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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


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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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Comments

  1. Very useful post. Thank you.

  2. llkjdsfkjlsdfjlkfds says:

    It’s FAVORITE….lol. It just sounds so silly spelling it “favourite” UGH!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Shoelock Codemaster Holmes says:

    Honestly, I like ‘favourite’ better, as well as ‘colour’ and other words of the same category. I live in the U.S., and I think it’s PERFECTLY FINE to spell it that way even when there’s a dashed red line under the above words that I typed a while ago(favourite and colour).

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree, I used to type favourite all the time until the day I realized that everyone spelled it favorite….favorite without the “u” just seems like there’s something missing. :P

  4. What’s your favourite colour? HEHEHEHEHEH

  5. DoctorInTheTardis says:

    Since I am Canadian and we usually add the u in there that is the way it looks the best to me. When I see it spelled favorite I tend to break it up and read it as fav-o-right. The word confuses me without the u. I assume I am saying it wrong. Where as favourite, I world pronounce “favour-rit” which I suppose to Americans that would be weird too because of the u.

  6. Tell that to George Lucas. In Return of the Jedi, Jaba the Hut uses the word and in the sub title they use “favourite” referring to his favorite decoration……. Han Solo.

  7. Jayson Wan says:

    At least I know my brain’s working when spelling!

  8. Marcus Clements says:

    Americans have managed to over – simplify a language that
    has been developing rather well for over a thousand years – I was going to say
    vulgarise, but I thought that might be provocative.

    • Simplification is a development. The English language generally is clearly not “original,” whatever that means. Using the term “vulgarize” would be inaccurate, not provocative.

  9. Buddy Sam says:

    It is very useful information. Even, now I’m gonna ask my professor of communication skills that,
    what’s the difference between them. :)

  10. mare horse says:

    techincally, english originates from england. therefore, favourite is the “correct” spelling

    • So people in Mexico who speak Mexican Spanish are wrong about their dialect because it’s not the same as how the Spanish in Spain speak it? What about the dozens of other Spanish dialects?

  11. Amy Johnson says:

    I am American and I am from the south. You all is spelled you all. It is pronounced differently in the south but it is not correctly spelled in all those other ways. Y’all & Ya’ll and all the other variations are incorrect spellings of the words ‘You All’. That is a fairly simple concept to understand but unfortunately we have more than a few IQ challenged folks down here, just look at where our primary education ratings are. And there is nothing wrong with the word favourite. I’ve seen it in books all my life. It doesn’t matter what country we are in BOTH spellings are correct. Saying it is UGH!!! is another example of someone being IQ challenged. Favorite and Favourite are both nice words. There isn’t anything wrong with either of them. Why would people think such nonsense?

  12. thanks

  13. Phil McConnochie says:

    favourite feels right , favorite? ughhhh gross american crap

  14. bhaskarmudam vbr says:

    “U” in favourite obviously mean ur very own .. favoured one .. where as favorite simply assume as the one which other “excluding ” ” U ” may have chosen to like it.

  15. iitoxicminded says:

    I’m american and I only use British spelling cause I’m the british weeaboo, or so called “tea-aboo”

  16. The English complain simply because their lack of understanding the origins in which their own words come from. The word “favorite or favourits” first off originated as a Latin word which started off with the beginning letters “favor”. So the Americans took the word and spelled it as it was originally spelled and changed the ending. This dates back to the late 16th century. Where as England took the word as well and added the “U” because their pronunciation with words has more of a hint of a French type sounding influence dating back to the early 17th century then the Americans did. So really their both wrong if you wanna get technical about it. But between the two the Americans actual have the more correct spelling of it and according to the earliest recordings found, the Americans also used the Latin word before the English as well by a small margin. But neither can take claim of its origin considering its a Latin word not English.

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