Judgment vs. judgement

In American English, judgement is generally considered a misspelling of judgment for all uses of the word, notwithstanding individual preferences. In British popular usage, judgment was traditionally the preferred form, but judgement has gained ground over the last couple of centuries and is now nearly as common as judgment. 

Pay no attention to the myth, widely repeated on the web, that judgement is the original spelling and that judgment is a 19th-century American invention. This is simply untrue, as shown by an abundance of readily available evidence anyone can view online.

When it comes to legal contexts, English reference sources say varying things. Most seem to agree that judgment is preferred in legal contexts even in British English, and some say that American and British English differ in their strict legal meanings of judgment. Bryan Garner, in his Modern American Usage, says judgment in American English refers to “the final decisive act of a court in defining the rights of the parties,” whereas, he writes, the word in British English refers to a judicial opinion. We find nothing to contradict this, though there are many English reference sources that do not mention a legal/nonlegal distinction or an American/British distinction.

96 thoughts on “Judgment vs. judgement”

  1. I agree with Joseph! “Judgement” allows the ‘e’ to soften that clumsy combination of ‘dg.’ Besides, it’s a rendering from a judge, so why should it not be a judgement? Having worked in and around the legal community for years, I’ve always written it as “judgement.”

      • Why would you say such a thing? This is a friendly exchange. My dictionary, Black’s Law Dictionary, says either is acceptable.

        • I wonder what legal community Astntom is in. In my part of the world, as a lawyer who deals with judgments every day, it is judgment. Period. The alternative is never ever used (except as a recognized misspelling).

          • John,

            I feel compelled to make a comment about your post. Do you know that there is a word “judgeship” instead of “judgship”? I guess that somehow no matter who started teaching kids in school for “judgment”, he or she might not think through all the words related to “judge”. You may say that it is derived from the noun word, “judge”, so it is “judgeship”. “Judges” should be able to “judge” or make their judgements.

            Other “-dge” words, such as “abridgement”, “dislodgement”, “lodgement”, and “misjudgement” that all keep the “e” before “ment”. Clearly, an exception rule was created for a few words like “judgment” and “acknowledgment” that do not follow the common rule in use.

            Sadly enough, people like you who may prefer “judgment”, but think that “judgement” is a misspelled word.

            Do we really need o create some exception spelling rules to burden kids?

            Similarly, Americans prefer “center” instead of “centre”, but prefer “central” instead of “centeral” (you may say that there is no such word.), if the same rule is followed.

        • This is true. Bryan Garner gave a class at my law school, and you see both spellings throughout the dictionary.

      • Please don’t be rude – I am a Brit and believe strongly that American English is more ‘traditional’ than the morphed sanitized British version – we had teachers beating us to strictly adhere to the rules! Language is alive after all – isn’t ‘tweet’ a verb and a noun?

        • “Tweet” is an onomatopoeia that birds perform. The creators of Twitter must be on something lol. I say spell judgment (or any other word for that matter) however you want, as long as it can be communicated effectively. Prescriptive grammarians can burn in hell unless they are trying to get hired for a job.

          • As I grow older, having once touted my superb command of grammar, I now realize that ultimately language is in flux and that language is meant for communication rather than some ideal which we should seek to understand and learn perfectly. My own native tongue, Arabic, differs so widely from city to city that I laugh at myself when I recall how I thought to make English live up to some eternal standard of perfection. Just moving to Detroit from the South has shown me that English, although to a lesser degree, also varies widely. Ultimately, as you said, language is for communication.

            In contrast, some languages, such as Spanish, do tend towards a “perfect” version. The Real Academia Española is the institution which seeks to achieve that goal. However, the fact that Spanish is considerably different in Latin America and does not seek at all to emulate the academic version produced by the Academia just shows how futile the idea of a “correct” version of any language is.

