Counselor vs. Counsellor

Two words that many writers get confused about are counselor and counsellor. But they are simply spelling differences in American and British English.

Is it counselor or counsellor? Find out the definitions for counselor and counsellor, and some examples of counselors in sentences. I’ll also teach you a trick to remember the distinction!

Counsellor is the preferred spelling everywhere outside the U.S. Similar distinctions apply to related words such as counseled/counselled and counseling/counselling; the single-l spellings are used in American English, and the double-l spellings are preferred outside the U.S.

Use counselor if you’re writing in American English, and use counsellor for British English. Both words refer to someone who provides counsel. The statistics for counselor’s use is higher than counsellor’s. 

Counselor or Counsellor Meaning

The definition of counselor and counsellor is the same, which is someone who is trained to advise people on specific issues. The noun, which is pronounced as kau̇n(t)-​s(ə-​)lər or kau̇n-​sə-​lər,  may also be synonymous with a lawyer–for example:

  • I am a qualified counselor who helps people fix their marriages. 

The spelling of counselor and counsellor depends on your audience. Both are noun variants of the verb counsel, which means to give advice or to advise.

Counselor and counsellor come from the Middle English and Old French word conseiller. It also has Latin roots from consiliarius, conciliatory, and consilium. 

When to Use Counselor vs. Counsellor

Counselor is the American spelling of the noun referring to (1) a person who gives counsel, (2) an attorney, and (3) a person who supervises young people at a youth camp. Counsellor is the preferred spelling everywhere outside the U.S. Similar distinctions apply to related words such as counseled/counselled and counseling/counselling; the single-l spellings are used in American English, and the double-l spellings are preferred outside the U.S.

The same rule applies to counselling vs. counseling. Americans use counseling, while British people and English writers outside the US have a preference for counselling over counseling–for example:

  • Child therapy is a type of therapy where professionals counsel children to assess their minds, find problems, and offer psychological therapies.

Examples of Counselor in a Sentence

American publications use the single-l spelling of counselor:

Teachers and school counselors help select students who might benefit from the program. [Washington Post]

Of course, now that I’m married to my Lutheran summer camp counselor Peter, Arondel and I only meet up for coffee a couple of times a year. [Slate]

Starting in January, those students were required to meet with a financial counselor to talk about what they planned to use that money. [Courier-News]

And counsellor is preferred outside the U.S.:

She has also been seeing a psychiatrist and grief counsellor. [Daily Mail (U.K.)]

In fact I’m in the middle of Googling an old camp counsellor I had a crush on. [National Post (Canada)]

Police and gambling counsellors say they are worried about a trend where vulnerable gamblers of all ages … are becoming drug mules. [Sydney Morning Herald]

Examples of Counseling in Sentences

I don’t need counseling from anyone who has given me trauma. 

It’s okay to receive counseling to cope with your grief.

Every week, group counseling is offered in this organization to discuss mental health issues. 

Convening on ‘Counsel’ and ‘Council’

Counsel and council are homophones with similar pronunciations but different spellings and meanings. Counsel is a noun or verb which means advice or to advise–for example:

  • I can count on your wise counsel.
  • She counseled them to avoid making wrong decisions.

Council is a noun that means a group of people called together–for example:

  • The British city council meeting was cancelled. 

Trick to Remember the Difference

The trick to remembering the difference between counselor and counsellor is to look at the number of Ls. Counselling has two Ls, and London starts with an L. Therefore, Counselling is the appropriate word for British English.

But the difference between councilor vs. counselor is another discussion. A counsellor or counselor is someone who provides therapy or guidance. A councilor is a member of the council.

Phrases Containing Counselor

  • counselor preparation programs.
  • financial counselor.
  • guidance counselor.
  • marriage counselor lawyer.

Final Word on Counselor vs. Counsellor

So, there you have it. I’ve shown you how to choose between counselor or counsellor. You also know counselor or counsellor’s meaning and how to use the noun in sentences. 

Remember that Counsellor is the British spelling since it has an extra L, which is London’s starting letter. And counselor is the American spelling of the noun.

11 thoughts on “Counselor vs. Counsellor”

  1. What do you mean anywhere outside of the US? That’s a bit biased and also inaccurate. It would actually be more accurate to say that counsellor is the preferred spelling in the UK, British Commonwealth countries, and some countries in Europe; while counselor is the preferred spelling anywhere else. I teach English in Saudi Arabia and I have also taught English in South Korea, The Philippines, Bahrain, and several other places and guess what? Everywhere I’ve taught, even when I was working for a British company like I am right now, the common/standard (American) spelling is preferred.

