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Speciality vs. specialty

In general usage, specialty and speciality are very closely related and often interchangeable. English reference books say various things about them, but in general writers tend to treat them as if they’re the same word. Specialty is more common in American, Canadian, and Australian English (which is surprising, because Australian English usually follows British), and it’s usually a noun meaning something in which a person or business specializes. Speciality is more common in British English, and it’s often an adjective (as in the phrases specialty store and specialty products).

Examples

Speciality (U.K.)


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Mr Walgren said that, at the time of Jackson’s death, Dr Murray was not certified in any medical speciality. [Telegraph]

One of the guinea pigs for Nest has been a small speciality chemical manufacturer from Preston. [BBC]

Our host, Calogero, duly piled the table high with varieties of another local speciality: fresh goat’s cheese. [Guardian]

Specialty (everywhere else)

His specialty is “generational accounting,” which was the issue that kicked off the TV debate. [Star-Ledger]

Craft and specialty beers are keeping the domestic beer industry afloat. [Vancouver Sun]

Find a pub with tables outside and sit down to watch the world go by over a stein of beer or an apfelwein, a local specialty. [Sydney Morning Herald]

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Comments

  1. Hmm, I’m Australian and I use ‘speciality’ more than I use ‘specialty’…if a noun, I’d always use it like this: ‘It’s a speciality of mine’…I’d never say ‘It’s a specialty of mine’…that doesn’t sound right, (or commonly Australian) to me…but as an adjective, (‘specialty products’, ‘specialty area’), yes the ‘American’ one sounds right in common Australian English…I could be wrong, but it’s my experience as a native Aussie anyway :)…

  2. It also is quality (as in a quality or feature of something) driven how spciality is used. For instance, if a gem class has something distinct about it that differentiates it from all other gem classes, one might say it is the speciality of that gem class (or gem). A smoky quartz’s “specialty characteristic” or “speciality” is that it is cheap enough and has a geochemical structure conducive enough to be used to train lapidaries (gem cutters). In this way, the smoky quartz is unique and distinct. Its speciality is that it is used to train the lapidary. Some people use “specialty characteristic” interchangeably with “speciality.” While this type of usage may be rare, and even jargon, I have seen it used in various industries to distinguish products, both natural and manmade. I also have heard it use in family. Each child has their speciality. In other words, specialty is something that is done or offered. Speciality is a characteristic, typically innate (but sometimes developed). In this way, the words are distinct. In all other ways, they are interchangeable.

  3. In the medical profession in Australia, and in particular for physicians, the word Specialty is universally used and Speciality is not. Physicians are skilled in Specialties and Sub-specialties.

  4. steven_noble says:

    There are many cases where Australian English is closer to American English than to British English. Most of us use ‘jail’ not ‘gaol’. We’ve long used ‘million’ to mean ‘one thousand million’ as per the US, not “a million million” as was the standard in the UK until recently. Etc etc.

    • Raphael Krausz says:

      Actually, “gaol” was the dominant spelling until relatively recently. I blame newspapers who with the age of computerisation didn’t have localised spell checkers for a long time. “Jail” seems to now be the correct by default.

      I think you mean billion – as in either long or short forms. This is /not/ to do with the UK/US divide at all. It has to do with the short scale and long scale numbering systems. OK, well maybe it does have – either way, the UK changed their default scale from long to short in 1974 (around the time of my birth).

      Growing up I was taught “GAOL” and billion = 10^12 (a one with 12 zeros). I think with the other dominant forms of English in imported media using language differently, we followed suit.

      Personally, I think it would have been better for everyone if we used milliard rather than billion for 10^9. But too late now – just gotta be happy.

      What is offensive though, is when the author says “which is surprising, because Australian English usually follows British” – Australia is it’s own country and sets it’s own language standards for itself. Like all languages and dialects, it has the right to, and will, change over time. That’s why it’s called “Australian English” – an English which contributes back to other English dialects too.

      The Macquarie dictionary is the de-facto reference. The author’s statement is ludicrous.

  5. Michael Graves says:

    Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid): “Get help. You’re no match for him. He’s a Sith Lord.”
    Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor): “Chancellor Palpatine, Sith Lords are our speciality.”

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