OR ageing)       preferred international (IUPAC)
aluminium                          aluminum                spelling is 'aluminium'
carburettor (OR carburetter)       carburetor
cheque (only noun!)                check                   'to check' and 'to curb'!
dreamt (OR dreamed)                dreamed (OR dreamt)
grey                               gray (OR grey)          'grey' is very common
kerb (only noun!)                  curb                    in US English
leapt (OR leaped)                  leaped (OR leapt)
learnt (OR learned)                learned
maths                              math
mould                              mold (OR mould)
mouldering                         moldering
moulding                           molding
mouldy                             moldy (OR mouldy)
moult                              molt
moustache                          mustache (OR moustache)
mum                                mom                     
programme (but: computer program)  program                 UK English: training programme,
pyjamas                            pajamas                 television programme, research programme
sceptical                          skeptical
spelt (OR spelled)                 spelled
storey (a storey of a building)    story
storeyed                           storied
sulphur                            sulfur (OR sulphur)     preferred international (IUPAC)  
tyre (as in "car tyre")            tire                    spelling is 'sulfur'


  • Irish English spelling is virtually identical to UK English spelling.

  • Australian English spelling is very close to UK English spelling. The standard reference for Australian English spelling: Macquarie Dictionary. -> labour, centre, travelling, fulfil, dialogue, analyse, defence, tyre, aluminium, training programme/program. However, note that the Australian Labor Party uses the American spelling of its name due to an American influence in the early days of the party and distinguish it from the labour movement. While -ise and -ize, and -yse and -yze might be interchangeable in UK English, -ise and -yse are standardised in Australian English. Some of Australia's media publications have flirted with some American spelling norms until around 2007, but have since reverted to the UK English spelling norms after widespread complaints from its readers.

  • Canadian English spelling uses both UK and US English spellings. In Canadian English -ize and -yze are preferred to -ise and -yse. The standard reference for Canadian English spelling is the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. -> labour, centre, travelling, fulfill, dialogue, analyze, defence, tire, aluminum, training program

Proper names[edit]

Proper names should retain their original spellings. Examples:

  • Rockefeller Center
  • Australian Defence Force
  • World Trade Organization
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
  • International Labour Organization
  • International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes
  • World Food Programme
  • International Color Consortium
  • Pearl Harbor
  • Victoria Harbour

Online Dictionaries[edit]

Oxford Dictionaries - Robust Oxford Dictionary of British/American English and other Languages
Cambridge Dictionaries Online
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
Macquarie Dictionary - Australia's National Dictionary Online Most UK to US Spellings(Above 1700links)Media: