British Spelling

Differences between British and U.S. Spellings

The Internet has made it possible for students in Sydney, Australia, to be taught by a teacher in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. No problem, right? After all, they both speak English. Well, sometimes spelling differences can become an issue. There are many words that are spelled differently in Canada, England, Australia, and other countries that teach “British” English than they are in the United States.

Colour or Color?

When learning to spell, the differences between British. and U.S. English come to the forefront. The following sentence is incorrect in Kansas but correct in Toronto, London, Hong Kong, or Melbourne:

My little sister loves to colour.

British – U.S. Spelling Lists

To accommodate these spelling differences, VocabularySpellingCity had added several lists of British spelling words and their corresponding U.S. spelling words.

These lists can assist teachers and parents who would like to show their students the differences in spelling.

What are the Differences?

Why are there differences? There are many theories from both sides of the Atlantic, but most ascribe the variant spelling to cultural development and different historical experiences. Here are some of these differences:

  • In British English, words that end in –re often end in -er in U.S. English. theatre; theater
  • In British English, words that end in –our usually end in –or in U.S. English. favour; favor
  • In British English, some nouns that end with –ogue end with –og in U.S. English. dialogue; dialog
  • In British English, some nouns that end with –ence are spelled with –ense in U.S. English. defence; defense
  • In British English, verbs that can end with either –ize or –ise, always end with –ize in U.S. English. magnetise; magnetize

Want More British Spelling?

VocabularySpellingCity encourages teachers, parents, and students to request the addition of any other British spelling words they would like to see in the database. As of June 1, 2009, these are the words with British spelling that we have in our database:

aluminium; analyse; apologised; authorise; calibre; candour; categorise; centre; characterisation; characterise; cheque; colour; computerised; cosy; crystallise; defence; diarrhoea; dramatise; encyclopaedia; epitomise; equalise; favour; favourite; fertilise; fervour; fibre; flavour; furore; glamourize; globalisation; grey; harbour; harmonise; honour; humour; jeopardise; jewellery; judgement; licence; litres; magnetise; manoeuvre; marvellous; materialise; maths; metre; mould; moult; organise; oxidise; parlour; plough; practise; privatise; programme; realise; recognise; reorganise; rumour; socialise; standardise; theatre; theorise; unfavourable; urbanisation; valour; vapour; waggon.

Members are free to add their own words as well. If a word is added that is not part of our database, you will be prompted to add the word, along with a sentence and definition. Any new words added will be spoken in a synthetic (computer-generated voice).

“British” Spelling – Would you like to help us?

For those of you in Canada, Wales, New Zealand, South Africa and any other country that teaches British spelling, please accept our use of the term “British” or “UK” spelling. It is just our way of differentiating from the way words are spelled, or spelt, in the States. We found the term “non-American” spelling awkward. Is there a preferred term that you can suggest to us?

Here are a few of the countries that use non-American spelling. If you would like your flag added, please send us an e-mail. And if you can suggest better terminology than we are using on this page or further enlighten us about the why and what are the differences, please share it with us on the forum or in an e-mail. Beware (or be aware), we are eager to enrich this page, so we welcome your suggestions.

VocabularySpellingCity originally added words spelled with British spellings in this format (using the word colour as an example): Colour is the British spelling of the word color. We are considering whether it would be better to just use the sentence that we originally composed for the word color: What color is your hair? Any opinions? Feel free to contact us any time!