If you’ve gotten yourself stuck on which spelling is correct, flier or flyer, you aren’t alone. Even spell check software catches one or the other, making you wonder where exactly you are going wrong.
And no wonder, both spellings have a history of use in American and British English, making them interchangeable in usage and meaning. Let’s look at what flier vs. flyer means and what their acceptable uses of them are.
Flier vs. Flyer
Flier and flyer are alternate spellings of the same word that means either a pamphlet or a person who flies. Used in both British and American spelling, flyer has become the more popular option for all definitions.
Definition and How to Use
Flyer is a noun that means either a pamphlet or brochure, one who flies, or a twist of yarn. Flier means the same thing, although it omits a twist of yarn within its use. It’s not uncommon to see the two spellings used, and it’s essential to understand they aren’t describing a different meaning.
You might come across the use of flyer in idioms, such as “a high flyer”. This is used to describe a successful person or somebody who takes a chance that results in success.
Flier is also used in the phrase: take a flier. This means to take a risk.
American vs. British Spellings
It’s been long established that flyer is the British spelling, while flier is the modern American usage counterpart. This is supported by the use of flier in major American publications, and many autocorrect software apps set to American English will highlight flyer as a misspelling.
And the opposite is true for British publications.
However, both Webster’s and Oxford’s dictionaries, American and British, respectively, state that flyer is used in both spellings to describe a “handbill”, circular, or pamphlet that is passed out.
Even Google n-grams showcase the spelling flyer to be more popular here in America, as well as with our English-speaking neighbors across the Atlantic.
APA Style Guide Changes
Despite the claims that flier was more Americanized, how the word is both spelled and used doesn’t lie. In 2017, the APA writing style guide (the go-to for technical formatting) changed its recommendation of the spelling flier to flyer, except in the phrase: take a flier.
This is just a recommendation, and many American media sources still fall back on the spelling flier from time to time.
Flier or Flier Synonyms
Synonyms for the use of flyer or flier for paper include handbill, pamphlet, brochure, circular, advertisement, handout, leaflet, poster, bill, or dodger.
When describing somebody who flies, consider the alternate terms air traveler, airline customer, or air passenger.
Ways to Use Flyer and Flier
American publications tend to use flier for someone who flies and flyer for a small handbill, as in these examples:
According to the flyer which depicts a raised, clenched fist holding a pencil, a play on the movement’s symbol Duggan plans to bring in guest speakers. [ Wall Street Journal ]
The infrequent flier about to get on the plane at Reno-Tahoe International Airport had sores all over him. [ Los Angeles Times ]
“Join us as we revisit a familiar and beloved neighborhood of the Christmas Tour,” a flyer for the event says. [Boston Globe]
Again, this is just a tendency and not a rule, and we could find plenty of counterexamples.
Outside the U.S., flyer is more common in all senses of the word—for example:
Something of his alert oversight probably came from his experience as a flyer. [Guardian (U.K.)]
Once inside a store, look for items that are on the outside cover of the weekly specials flyer. [Globe and Mail (Canada)]
Elected just 18 months ago, already a high-flyer. [Telegraph]
They must also stop distributing or displaying any literature, flyers or signage containing any unregistered business name. [Sydney Morning Herald]
Flier and flyer mean the same thing but with different spellings. Although once considered specific to American or British spellings, the frequency and popularity of flyer make it a more acceptable spelling overall, even if flier is still used from time to time in publications.