    • I think the writers were referring to the standards set by English-speaking countries, not places where English isn’t spoken regularly. And in the case of the Philippines, they used to be a US possession, so I can’t imagine most Filipino people using British English. The cultural ties aren’t there. And the popularity of English in Asian countries happened post-British Empire and during the period when the US became an exporting/business powerhouse, whereas the British Commonwealth (which contains over a BILLION PEOPLE) was influenced by Britain, of course.

      There are some British companies that pander to American usage because there are some ignorant people in the States who aren’t even aware that English can vary, and they’re going for the lowest common denominator. It’s an annoying practice that needs to stop.

      (The American chest-pumping in these comment sections is getting a bit annoying. American isn’t ‘the standard’ by the way, there are multiple standards.)

      • Another very (willfully) ignorant and biased commenter above. English-speaking countries? You mean like the United States (314 million people) and the United Kingdom (63 million people)? If you add up all the countries where English is the most commonly spoken first language you still wouldn’t equal the number of English-speakers in the United States, and many of those countries prefer standard international English. Those that do not are usually British Commonwealth countries who were part of the British Empire. So they were sort of forced to adopt British English at gunpoint. Yes, of course, countries and businesses today wish to pander to the United States, though it’s beyond retarded to think this is because Americans are unaware of other dialects. They “pander” because the whole reason most people are bothering to learn English at all is because America has kept the language relevant. There are far more people around the world doing business with the USA, conducting research with the USA, attending US universities, watching American films, and using American websites on the American-invented Internet than there are people who care that the UK exists. More people are aware of American spelling conventions which is why it is accurate to call it the common or international standard, and so more people when they see British usage are going to identify that as incorrect or at least not preferred. I know it hurts to watch your empire fade into obscurity, but that doesn’t mean pointing out reality is “American chest-pumping.” You want “chest-pumping?” How about typing in all caps a BILLION PEOPLE in the British commonwealth? ooh, impressive, until you take away India/Pakistan. Yes, the USA has influenced countries to use American English by being so successful in its economic/military/cultural hegemony. But you’re going to get jingoistic about the brutal subjugation and oppression of the Indian subcontinent? Jallianwala Bagh anyone? Not as bad as the Opium Wars I guess but still pretty embarrassing.

        • Noone, I just don’t see why you need to degrade and belittle someone just because you don’t agree with their comment. I can’t help but notice that plures was perfectly amicable in expressing his converse opinion, while you made a point to imply his supposed idiocy in almost every sentence you used. I’m sure that both of your theories hold credence, but regardless, a comment thread should never be turned into a bash fest.

        • Impressive comment. Nevermind the apolitical naysaying kneejerkers. (I realize you wrote this post 2 years ago, but I’m not one to submit to the tyranny of now.)

          There’s nothing to be proud about concerning colonialism or imperialism. You all should listen to Noone and read a book or two (Chomsky for example.)

          • I am neither apolitical, nor entirely uneducated, but I disagree with the vehemence with which ‘Noone’ attacks this entry. Note that I do not claim to be knowledgeable enough about English to dispute the claims. We all, however, are knowledgeable enough to recognize unnecessary abuse when we see it.

  2. All I know is that my new business cards came with “Attorney and Counsellor” under my name, just as it appeared on my diploma from Temple University School of Law when I graduated in 1986. If that is ignorant to someone – so be it! Sue me, then!!

    • Diane, the custom of using “Counsellor” to refer to attorneys comes from British tradition. There is nothing ignorant about it. Moreover, when attorneys give advice to a client, they tend to say they “counselled” their client. One “l” can mean someone who gives advice. But when two “ls” are used, it usually means the counsel that was given was, specifically, legal counsel. Thus: “The attorney counselled his client to waive the privilege.” And: “The teacher counseled her student to enter the Science Fair.”

  3. Counsellor is the preferred spelling outside the U.S, predominantly United Kingdom and British related. Similar distinctions apply to related words such ascounseled/counselled and counseling/counselling; the single-l spellings are used in American English, and the double-l spellings are preferred outside the U.S.

    Counselor is the preferred spelling outside the United Kingdom, predominantly U.S and American related. Similar distinctions apply to related words such ascounseled/counselled and counseling/counselling; the double-l spellings are used in British English, and the single-l spellings are preferred outside the United Kingdom.


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