Sharing research and ideas on Linguistics, Applied Linguistics and ELT (English Language Teaching)

Differences between British, Canadian and American Spelling 

by Karen Bond


This list is very much a work-in-progress.  If you find any inaccuracies, or can think of any words or spellings that I have omitted, please email me at teacherkarenb @ hotmail.com.   If you are looking for a specific word in Canadian or American English, please go to Edit, then Find.  

Canadian English generally follows British spelling, but often the American alternative is possible too.  The most commonly used spelling, where applicable, is marked with an asterisk (*).  

Australian English also generally follows the British tradition.


British

Canadian

American

acknowledgement

acknowledgement*, acknowledgment

acknowledgment, acknowledgement

ageing, aging

aging*, ageing*

aging

aeroplane

airplane

airplane

aesthetics

aesthetics

aesthetics, esthetics

aluminium

aluminum

aluminum

among, amongst among*, amongst among
amortise amortize amortize
anaemia anemia anemia

anaesthesia

anaesthesia*, anesthesia

anesthesia

analogue analogue analogue, analog
analyse analyze*, analyse analyze
annex, annexe annex annex
apnoea apnea apnea

apologise*, apologize

apologize

apologize

archaeology

archaeology*, archeology

archaeology, archeology

armour armour*, armor armor
artefact artifact artifact
authorise*, authorize authorize authorize

axe

axe

ax, axe

balk*, baulk balk balk
banister*, bannister banister*, bannister banister
behaviour behaviour behavior
behove behoove behoove
blonde (for female) blonde*, blond* blond, blonde
B.Sc. B.Sc. B.S.
burette burette*, buret buret, burette

burnt, burned

burned*, burnt*

burned, burnt

bussed, bussing bused, busing bused, busing
Caesarean Caesarian*, Cesarean, Cesarian Cesarean, Caesarean
calibre calibre caliber

cancelled

cancelled

canceled, cancelled

candour candour candor
capitalise capitalize capitalize
carburettor carburetor*, carburettor carburetor

catalogue

catalogue

catalog(ue)

catalyse catalyze*, catalyse catalyze

centre

centre

center

cheque (noun, money)

cheque

check

chequered

checkered

checkered

chilli*, chili chili chili
cigarette cigarette cigarette, cigaret
clamour clamour clamor
collectable *, collectible collectible collectible

colour

colour*, color

color

connection*, connexion connection connection
convenor convenor convener

cosy

cozy

cozy

counsellor

counsellor*, counselor

counselor

criticise*, criticize

criticize

criticize

curb (verb) curb curb
customize, customise customize customize
demeanour demeanour demeanor
dependant (a person who relies on another person, especially for financial support) dependant dependent

defence

defence*, defense

defense

dialling, dialled dialing, dialed; dialling, dialled dialing, dialed

dialogue

dialogue

dialog(ue)

diarrhoea

diarrhea

diarrhea

dietician*, dietitian dietitian*, dietician dietitian*, dietician,
dispatch*, despatch dispatch dispatch

doughnut

doughnut, donut

donut, doughnut

Dr (A contracted form of a word, ending with the same letter as the full form, is not followed by a full stop).

Dr.

Dr.

draught (current of air)

draft

draft

dreamt, dreamed

dreamt*, dreamed*

dreamed, dreamt

emphasise

emphasize

emphasize

encyclopedia*, encyclopædia encyclopedia encyclopedia
endeavour endeavour endeavor

enquiry*, inquiry

inquiry*, enquiry

inquiry

enrol

enrol

enroll

favour

favour

favor

favourite favourite favorite

fibre

fibre

fiber

fibre optics fiber optics, fibre optics (used by the Canadian government only) fiber optics
finalize, finalise finalize finalize

flautist

flutist*, flautist

flutist

flavour

flavour

flavor

focused, focusing or focussed, focussing focused, focusing or focussed, focussing focused, focusing
foetus*, fetus fetus fetus
forever*, for ever forever forever
fuelling fuelling fueling

fulfil

fulfil

fulfill, fulfil

galvanise galvanize galvanize
gaol (old fashioned),  jail* jail jail
gauge gauge gauge, gage
gemmology gemmology gemology
generalise generalize generalize