            Finally, I turn to the tongue of my people, Chaldean, or neo-Aramiac. In contrast with liturgical Aramiac, which dates back to 300 AD, it is almost a different language altogether beyond some overlap. My mother’s church is the Syriac Church and uses the ancient form in the liturgy. When contrasted with the spoken Chaldean here in Detroit, I find that I can’t find much that overlaps beyond the few words that tend to change rarely in a language, like greetings, although even English has seen a change from “God be with ye” to “goodbye” over the years. I just wanted to say you touched on a very profound point, that language is for communication rather than for existing as a standard for all time.

          • It seems you have not only a fascinating background, but a very good point.
            I take pride in grammatical precision at work, and was formerly rather harsh in correcting others, but I have recently softened my criticism on minor points – especially those involving strongly entrenched colloquialisms. Language changes constantly, and our “rules” are often no more than a snapshot of the most common conventions at the time of observation.
            I recently spent quite a bit of time reading about the evolution of Latin into all the various Romance languages and was utterly struck by several things that I had not previously known and never would have guessed – such as the relative rapidity with which the regional dialects went from being more or less mutually intelligible to being clearly different languages; the sheer number that actually exist beyond the few major ones we hear about (like French and Spanish); and (most fascinating to me) the invention of new grammatical forms as old constructs fell out of use and necessitated new inventions. Most humorous of all: after the Roman Empire fell apart, the entire “civilized” world had an argument for *centuries* over the correct way to say YES! The argument was never settled!
            We all really need to stop taking ourselves so seriously. Yes, we need to be precise enough to avoid confusion. Beyond that point, it’s too easy for it to all devolve into snobbery.

          • Aren’t you supposed to place an ‘s’ at the end of the word “exist” in the way that you are using it to make your point about how much of a grammar nazi you typically are? ;)

          • The number [of languages] favored the plural conjugation in my estimation, but you may be correct. I ain’t sweatin’ the small stuff no mo’.

          • The mistake is that he misuses a singular
            “number” when he means the plural “numbers” which would use third person plural they. That would correct the confusion thus:
            “the sheer number_s_ that actually exist”

            GOFU (formerly Grammar Old Fogeys United on CompuServe)

      • Wow Gustavo, you seem to be losing sleep at night over this issue. Do you watch the ceiling fan rotors as they spin while contemplating ‘e’ or no ‘e’?
        Do you get accompanied night time anxiety? It’s time to get laid. Lol.

    • So. Should we say something is “fudgy” or “fudgey” from the rendering of “fudge”?! That’s not a valid argument and if you’ve worked many years around a legal community, I’d say your argument is overruled.

    • Haha! The D softens the G and makes it make sound “j” This is always the spelling. It’s the same as acknowledgment.

      Only time it differs is before an a (as in able) or, presumably, and o or u. They would remake the G hard.

      LOL, the educated law community has made silent judgment about your spelling. Nobody would correct you.

  2. Having consulted the Oxford English Dictionary and Collins English Dictionary I’ve found nothing definitive on the matter – both insist that “judgment” and “judgement” are completely interchangeable (though “judgment” is definitely considered the American spelling, over here). However, as someone studying law, I can categorically say that “judgement” is used more commonly in a legal context than “judgment”; any instances of the second spelling should be considered typos or someone who has their spell-checker set to US/International English.

    I would suspect the difference, like almost every spelling difference between US English and British English, is simply due to neither standardised spelling nor the first English dictionary (UK English – 1755; US English – 1807) existing until after our two nations were no longer on talking terms. See also – colour/color, colonise/colonize, aluminium/aluminum.

    • It is categorically not acceptable in the legal communities in the USA. Nobody will correct you, but it will be noted. In your case, they might excuse you as being from another country and not understanding the professional traditions.

  3. The e at the end of the verb “judge” stays there when you add -ment
    because it indicates that the g is a soft sound. It’s the same with the
    word “changeable.” Spelling it “judgment” would mean it could be
    interpreted as being phonetically pronounced jud-gə-mənt. Which is just… wrong.

    • You are wrong. The exception to the rule says that if the suffix follows a “g” or “c” then the “e” is dropped.

