Ageing vs. aging

  • For the past participle and gerund corresponding to the verb age, American and Canadian writers use aging. Ageing is the preferred spelling outside North America. The dropping of the e in American and Canadian English does not extend to ageism (meaning discrimination based on age), which is the preferred spelling everywhere.



    For example, these major publications use the preferred American and Canadian spelling of aging:


    We need promotional campaigns to make aging seem more appealing to young people. [Los Angeles Times]

    Moncton officials say the city’s underground maze of aging water pipes were a factor in this week’s water main break that forced a boil order on roughly 30,000 residents. [CBC]

    Like any aging starlet, Hollywood’s annual festival of self-congratulatory excess keeps getting nipped and tucked in an attempt to remain relevant. [USA Today]

    And these British and Australian publications prefer ageing:

    A doctor who gave her sister a massive dose of an experimental anti-ageing drug which triggered a fatal allergic reaction has been struck off. [Daily Mail]

    The ageing of the population will increasingly shift the balance of power towards all employees. [Sydney Morning Herald]

    The ageing American space shuttle Discovery has arrived back on earth after its last mission to the international space station. [BBC News]


    1. “British and Australian publications prefer ageing:”

      And may I ask, who said that?

    2. I actually like the fact the writer has mentioned his/her language as American, because it has changed so much that it can be separate, it certainly has been made for simple people, now we can let the world know that English belongs to England instead of ‘British English’. If Noah Webster studied the way English people spoke in those days then he would have realised our spelling was in fact far more correct than most Americans think, it is more the way your accent has developed that makes your words seem more correct to you. P.S I apologise for calling you Americans because really you are all British through heritage.

      • snorky neederecker says

        He would have realized it, too. :) heh.

      • Nowhere does the writer state that his/her language is American. They mention American and Canadian English in their explanation using something known as a conjunction to associate English to both American and Canadian dialects. Maybe you should learn some general English grammar before making idiotic statements. Also, while the original American colonies were most definitely of British heritage, the majority of Americans are actually of Germanic decent.

      • Do they have run-on sentences over there “across the pond?” Also, don’t (apologize) for calling us Americans. I’m pretty sure we kind of like it. However, you should probably remember who you’re calling simple because you might be speaking German these days if it weren’t for us. Douche.

        • Perspective Keeper says

          Did you just implore Anon to rinse or shower something?

          • douche
            a shower of water.
            “a daily douche”

            NORTH AMERICANinformal
            an obnoxious or contemptible person, typically a man.
            “that guy is such a douche”

            No, just using some good ole’ “NORTH AMERICAN informal” to convey my feelings towards the asshole. Just in case you might have the temptation to ask another question….

            vulgar slang
            the anus.
            an irritating or contemptible person.

        • JACK WILLIAMS says

          right on!

        • BartiDdu says

          “Don’t (apologize) for calling us Americans. I’m pretty sure we kind of like it.”
          “You might be speaking German these days if it weren’t for us.”
          Now I’m confused – since when have Russians ‘kind of liked’ being called Americans?

      • JACK WILLIAMS says

        Apologize, realize, and aging. USA USA!

    3. Next time I misspell something, I’ll just say I’m writing it the “British” way

    4. What is the purpose of dropping the ‘e’ with ‘ing’ in words?

      Baking: ba – king
      Bakeing: bake – ing

      Makes more sense to me to leave the ‘e’ there. Has this always been the rule?

      • I’ve always understood that you leave the E there if it modifies the final consonant. Singing vs. Singeing, for example.

        • CarolDru says

          You are correct. The American ‘aging’ is wrong on two counts. It needs an ‘e’ to make the ‘g’ hard and, without the ‘e’, it requires that, as a past participle, the ‘g’ is doubled, as in ‘agging’. The replacement of ‘colour to ‘color’, and similar words, is another irritation to me. By changing the spelling, the pronunciation has been changed as well. Slowly but surely, the American accent has reduced the sounds that enrich the spoken English language to qua-qua-qua. Reminiscent of ……? Dare I say? Webster was a bull in a china shop. Now, the rest of the English-speaking world is subjected to American spelling, courtesy of Microsoft software, with no other option. If that isn’t imperialism, then whah is?

          • Matt Dameron says

            You realize it’s the soft G that sounds like J, right? The hard G is that “guh” sound.

            • CarolDru says

              No I did not! I can only wonder why. Thank you for bringing that to my attention.

