Enrol vs. enroll

The verb meaning to sign up or to register is spelled enroll in the U.S. Enrol, with one l, is the preferred spelling outside North America. The more American spelling is now preferred in Canadian news publications, but enrol was traditionally more common and still appears in many contexts.

The spelling difference extends to enrollment (American English) and enrolment (outside the U.S.), but it doesn’t extend to enrolled and enrolling, which everywhere are spelled with two l‘s.

The word has taken several forms since coming to English from French in the 14th century. It was originally enrolly (an anglicization of the French enroller), but it was also spelled enroul, enrolle, and inroll.1 Enroll was common from the 17th century on, predating enrol by at least a century. English speakers outside North America took up the newer enrol around 1800, while Americans stuck with the older spelling.


These are U.S. publications:

In place since 2005, the GWU policy aims to provide financial certainty for families after students enroll. [Washington Post]

Just as high school enrollment increased during the 1920s, so too did enrollment at American colleges and universities. [The 1920’s]

Every March, September and November, kids and adults who enroll in the eight-week Learn to Skate beginner session receive a free pair of ice skates. [Newsday]

And these examples are from outside the U.S.:

Procrastination, historically blamed for failure to enrol, is now the default means by which workers are funnelled into 401(k)s. [Financial Times]

Although enrolment and voting is compulsory, the penalties for non-compliance are not particularly onerous. [Australia: The State of Democracy]

Rivonia Primary School today won the right to determine the number of pupils it can enrol in a class. [Independent Online]


1. Enrol/enroll in the OED (subscription required)

21 thoughts on “Enrol vs. enroll”

  1. Wow…this is the first time I can say I do not remember ever having seen the British form, and I’m quite certain I would remember if I had. Perhaps I simply dismissed it as a misspelling, since “enrol” makes no sense — etymologically, the word literally means just to add a name to a “roll” as in a piece of paper with a list of names on it. There is no corresponding spelling (“rol”) that would lend itself to dropping the final letter of “enroll.”

    Seeing “enrol” makes me want to put emphasis on the first syllable and shorten the ‘o’ to pronounce it similarly to “Enron.” I cannot decide whether I am more mystified at not having noticed this before, or at the fact that this bizarre spelling exists at all.

  2. I can confirm that “enrol” is the proper form here in the UK. As an American who has lived here for 6 years now (and who works for an educational charity), I found this out the hard way…

  3. I live in Lagos (Nigeria) and “enrol” is the more popular form. You can still come across the other “enroll” (and “enrollment”) quite often but, to me, that’s only used by people who either forget/are unaware that Nigeria follows the British English OR do so out of plain stupidity. (Don’t think I’m being harsh, I know exactly what I’m saying.) By the way, I wouldn’t have Googled up these spellings and found my way here if I didn’t have reason to prove a point (to someone, of course).

    Did anyone find that last sentence ironic? “English speakers outside North America took up the newer enrol around 1800, while Americans stuck with the older spelling.” Normally, when I come across two variant spellings with one “tougher” than the other, I take the simpler, more obvious, easier-to-spell/pronounce one to be American.

    American English is typically the “modern”, the “newbie”, while British English is known for sticking to tradition (old school). I guess every rule has exceptions. I love British English!

    • You’re wrong.

      North American English is very similar to the English that was spoken in England during the 1600s. During the 1700s and 1800s, British English underwent a series of vowel shifts, and it also became largely non-rhotic. Australia and New Zealand were colonized after the changes had taken place, and the dialects spoken in those countries are therefore more resemblant of British English. Americans and Canadians, on the other hand, were isolated from Europe during the 1700s and therefore sheltered from the changes. The coastal cities that had closer connections to England via trade (e.g., Boston, New York City, Charleston, Savannah, New Orléans, etc…) also cultivated their own varieties of non-rhotic speech.

      Get your facts straight.

      • Actually, A. M. Eles, you’re the one who is wrong and needs to get their facts straight! The majority of variations between British & American English came into usage in America in the 19th & 20th century. Specifically, in 1828 when An American Dictionary of the English Language.was first published. This dictionary was the first to publish many reforms of English words. Several language reform organisations were created in the decades that followed, and The Simplified Spelling Board which ended up spearheading the majority of contemporary American variations was founded in 1906. Hundreds more reforms followed in the mid 20th century.