      • Except it doesn’t. I can think of plenty of examples in which the opposite of what you say is true. Inducement, advancement, enlargement, to name three. From an aesthetic point of view, I much prefer the words containing an e. Think of inducment, advancment, enlargment; they look and feel wrong. I don’t argue that, in some cases, it is acceptable to drop the ‘e’, but your slightly rude first statement, that PZUU is “wrong”, is garbage. There are many cases in which he (or she) is right about the inclusion of the ‘e’. Argue your point more delicately next time, or someone might make you look silly again.

    • Right. Because the written English language follows rules….

      I before E, except when there’s a feisty heist on weird beige foreign neighbors, because either caffeine strung atheists are reinventing protein at their leisure or plebeians will deign to forfeit.

      Neither the heinousness nor the inconceivability of this vein of heinousness can be seized by me right now.

  4. Still inconsistency in American English. Americans preferred “judgment”, but still prefer “judgeship”, but not “judgship”.

    • Well, I was raised in the US and I don’t think I’ve really ever seen someone spell “judgement” as “judgment”. So don’t go assuming that everyone in the US is foolish. “Judgment” looks very strange to me. Also never heard anyone use the word “judgeship” before.

    • I’m American and was taught judgement. However, I did look in my dad’s 1930’s 7-inch-thick Webster’s and it does give judgment as the preferred spelling. I will never spell it that way. It just seems wrong.

  5. “g” cannot make the “j” sound alone. Classical education phonogram rules has a 3 letter j consisting of dge & a rule for ge or gi that makes “j” sound. I learned this recently & loved the logic to differentiate & help my spelling.

  6. As an Australian, I always assumed that ‘judgement’ was the UK English spelling, so was incredibly surprised to find that was not the case. From and aesthetic point of view, I prefer ‘judgement’ over ‘judgment’ even though I prefer the UK spelling in most cases (usually on principal) as opposed to the American spelling. I’VE BEEN LIVING A LIE! lmao.

    • I was born and raised in Sweden, moved to the US to start High School. I learned the word Judgment and have always used that spelling.But I know and accept that Judgement is also acceptable. Grammatically speaking English/American has always been strange to learn. Look at the different pronunciations of Kansas and Arkansas?

    • In Australian English, as in UK English, ‘judgment’ refers to written decisions made by judges in, whereas ‘judgement’ refers generally to how we come to form an opinion.

      To quote the OED on the matter:
      “During the 19th cent. the form judgement gained in frequency in British contexts, and is now the usual spelling in general British use, but judgment has remained the standard spelling in British legal contexts when used to refer to a judicial decision … as well as in U.S. usage.”

  7. I was curious about the history of the two spellings, and the chart link (titled “as shown” in the article) says it best. Thanks. ( I thought that the e was taken out of judgment by the Americans, like the u in colour. As a Canadian, I’m heavily influenced by American spellings, but like to retain some of my British heritage.)

    • Most spellcheckers seem to abhor the ‘extra’ e. And as far as bowing to the word’s etymology, as I recall that’s how we ended up with the non-phonetic ‘doubt’ as a result of it’s Latin origin.

  8. Anyone who has read books knows the true spelling is judgment. There are all kinds of misspellings in print nowadays because people do not read books.

  9. While spelling “judgement” may be acceptable to some, in litigation you’re committing legal malpractice if you do. Street smart trial lawyers who consistently win motions and trials leave out the “e.”

    I would tell you WHY you must NEVER spell the word “judgement,” but ulterior motive prevents my doing so. Suffice it to say, if you don’t follow MY rules you will one day be using a toothbrush to scrub tiles in the sewers of Paris.

  10. I’m surprised anyone thought that the older spelling was “judgement.” While I see the reasoning that some believe it is an American spelling not unlike what we did to the word “color,” “judgment” seems, on face value, to be the older form. It makes no sense to spell this word without the “e” in modern usage. We are taught distinct rules about the silent “e,” and how to combine words that would oppose a change from “judgement” to “judgment.”