            • Note the rule that I have appended a few postings above. It is the general American Engliish rule for the pronuciation of the letter ‘g’ although, like most spelling rules for the English language world-wide, there are some obvious and glaring exceptions. The spelling of words in English reflects both pronunciation usages of different centuries (which of course changes over time) and the fact that some words adopt foreign pronunciation rules, and some become nativized. If you are obsesssed with consistent spelling rules, adopt Spanish or Italian (or even German!) as your native language — but stay far, far away from French or Russian!!)

          • Languages evolve just like cultures evolve. It happens. I don’t think you can say there is one right way and one wrong way since we all have our different opinions on how it’s done. The english language has just evolved. And with color and colour, I’ve never heard a British person say it differently then when I say color, and I don’t have a clue how changing it from colour to color, can require a pronunciation change.

            • Mike is correct. For all of the bluster about which form of modern English is spelled or spoken correctly, there is less difference between the two than either form and English spoken and spelled in the 18th century. And it changes even more the further you go back. Language evolves, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop that. Spelling itself is rather arbitrary and did not have much significance until standardization.

              There is such a thing as “correct” language, but only within the society that uses it. Since there are several societies that use forms of the English language, there is no one universally correct form. If it weren’t for the many types of global media that constantly calibrate our speech (TV, movies, internet), given enough time the English language would diverge into distinct mutually-unintelligible languages. Because we have constant contact with each other, our language remains mostly identical with only small differences (which some people love to pointlessly argue about).

              When it comes down to it, English is a poorly constructed language anyway because of its diverse origins. And it will continue to evolve, being the Lingua Franca that it is, as other cultures add their influences to it. For all we know, some day, English may use a combination of Latin and Chinese characters.

            • S.Garland says

              Such an erudite and sensible post. Thank you for bringing us back to rationism in this thread.

          • S.Garland says

            You know you can change the language settings on Microsoft software so that it reflects your particular dialect of English or Spanish, German, Swahili. Whatever. British English and American English are options that can be selected.

      • Hinging, infringing, impinging, whinging.

        Where, pray tell, was the purpose in dropping the ‘e’ with those words?

        Language is weird, just accept it. There are just as many inconsistencies in UK English as in US English.

        • Alex Knisely says

          One encounters “whingeing”, surely. I shall make a point henceforward of hingeing, infringeing, and impingeing.

      • What is the “purpose” of including this ‘e’? The imperfect American English rule is to use a “soft g” before ‘e’ and ‘i’ (gin, gem, gerund, geography, geology, geometry, gibberish) and a “hard g” before ‘a,’ ‘o’ and ‘u’ (gab, garage, game, gone, go, gobble, good, gut, gum, gun. gave) but there are also a few common inexplicable exceptions (get, gift. Gimbel’s, give, given)

    5. and the word color and colour. I don’t know which one to write. people say that it’s colour but on the computer it’s color. ????????????

    6. When I was little, I always used aging because I followed the rule “drop the e and add ing”
      But when I learnt the word at school, I learnt it as ageing… I am so confused lol. But I’d rather use correct English spelling than go by a rule. To me, the English/British spelling is the official correct spelling because, let’s face it, the language did come from there, hence residents of England being called English!
      To be honest, American spelling annoys me. Why can’t we just all use the same spelling? Life would be a whole lot easier, don’t you think? Why was the American spelling even invented? Seriously!
      Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing against Americans, but being a lover of the language and a writer, these thoughts do cross my mind.

      • CarolDru says

        I agree. If you have the energy, read my entry two comments back from yours.

      • Matt Dameron says

        Why are there speakers of Catalán instead of everyone using Spanish?

        It’s all about dialects. Neither one is wrong, no matter what anyone says.

        • Catalan is a seperate language, as different from Spanish as Italian or Portuguese. It is not a dialect. Several dialects of Catalan are spoken: on the Balearic Islands, in the mountains, and north and south of Barcelona.

      • pinkrules says

        I agree.

    7. Matt Dameron says

      Present participle, not past. The past participle is “aged”.

    8. I am British, and a language and spelling consultant.

      Many people say that English spelling is inconsistent, but it follows rules pretty consistently. Unfortunately most of us don’t know the more advanced rules, whether we’re British or American.
      Some American spellings are more logical than English ones, but there was an early 19th century spelling reform in the US (mainly resulting from Noah Webster’s personal decisions in 1807) followed by another reform 100 years later, which was very bitty and illogical and left many problems in its wake.

      Random: “and the word color and colour. I don’t know which one to write.”
      Random, the change from ‘our’ to ‘or’ endings was a fairly harmless part of the 19th century US spelling reform. You could say it’s logical, but was an unneeded change. Nowadays ‘color’ is
      the US spelling and only ‘colour’ is correct in Britain. Originally, the English had two words, ‘colour’ and ‘color’ (taken from the Old French ‘color’), but ‘color’ was used only for skin-colour
      (cf pallor, which is also used to describe skin-tone).

