Check vs. cheque

In American English, check is the standard spelling of the noun referring to a written order for a bank to pay a specified amount from deposited funds. Outside the U.S., the word is spelled cheque. But cheque is confined to this very narrow banking-related sense. All varieties of English use check for the many non-banking-related senses of the word—including (1) a restraint, (2) a pattern of small squares, (3) to halt, and (3) to inspect for accuracy or correctness.


In American English, the word for the piece of paper representing a specified amount of money is check—for example:

He later received a check for 100 pounds from John Lennon in reimbursement. [Miami Herald]

So he wrote a check for $20,000 and returned to his life in New York. [New York Times]

Outside the U.S., it’s cheque—for example:

If an organisation is open and keen to invite a client to engage beyond their cheque book, a relationship of trust is developed. [Guardian]

The charges relate to the use of a bank card and cheque book over an eight-year period. [New Zealand Herald]

And throughout the English-speaking world, check is used for all senses of the word unrelated to banking—for example:

On Monday an 88-year-old Chifley resident was targeted by a man claiming he was there to check the sewerage. [The Canberra Times]

But when she tried to check in with US Airways, the airline demanded a further $60 to check in her bags. [Telegraph]

It seems he wants to keep his bravado in check. [Toronto Star]

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