    What is strange is that the French and Latin both have a vowel after the “d” and now I am curious as to how it came to pass that the “e” was dropped in the first place.

  11. @jabuchan08:disqus I’m sorry to point this out, but it is not proper grammar to say “I’m an US citizen”. And though it is easier to think that judge should be in the word judgment, I doubt that you would be taught by teachers who grew up with the correct spelling to say it was j-u-d-g-e-m-e-n-t. My personal opinion is that we as the human race are just getting lazy and refuse to teach our children proper English and have made ourselves shortcuts, allowing them to overlook and forget what past generations have conformed to.

  12. Dictionaries have no authority over us but that of persuasion.
    Generally, they tell what is most commonly done and why that makes sense.
    The very fact that they show multiple definitions and spellings tells you much.

  13. With language, common practice is the ultimate king, not formal rules. The formal rules derive from common practice, not the other way around. If you Google “judgment” vs “judgement,” you’ll find that “judgment” is quite a bit more common — 178 million results vs 63 million results, and it is therefore the best practice. Of course, 63 million results for “judgement” demonstrates that it is pretty common, which is why many dictionaries accept it. It’s pretty clear, though, that “judgment” without the “e” is the preferred spelling. A lot of people insert the “e” because the word “judge” makes them expect an “e” to be there, but that doesn’t make the variant spelling more “correct” or preferable.

  14. I was faced with a judge that required that ‘judgment’ be used on all documents

    appearing in his court. I went back to dictionaries and other documentation dating as far back as 1653 and found that there is a distinction between ‘judgement’ and ‘judgment’.

    ‘Judgement’ is the ruling passed by a judge in court as to the guilt or innocence of a defendant. The other ‘judgment’ is the common sense used by a man (or woman) in their day to day lives. It is a combination of experience, intuition and hope that in their best judgment it is the right decision. In the one, it is the decision itself that is the judgement. In the other, it is the deciding factor in a decision.

    I do not attempt to rewrite dictionaries but only to contribute to the general confusion around what is called ‘language’. ;-)

  15. The English Rider Waite Smith Tarot, published in 1910, called JUDGEMENT, with the E, and is a major arcana, or highly significant card. If they had no problems publishing the deck with the [e], nor should anyone else. Judgment makes no sense, grammatically, because many verbs ending in e carry into the -ment suffix– atonement wouldn’t be atonment.

    • Specious argument.
      In the case of “atonement” the e is used to make the o long. In judgment no e is necessary, nor should anyone say jyuooojment.

  16. After working in the legal field (USA) for 25 years, anyone was in trouble if misspelling judgment. It was a major professional faux pas.

    Misspellings like this demonstrated lack of knowledge and was unacceptable in court.

    People who want to do well and right, and want to be respected, might as well spell properly as well as speak with good grammar.

  17. After working in the legal / court system (USA) for 25 years, it was clear that anyone who misspelled judgment was looked down upon by others. That was a major professional faux pas.

    Misspelling judgment was unacceptable in court and demonstrated lack of knowledge and court protocol.

    People who want to be respected in the legal system need to adhere to court protocol and spelling, and use good grammar both in speaking and writing. Otherwise, they’ll be filtered out and never know why.

  18. The word is found in spellings with -dgm- from the early 16th cent., and by the late 17th cent. judgment had become the prevailing spelling, although judgement was still commonly found. Kersey (1702) is an unusually early example of a dictionary in which the headword form was given as judgement . During the 19th cent. the form judgement gained in frequency in British contexts, and is now the usual spelling in general British use, but judgment has remained the standard spelling in British legal contexts when used to refer to a judicial decision (see sense 8), as well as in U.S. usage. (OED)

  19. Judgment is incorrect on the sole reason that there needs to be a vowel (e) that makes the g soft (as opposed to a hard g as in tag or dog).
    The sameway hedgehog has an e and the form hedghog is incorrect.

    A further argument is the etymology of judgement: the French word jugement which has an e exactly for the same reason as the English counterpart, to make the g soft.

    The use of judgment is reserved for the uncultivated.


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