Favorite vs. favourite

Favorite and favourite are different spellings of the same word. Favorite is the preferred spelling in the U.S., while favourite is preferred in all the other main varieties of English. These preferences extend to all derivatives, including favorites/favourites, favoritism/favouritism, and favorited/favourited.

Favourite has been the preferred spelling in British English for several centuries, but this does not mean that favorite is a late arrival to the language or even American in origin. In fact, the OED lists instances of favorite from as long ago as the 17th century. Milton used it in Paradise Lost and, and William Wordsworth used it around 1800 (and many more examples are easily found in historical Google Books searches). The preference for favourite was not well established in British English until the first half of the 19th century, which, as the below ngram shows, is around the same time Americans settled on what is now their spelling:

This ngram graphs the occurrence of favorite and favourite in a large number of American texts published between 1800 and 2000:

Examples

These U.S. publications spell favorite without the u:

He even once agreed to have a bull session over milkshakes with Vice Magazine, which noted his favorite flavor is chocolate. [Salon]

Windward School is showing why it was a big favorite to win the Southern Section Division 4AA crown. [Los Angeles Times]

Sheen’s favorite women seem to be 20-years-younger prostitutes, but women keep tuning in. [New York Daily News]

A new Mardi Gras parade group named after Chewbacca will give sci-fi fans a chance to break out their favorite intergalactic costumes. [Wired]

And these non-U.S. publication use favourite:

A mother trashed a cake shop after being told they had run out of her favourite flavour of cupcake. [Daily Mail]

The 45-year-old radio talk show host was a clear favourite among Island voters. [Vancouver Sun]

For Melburnians who leave behind the city’s bars and laneways in search of new experiences on foreign shores, favourite-food cravings are familiar. [Sydney Morning Herald]

It opened just a few weeks ago in what used to be Odyssey restaurant and, by the time I visited, already seemed to be a firm local favourite. [Liverpool Echo]

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