Is it Flier or Flyer? What’s the Difference?

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 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. 

flyer vs flier british english
British English
flier vs flyer american english
American Engli

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:

American Airlines introduced the first of what we now know as frequent flier programs in May 1981, with 283,000 members. [ USA Today ]

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]

Let’s Review

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.

For more articles like this, check out crier vs. cryer and drier vs. dryer.

18 thoughts on “Is it Flier or Flyer? What’s the Difference?”

  1. I’m assuming the parallel cases exist for crier/cryer, drier/dryer, frier/fryer, etc., yes?

    Sorry to learn the “i” spelling is standard here in the States.  I rather like the (aesthetic and unambiguous) look of the “y” spelling.

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    • Very interesting parallel you mention.  I had never thought about that before!

      I would use the “ie” spelling for a flier (pamphlet), but would use the “y” if I were to write… “better remember to bring the hair dryer your friend requested because she is a cryer”! However, I would also say… “the towels over there in the sun are drier, feel free to grab one, I have to run inside to put the fish in the deep fryer.”  : )Huh!As your astute parallel assumption suggests,  I suppose making one spelling choice and applying it across the board would be preferred for the sake of consistency, and also because it allows for creation of a spelling/grammar ‘rule’, if you will.   However I think personal preference and style probably prevail when there is no definitive “correct” spelling that is accepted by the majority.  Hence, and probably to the dismay of school teachers everywhere, these spelling choices may likely continue to be largely based on not only the word, but the person using it.  

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  2. hmm, interesting you say the “i” is the more American version, since I have tended to always use the “y” versions myself, and I never knew anything of different versions until recently trying to decide how to correctly spell something and stumbling upon this post (I am American if you haven’t guessed by now).  :-)

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  3. Hmm, here in the UK I’ve always believed the “Y” variety to be the accepted spelling although one exception is for “Town Crier” indicating that the “Y” may have been recently adopted.

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  4. The 2011 version of the Associated Press Stylebook states that “flier” is the preferred term for an aviator or a handbill, while “flyer” is the proper name of some trains and buses.

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  5. It seems from the examples that flyer is used more for the advertising document, as to flier being used for a person.
    Sports reference – Philadelphia Flyers are referring toward the speed of the players.

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  6. And I was taught that flyer was something or someone who flew and flier was a handbill, sheet of paper, etc. As for the Philadelphia Flyers, wow…..I can’t even figure that one out! lol

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  7. Might want to check an AP Stylebook, as “flier” is preferred for a handbill or an aviator. “Flyer” is preferred for airplane or bus routes. As in, “The Airport Flyer takes me from the airport to Oakland.”

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  8. The Philadelphia Flyers logo suggests speed – it’s got those speed lines – so it seems the name refers to fast-moving people, which is what hockey players are. So are people who use airplanes. And what about “freeway fliers” who race in these parlous times from job to job?’s Would they rather be flyers or fliers? If you’re a “flier,” aren’t you apt to have someone call you a fleer? In any case, the “frequent flyer” programs of the major American airlines seem generally to spell it with a Y. Despite the venerable history of the town crier, I’m therefore inclined to think that “flyer” is emergent and destined for hegemony – even though my computer program routinely tags “flyer” as incorrect. .

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  9. As a University graduate and voracious reader from Canada, I never saw the spelling “flier” until a story appeared in today’s National Post (our “other” ersatz national English newspaper), which ran an Associated Press article on non-flushable wipes. They referred to one municipality resorting to sending “fliers” to its residents to ask them to stop the practice. I thought the spelling odd, and it seems to run counter most of the US style guides.

    Why do Americans insist on bizarre spellings? Color might make some sense (though I prefer traditional Canadian/Commonwealth spelling), but defense and license?

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  10. This is wrong. Fliers are handbills as well. From Twitter:

    AP Style tip: Flier is the preferred term for an aviator or handbill. Flyer is the proper name of some trains and buses: The Western Flyer.

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  11. In analogy with dryer/drier, surely “flier” would be something that is more fly. Are black guys generally flier than white guys? ;)

    Reply

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