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Differences between American and British English - PT. 2

Published Monday, July 04, 2005

The United States and United Kingdom are "two countries divided by a common language".
George Bernard Shaw

This week we will look at the spelling differences between American English (God bless America) and British English (God save the Queen).
Last week the reasons was explained for the differences between the American English and British English. So, this week you might ask: what causes the differences in spellings?
Well, even though the English language originated in Britain, it is said that dictionary makers drove the American spelling changes. According to Wikipedia:
Noah Webster wrote the first American dictionary in 1828. At the time America was a relatively new country and Webster's particular contribution was to show that the region spoke a different dialect from Britain, and so he wrote a dictionary with many spellings differing from the standard. Webster initiated many of these changes unilaterally.

In spite of Americans changing things in order to be different from the British the English spelling rules (and for any different variety of the English language) are complex, with many exceptions. You can however, check your spellings by; spell check the document if it is electronic, ask someone you trust to review your written document, re-read the written document carefully for errors, use a dictionary (most dictionaries contain the spelling of its derivatives: plural forms and participles and even the correct pronunciation of the word) and finally, learn the basic spelling rules of spelling. It is important to point out that, if you are using the British English make sure you use a British English dictionary and likewise, if you are using the American English make sure also that you use an American English dictionary. It is important to be consistent with the use of the same word if there is a difference in spelling. Remember, whatever English you are using make sure to keep the preferences of who you will be writing for in mind and that it is the appropriate form to use. This you will find necessary if you write, travel, live, work and study in other countries that use its own preference of the variety of the English language.

The list below is showing a general spelling differences between the American and British English. The list is placed in alphabetical order and is not comprehensive. Further down you will see another group of lists, highlighting some of the changes that cause the differences in spelling.

American                           British

aging ageing
aluminum aluminium
analog analogue
analyze analyse
annex annexe
anymore any more
argument arguement
ass arse
artifact artefact
ax /axe axe

behoove behove
B.S. B.Sc.
buret, burette burette

carburetor carburettor
check cheque
cipher cypher
clamor clamour
color colour
connection connection/
criticize criticise
defense defence
diarrhea diarrhoea
disk disc
dispatch despatch
donut/ doughnut doughnut
draft draught
Dr. Dr(no full stop)

emphasize emphasise
encyclopedia encyclopedia

favor favour
fetus foetus
flutist flautist
forever for ever
fulfill/fulfil fulfil
furor furore

gauge, gage gauge
glycerin glycerine
gonorrhea gonorrhoea
gray grey

harbor harbour
harmonize harmonise
hauler haulier
hemorrhage haemorrhage
homeopathy homoeopathy
humor humour

initialize initialise
installment instalment

jewelry jewellery
judgment judgement

kilometer kilometre

learned learnt/learned
license licence(noun)
loath loth

math maths
mold mould
molt moult
mom(my) mum(my)

neighbor neighbour
net net/nett
(amt.of money)
neuron neurone

offense offence
omelet, omelette omelette
organization organisation
optimize optimise

pajamas pyjamas
peddler pedlar
pediatrics peadiatrics
pedophile peadophile
persnickety pernickety
plow plough
program programme


rancor rancour
realize realise
recognize recognise
rigor rigour

savior saviour
scalawag scallywag
shivaree charivari
skeptic(ism/al) sceptic(ism/al)
smelled smelt/smelled
snicker snigger
specialty speciality
story storey
sulfur sulphur

theater theatre
tidbit titbit
tire tyre
toward towards
traveling/travelling travelling

uh, um er, erm

vigor vigour
vise vice
visualize visualise

wagon waggon
woolen woollen


yogurt yoghurt


Some of the changes that cause the differences
in spelling.

The change of compound consonants into simple

American British
check (bank) cheque
draft (ship’s) draught
plow plough
vial phial

The omission of a redundant “e”
American British
asphalt asphalte
ax axe
good-by goodbye
story (of a house) storey

The change of terminal “-re” into “-er”
American British
center centre
fiber fibre
meter metre
theater theatre

The omission of unaccented foreign terminations.
American British
catalog catalogue
envelop envelope
program programme
prolog prologue

The omission of the penultimate u in words ending
in “-our”

American British
behavior behaviour
color colour
flavor flavour
honor honour
neighbor neighbour
odor odour

The omission of u when combined with “a” or “o”

American British
mold mould
mustache moustache
stanch staunch

The change of “o” into “a”
American British
naught nought
slug (verb) slog
slush slosh

The conversion of decayed diphthongs into simple
American British
anemia anaemia
encyclopedia encyclopeadia
hemorrhage haemorrhage
medieval mediaeval

The change of “e” into “i”
American British
inclose enclose
indorse endorse
inquire enquire

The reduction of duplicate consonants to single
American British
councilor councillor
jewelry jewellery
fagot faggot
wagon waggon

The change of “c” into “s”
American British
defense defence
offense offence
pretense pretence
vise (a tool) vice

The substitution of “s” for “z”
American British
advertisement advertizement
fuse fuze
organization organization

The substitution of “k” for “c”
American British
mollusk mollusc
skeptic sceptic

The substitution of “y” for “i”

American British
dryly drily
gypsy gipsy
The change of y into “a“, “ia” or “i”
American British
baritone barytone
cider cyder
pajamas pajamas
siren syren
tire (noun) tyre

The substitution of “ct” for “x”
American British
connection connexion
inflection inflexion

The insertion of a supernumerary “e”
American                          British
forego forgo
foregather forgather

-ed vs. -t
verbs that use “-ed” or “-t “for the simple past
and past participle.

(These forms do not exist for every verb.
The British also use “ed” for the past tense.
There are also other variation).

American British
dreamed dreamt
leaped leapt
learned learnt
Related articles:
English Idioms - English phrases and their meanings
Latin Abbreviations and their English meaning
Languages by Countries
Differences between American and British English - PT. 1

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At 6:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...
At 5:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

jail (american) vs gaol (british)

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