      Tomo: “What is the purpose of dropping the ‘e’ with ‘ing’ in words? Baking: ba – king, Bakeing: bake – ing. Makes more sense to me to leave the ‘e’ there. Has this always been the rule?”
      Tomo, it has been the rule for a few centuries. The reason is that the ‘e’ becomes unnecessary. The ‘i’ replaces the ‘e’ in its original purpose, which is to turn the preceding vowel long (the ‘a’ sound in ‘baking’ rather than the short ‘a’ sound in ‘backing’. Any vowel can turn the preceding vowel long as long as there’s only one consonant in between (vowel-consonant-vowel)..

      Matt Dameron CarolDru: “You realize it’s the soft G that sounds like J, right? The hard G is that ‘guh’ sound.”
      Matt, that is correct – to be more specific about the g/c pair:
      Soft g is the ‘j’ sound and occurs before the vowels e, i and y. (Soft c is the ‘s’ sound
      and also occurs before e, i and y.)
      Hard g is the ‘g’ sound and occurs before the vowels a, o and u. (Hard c is the
      ‘k’ sound and also occurs before a, o and u.)
      This is only a quick summary of the rule, which is a little more complicated.

      The exceptions to this rule are almost all one-syllable words in common usage. Very common words are always far more likely to break spelling rules, as are short words.

      PrismParadise: “When I was little, I always used aging because I followed the rule “drop the e and add ing”. But when I learnt the word at school, I learnt it as ageing… I am so confused lol.”
      PrismParadise, Your comment is entirely logical. There is no need to retain the ‘e’ – see the rule
      I mentioned to Tomo. (There is no danger of the word being pronounced ‘agging’ because a doubled consonant would be required to harden the ’g’.) ‘Aging’ is logical and acceptable; preferable in my mind for logical reasons. ‘Ageing’ is indeed the common spelling in Britain and British-influenced territories.

      Fencer: “Hinging, infringing, impinging, whinging. Where, pray tell, was the purpose in dropping the ‘e’ with those words?” (fencer means the ‘e’ was dropped mainly in American.)
      Fencer, you are right to point out that small group of words. The words you list should be unacceptable unless spelled ‘hingeing, infringeing, impingeing and whingeing. ‘Sing’ changes to ‘singing’ but ‘singe’ changes to ‘singeing’, because otherwise it would be ‘singing’, which means something different! So the ‘e’ must be retained. ‘Impinging’ contains the word pinging’ (hard ‘g’) – so you can argue that it should logically be spelled ‘impingeing’, etc. As the soft ‘g’ sound is required in this group of words, they should be spelled with the ‘e’. Anyway, as often happens, we end up having to accept usage changes even when logic is defied. (I said above that ‘g’ followed by ‘i’ is soft, but this ‘g’ is part of ‘ng’, a consonant digraph, rather than a ‘g’ after a vowel as in ‘rage’. With me?)

      PrismParadise: “To be honest, American spelling annoys me. Why can’t we just all use the same
      spelling? Life would be a whole lot easier, don’t you think? Why was the American spelling even invented?”
      PrismParadise, It would be easier, wouldn’t it? But contrary to the usual opinion, the differences in spelling often result from American standing still and English changing. The language of America dates from the days of the Mayflower, the sea (ocean) crossings in the early 17th century – this is when the two languages started to divide.

      There are words which have been invented since, where each country went its own way. For example, an English car has a bonnet, a boot and bumpers – an American automobile has a hood, a trunk and fenders. There were no cars when the Mayflower sailed.

      There are words which the Mayflower took over with her, but which changed their meanings,
      usually just shifting sideways. For example, the British pavement became an American sidewalk, but the Americans still use the word pavement – for the road surface.

      And there are words which became stuck in time, and as I mentioned, it’s usually the
      Americans whose words got stuck, and the British whose words evolved. But some of the changes also got stuck half-way through, leaving great inconsistencies. Take the past-participle ‘en’ ending, an Old English form still very common in the 17th century but beginning to
      be dropped. This change was under way when the Mayflower sailed, so we have an interesting mixture, as in (for example) the American ‘gotten’, which the English long ago reduced to ‘got’. Now, the English think ‘gotten’ is quaint but are quite happy with ‘forgotten’ – and we use both ‘given’ and ‘forgiven’ without thinking about it. There are lots of inconsistencies in American as well, though!

