Cauterize vs cauterise

Cauterize means to burn the skin or a wound with a hot instrument or caustic substance.  Cauterizing eliminates necrotic tissue to prevent gangrene and infections, cauterizing also stops bleeding.  Cauterize is a transitive verb. Cauterize is the North American spelling, related words are cauterizes, cauterized, cauterizing and cauterization.

Cauterise is an accepted British spelling. Related words are cauterises, cauterised, cauterising and cauterisation. The American spelling of cauterize is also considered correct and is gaining acceptance around the world.

Cauterize and cauterise are examples of a group of words that are spelled with a “z” in American English and an “s” in British English. The word first appeared in the fifteenth century, it comes from the Latin word cauterizare, which means “to burn or brand with a hot iron.”


“The process starts with a lit candle, which is used to cauterize the hair, in order to prevent future breakage and split ends. (New York Magazine)

Azerbaijan on Saturday accused arch-foe Armenia’s troops of killing its soldier in a new clash amid a Western-mediated push to cauterize the protracted conflict in the South Caucasus. (The Lebanon Daily Star)

It has left a host of searching questions to be asked as to the design and durability of the euro, the marked failure of fiscal rules to sustain it and how its governing institutions and personnel have failed to cauterise this crisis long before now. (The Scotsman)

In the interview with Spanish TV, Varoufakis added: “Some claim that the rest of Europe has been ring-fenced from Greece and that the European Central Bank [ECB] has tools at its disposal to amputate Greece, if need be, cauterise the wound and allow the rest of eurozone to carry on. (International Business Times)

2 thoughts on “Cauterize vs cauterise”

  1. And, no matter what … we will muddle along with our different spellings within the English group of dialects. Thing is, is there also a subtle difference in the nominally “correct” pronunciation in countries choosing fundamentally different spellings?

    You know … “schedule” in Britain is often “SHED-jyool”, whereas in all of America it is “SKED-yool” or “SKED-jule” (with the later being more common). I’m good at IPA, sorry.

    Might the British themselves say ‘cauterise’ more like “KOH-ter-IYS” or “KOH-ter-IYZ”? It would be nice to know!


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