Organise vs. organize

Organise and organize are different spellings of the same word. Organize is the preferred spelling in the U.S. and Canada, and organise is more common outside North America. This extends to all the word’s derivatives, including organized/organised, organizing/organising, and organization/organisation.

When the word came to English from Latin via French in the 15th century, its primary spellings were organize and organyse. The spelling now preferred outside North America did not appear until a century or two later. Since then, organize has mostly maintained its ascendancy, though British writers in particular have been seemingly unable to make up their minds. This ngram graphs the use of the two spellings (as a percentage of all words) in a large number of British books, journals, and magazines published between 1800 and 2000:

Organise Vs Organize American English

What this graph shows is that at the turn of this century organize was the preferred spelling in some types of British publications. But as anyone with access to Google News can ascertain with a few minutes of searching, organise is now preferred, at least in news publications, which tend to reflect popular usage.


North America

Having an efficient system to file and otherwise organize these documents can save frustration and time. [Los Angeles Times]

If organized labour is as great for workers as its  supporters claim, why are so few people fighting to save it? [National Post]

Although they lost to New England, the Ravens’ organization remains stable. [Wall Street Journal]

Outside North America

A government spokesman said the Council of Ministers is currently considering how to organise the service in the best way. [BBC]

Local committees organising opposition rallies reported that at least 21 people were killed. [Irish Times]

So if one of your New Year’s resolutions was to eliminate the stress of always feeling on the back foot, start with the basics of good organisation. [Sydney Morning Herald]

26 thoughts on “Organise vs. organize”

  1. I’m not sure it’s at all certain that ‘-ise’ is the preferred spelling outside North America. The OED for one recommends using ‘-ize’ and lists that variant first, before ‘-ise’. Apparently the theory is that these suffixes are derived from Greek and in Greek it’s spelt -ize. The -ise ending is a French invention.

    • By “preferred,” we don’t mean it’s better or more etymologically justified. We just mean that, outside North America, “organise” is used much more often than “organize.” We get our data mainly from news publications that publish online (and some blogs), and based on these sources, “organise” is favored over “organize” by a huge margin in the  U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

      For instance, here’s “organize” in a selection of U.K. publications:
      And here’s “organize” in the same sources:

      The ratio is close to 20:1. So news writers and editors, at least, aren’t following the OED on this one. Perhaps the ratio is different outside news writing, though. That’s harder to measure.

    • I use -ise as it looks less aggressive visually, but it does annoy me when spellcheckers try to correct me. I know what I meant to type and I go back and check it anyway!

      • I agree…I am northern European (German/Dane) and I use -ise really for esthetics too and that is how I was taught to spell it….. and labour instead of labor like my Atlanta coworkers.

  2. ‘ize’ was much more common in New Zealand, and I expect in other British countries, before the World War II, certainly in government publications, not so often in the newspapers. Not clear why it changed.

  3. The graph shows -ize (the red line) is above the blue line. this means that -izeis now the more popular usage. The article conclusion is incorrect.

  4. Again, this is incorrect. Canada does not use American English. It’s only America that uses American English. We’re very much British English up here in the North ;-)

    • The Brit’s used to spell it organize many years ago, but for some strange reason some of the journalists started to spell it differently…If you sound it out it will sound odd saying it with the “s” sound eh?

    • Also, I think French is the more dominant language in much of Canada, not English and in our country it’s not “American English” it’s ENGLISH. Period!!!

      • Hah. Do you think Canadians walk around saying, “I speak British English.”? Of course not. However, for the matter of distinction in conversations like this… It’s British English and American English. My goodness…

        • Well, you do live there so I guess I won’t argue with you, it just seems odd to me…That’s all. If I offended you then I’m sorry.

          • Less than 25% of people here in Canada speak french as a mother tongue and an even smaller percentage are bilingual. And Anisal is correct in that Canadians have adopted the tradition British ways of spelling. Examples of this are how we spell other words differently including; Realise, Colour, Centre, and a few others.

            Don’t feel discouraged, however- This isn’t common knowledge and of course most countries assume Canada and the US are almost entirely similar but this is just not true when it comes to language.

          • so what your saying is Canada isn’t north north America …

            Just kidding .. I don’t know about Americans but most everywhere else is quite clear about the America/Canada difference.

            Tho having to retrain each of my new computers British English is a bit annoying.

          • ENGLISH is what is spoken in England. In the USA we speak American English. The way we North American’s speak English is a derivation of English (which, of course, derived from several other languages) but some of us are too full of ourselves to admit or understand that.

  5. It’s more useful to regard the British Commonwealth, when considering variants such as this one and the use of “u” in words such as neighbour. While Canada is sliding into much of the dumbed-down American rules of spelling and grammar, it has traditionally used those of the Commonwealth – being Canadian, I favour this as it has more flavour.

    This is, at it’s root, a more accurate delineation than the “U.S. and Canada” vs. “outside North America” distinction made above. You will mostly find “-ise” in Commonwealth countries, not generally “outside N.A.”.

    • “dumbed-down” was unnecessary, and it looks ignorant to denounce part of a culture because it doesn’t mirror yours. Canada often looks like one big inferiority complex when I reas comments like this….the U.S. I guess is Marsha.

  6. Just a way for “other” English speaking countries and non U.S. English speakers to be “different” now that U.S. English tends to be the dominant variant thanks to the Internet, Web and MS Spell checkers. Especially since the predominance of classical education with knowledge of Greek and Greek roots is fading world wide. Studies show that -ize was favored in the British speaking world with small exceptions up until the post WWII period so the time line matches with a desire to “stick a finger in the American eye” such as it is.

    • I like the logical gymnastics required to think of all other english speaking countries as trying to be different and US as the norm. I suppose that must be the case with imperial versus metric, or public versus private healthcare too?

  7. I’m Canadian, and we learned “organise” in school. I’m pretty sure the rest of Canada is the same. I’m afraid your article is inaccurate.


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