Caliber or Calibre – Difference & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

What’s the difference between caliber and calibre? Are they the same word, or do they have different meanings? All are good questions, and there’s a simple answer for them all. I’ll explain how to tell the difference and know which spelling to use right here in this quick guide.

Meaning of Calibre

Caliber or Calibre Difference Meaning

First things first, let’s define the word “calibre,” shall we? It’s a term that refers to the quality or level of someone’s ability, skill, or character. If someone pointed at me and said, “She’s a writer of the highest calibre,” they’d mean that I was an excellent writer, probably better than most.

Caliber can also be used to describe the size of the bore, or the inside diameter of a firearm or the ammunition, like the caliber of ammunition is the size of ammo you need. That’s why you often hear the name of the gun with the word caliber in it, as in a 22 caliber.

Caliber vs. Calibre

Now, onto the big question. Is it caliber or calibre? In English, both words mean the same thing, and there’s literally no difference in meaning between them. The only difference is in spelling, and the culprits are, you guessed it, American and UK spelling preferences.

British English Caliber vs Calibre Ngram
British English Caliber and Calibre Usage Trend.

In America, you’ll find that caliber with an ER at the end is preferred. In the UK or British English, it’s calibre, with an RE at the end. 

Is It Higher Caliber or Calibre?

As I said, there’s no difference in the meaning, so you could say higher caliber or higher calibre. Just remember that if you’re writing for a mostly American audience, use caliber.

Caliber vs Calibre Ngram
Caliber and Calibre Usage Trend.

If you’re ever stuck and can’t decide which to use, just know that the spelling of caliber is more widely used around the world.

What Are the Synonyms of Caliber?

That’s easy! Basically, any word that means excellence.

  • Quality
  • Level
  • Standard
  • Ability
  • Talent
  • Worth
  • Stature

What Is the Plural of Calibre?

The plural form of “calibre” is “calibres” in British English and “calibers” in American English.

How to Use Caliber in a Sentence

  • The company only hires employees of a certain college-level caliber.
  • If I had known my husband came from such a caliber lineage, I may not have married him. I can’t live up to their expectations.
  • He’s a championship-caliber player, for sure.
  • You can’t just buy a grocery store cake for her birthday; she deserves the highest caliber birthday cake for the big ten.
  • My artist husband only uses art supplies of a higher caliber in quality.

How to Use Calibre in a Sentence

  • She has a mind of an average calibre.
  • My favourite English author is Ruth Ware; she writes high calibre Thrillers set in the UK.
  • Our Olde English Bulldog’s parents are both show dogs, so her genetics are of the best calibre for her breed.
  • I only buy special edition books with custom sprayed edges, and they must be signed by the author; my personal library is the primo calibre.

Make Sure Your Writing Is the Highest Caliber!

So, go forth and use whichever spelling you prefer but don’t forget what audience you’re writing for. If you use British spelling for an American audience, it can put off the American reader and vice versa. I know for my own works of fiction, if I slip and use UK spelling (because I’m Canadian), some American reader will always reach out to me to point it out.

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