      The reason for changes getting stuck half-way through is mainly the proliferation of
      printing. Printing dates from the mid-15th century, and is accredited with standardizing English spelling, but of course it took a while to become widespread. The first English dictionary was produced just 15 years before the Mayflower left for the US and also made a small contribution to standardization. Then, in the mid-18th century, Samuel Johnson published his acclaimed dictionary, making some fairly arbitrary spelling choices, and for the most part spelling simply stopped evolving, wherever it happened to be at that time.

      I hope this is interesting to some! It certainly (surely) is to me.

      • AmstelQuietus says

        Hi JennyB, This is certainly very interesting to me! Thank you for your lengthy treatment of the original question and the ensuing (I dropped the ‘e’ there) comments.

      • You’ve put some thought into your reply. And I appreciated reading your explanations. I just want to point out that some of your ideas might be misleading or even incorrect. In general, you like to apply advanced rules to explain differences.

        Why must ‘e’ be retained in order to differentiate ‘sing’ from singe’? It’s good that it is, but there are plenty of words that are spelled the same but mean different things and which might be pronounced the same or differently.

        Is ‘gotten’ and ‘forgiven’ a valid analogy?
        ‘got’ is most often used as past tense (it might be used as present tense, but sounds rustic). Add -en to past tense ‘got’ to get ‘gotten’ or keep it as ‘got’.
        ‘forgive’ is strictly present tense. Add -en to put into a past tense form.
        The analogy would be “forgaven” and not ‘forgiven’.

    9. Matt Dameron: “Why are there speakers of Catalán instead of everyone using Spanish? It’s all about dialects. Neither one is wrong, no matter what anyone says.”

      Matt, Catalán is an ancient language, more akin to French and Italian than to Spanish, and it used to be widespread in Iberia and beyond, long before Spanish took over and Catalán was suppressed. I suspect no-one living in Catalunya would like it called a dialect!

    10. Geoff of Brisbane says

      Just another corrupted spelling from Nth America. You can’t make sense from nonsense.

    11. Interesting. I have always used ‘aging’, but I recently saw ‘ageing’ in an article written by an American writer. I was starting to wonder if I had it all wrong! That said, I will write with ‘aging’, but I like ‘ageing’ better for some reason.

    12. Ageing/aging=present participle, not past

    13. pinkrules says

      English is so harrrrrrdddddd. >_<

    14. This is right up there with “what’s the single-syllable common word that is parlance for a ‘refrigerator’?”

      Well, its “fridge” (which my spell-chequer seems OK with). But where did that ‘d’ come from? Wouldn’t frig do? No? Oh yes, the darn “when there’s a ‘g’ at the end of a word, it is always hard” rule. Well, what about “frige” … what’s wrong with that? Well, because of English’s “{vowel}{consonant}e$” rule (where $ ≡ end-of-word), we would pronounce that FRIYG, long ‘i’ and hard ‘g’. So, that doesn’t work. Somehow the ‘g’ needs to be doubled up, so as to protect the ‘i’ from turning long. Ah! the old {vowel}dge$ form. The ‘d’ causes the ‘g’ to combine as a ‘DJ’ sound. And protects the inner vowel from being ‘long’ pronounced. Solved!

      But… what about ‘frij’ ? Is having a terminal ‘j’ just too weird for English language speakers to know what to do with? J is a very ‘variable use’ letter in English, since we effortlessly incorporate so many phrases and words (and given names) from the Scandinavian countries. FRIJ looks … unfinished. Oh, we all can pronounce it just fine, but its J is just hanging there. There are only a very few words with that hanging J, and all of them are foreign:


      Poor ol’ Frij. Orphaned by its creators.


      Ageing or Aging. Even though I am American, the dropped ‘e’ looks weird. Is it EHG-ing? AHG-ing? uh-GING? Oh.. AYJ-ing. Got it. But ageing has that wonderful ‘ge’ construction which we learned in grade school just-about-always turns a ‘g’ into a ‘J’ sound. And it helps us recognize that the base word is age. Ageism. Ageist. As opposed to Agist, which although it is definitely a word, just looks … like something I can’t immediately say.

      Like subtle versus subtile, or stable versus stabile. (Had arguments about that one). Well, at least its among the only members of the BLE$ versus BILE$ group.

      English.Its weird.


    15. PRESENT participle (aging), not PAST participle (aged), says this grammarian.

    16. When stageing an argument as to why “ageing” is ‘more correct’ than “aging,” one might want to avoid rageing on about it overmuch, as pageing through British or American literature is engageing enough, with or with out gaugeing the logical incoherence of rules for spelling.

      It’s Norman Germanic, folks. There is no hope for it.

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