glamour

glamour

glamour, glamor

gonorrhoea gonorrhea gonorrhea

grey

grey

gray

gynaecology gynecology*, gynaecology gynecology

haemorrhage

hemorrhage

hemorrhage

harbour

harbour

harbor

harmonise*, harmonize harmonize harmonize

haulier

hauler

hauler

homeopathy*, homoeopathy homeopathy homeopathy

honour

honour

honor

humour humour humor
initialise initialize initialize
instalment instalment*, installment installment
jail*, gaol (old fashioned) jail jail

jewellery

jewellery*, jewelry

jewelry

judgment*, judgement

judgment*, judgement

judgment

kerb (noun)

curb

curb

kilometre kilometre kilometer
label, labelled, labelling label, labelled, labelling label, labeled, labeling

labour

labour

labor

lasagne lasagna lasagna

leant, leaned

leaned

leaned

learnt, learned

learned*, learnt*

learned

licence (noun) licence license
license (verb) license*, licence license

litre

litre

liter

lustre lustre luster

manoeuvre

manoeuvre*, maneuver

maneuver

marvellous marvellous marvelous
maximise*, maximize maximize maximize
meagre meagre meager

metre (unit of length)

metre

meter

modelled modelled modeled
modelling modelling modeling

mould

mould

mold

moustache moustache*, mustache mustache, moustache
mum, mummy mum, mummy*, mom, mommy mom, mommy

neighbour

neighbour

neighbor

net, nett (amount of money) net net
ochre ochre ocher
odour odour*, odor odor
oedema, edema edema edema
oesophagus*, esophagus esophagus esophagus
oestrogen*, estrogen estrogen estrogen

offence

offence*, offense

offense

omelette

omelette*, omelet

omelet, omelette

organisation*, organization

organization

organization

organise organize organize
optimise*, optimize optimize optimize
orientate orient orient
orientated oriented oriented
orthopaedic orthopaedic*, orthopedic orthopedic
pædiatrics pediatrics pediatrics
paedophile*, pedophile pedophile pedophile
paralyse paralyze*, paralyse paralyze

parlour

parlour

parlor

parallelling, parallelled

paralleling, paralleled

paralleling, paralleled

peddler*, pedlar

peddler*, pedlar

peddler

penalise, penalisation penalize, penalization penalize, penalization

pleaded

pleaded

pleaded, pled

plough

plow*, plough

plow

practise (verb)

practise*, practice

practice

practice (noun)

practice

practice

pretence

pretense*, pretence

pretense

programme (TV), program (computer)

program*, programme

program

pyjamas

pyjamas

pajamas

rancour rancour rancor

realise*, realize

realize

realize

recognise*, recognize recognize recognize
rigour rigour rigor
rumour rumour rumor
sabre sabre saber
saleable saleable saleable, salable
saviour saviour savior

savour

savour

savor

sceptical

sceptical*, skeptical

skeptical

signalling signalling signaling

skilful

skilful*, skillful

skillful, skilful

slipped disc slipped disc slipped disk

smelt, smelled

smelled

smelled

snorkelling snorkelling snorkeling

speciality

specialty*, speciality

specialty

standardise, standardisation standardize, standardization standardize, standardization

sulphur

sulphur*, sulfur

sulfur

theatre

theatre

theater

theatregoer

theatregoer

theatergoer

titbit

tidbit

tidbit

towards toward*, towards toward, towards (unusual)

travelling

travelling

traveling, travelling

tumour tumour tumor

tyre

tire

tire

valour valour valor
vapour vapour vapor

vice (the device)

vice

vise, vice

vigour vigour vigor
visualise*, visualize visualize visualize
wagon*, waggon wagon wagon
woollen woollen*, woolen woolen
yogurt*, yoghurt, yoghourt yogourt*, yoghurt, yogurt yogurt*, yoghurt, yoghourt

 

Please feel free to email me at teacherkarenb @ hotmail.com with any comments or queries.

©Karen Bond 2001-2009. All rights reserved.