        So, Oceans Dry was correct when he said the American variations tend to be more modern & simplified than the British versions. If you put as much effort into researching facts as you do acting condescending to others, you might learn something.

        • Well it’s mixed, but surely US spelling and orthography uses older forms than British English. Adherence to ‘fall’ over ‘autumn’ and the older spellings of ‘color’ etc speaks to a trend that is common in the Americas with French and Spanish: a seed form of the language is fossilized and, even when ‘simplified’, tends to look back to the moment of establishment as more authentic than later accretions. Conversely, European forms of these languages are less hidebound by the desire to return to the origin. The cultural prejudice that it is the other way round is based directly or indirectly on the age of Europe as opposed to the novelty of the Americas. Of course this novelty is a myth, as it involved transplanting existing old cultures.

        • all these historical pee contest just because of enrol vs enroll. it’s merely a word, my friends. relax and eat some spring rols/rolls. :P

  4. The derivation of enroll occurs as a result of ‘rolls’ that were kept to record attendance at meetings, school, parliament etc. Before the common use of books rolls were exactly that. Rolls of parchment or paper.
    The word, if we are going to discuss fact instead of vain opinion, is correctly rendered as above.
    Enrol, like affect, is common, but incorrect.

    • What? Affect isn’t wrong…. it is a word. “I don’t want to affect you.”. Affect is the verb, effect is the noun (in most cases.) Enrol is also not incorrect, as that is how it is spelled in UK English. Thursday comes from Thorsday, but that doesn’t make Thursday incorrect…

      • Hi Mathew, there appears to a stand-off here. I get the hint of cheap cigars and Corona beer and a few Sombreros in the background.
        It’s been my experience that to take up the cudgels on details like this only leave me to eat humble pie because I’m not a fighter for details like this.
        But I still don’t get it how affect can be a verb when the shrink community have purloined the word as their own.
        Anyway, Mathew, it’s also been my experience that even the most rigid and revered rules reach the point of breaking or redundancy as people evolve into more intelligent and tolerant beings.
        Happy New Year! That is, of course, if you haven’t got other plans.

        • “Affect” is commonly used as a verb, meaning to influence. It can also be a noun in terms of psychology. It then refers to the experience of feeling.

          • Not incorrect WritingBoy. The term “affect” used in psychology, and the term “affect” used as a verb, have different pronunciations and different meanings. They are essentially different words that happen to be spelled the same. This is simply because written English does not have a commonly known means of differentiating syllabic emphasis. It only becomes obvious they are different words when used in spoken English.

            As used in psychology, the word is pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable. Phonetically it could be spelled “ay-fekt” with the emphasis placed over “ay,” instead of “fekt.” Example: “The patient is showing no emotion or expression; they are exhibiting a flat affect.”

          • Dear dear John…never let the facts get in the way of ego and a good fight.

            Just because Daniel Webster is the last word in the ‘American’ language; a lot of his contribution was massacring the English language.

            And as mentioned affect is common but incorrect. And common is something at which too many excel.

            Spend ten minutes on the etymology and stay within the rules of grammar and you’ll find that the brothers Fowler have a lot more runs on the board than many care to acknowledge. Including, apparently, your good self.

          • So I realize this is an old post, but I’m curious where you were coming from, WritingBoy. I took your advice and studied the etymology and I can’t find the point where it became “incorrect”. “Affect” comes straight from Latin, and the modern sense of the word seems to go back at least 600 years. So what does this have to do with Webster massacring the language?

            You never did actually state what the “correct” form was according to you, although I imagine you mean “effect” since one is a common misspelling / misuse of the other, but these *are* two actual words, with two distinct latin roots (ex-facere and ad-facere). So either you were unaware of this fact, or you were referring to something else when you called it “incorrect”. Elaborate?

  5. How odd that the ‘rule’ formed by traveller/traveler and jewellery/jewelry (British – double-l, American – single-l) is reversed in this example.


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