Plough vs. plow

  • In American and Canadian English, plow is the preferred spelling of the farm implement and its related verbs. Plough is the preferred spelling in the main varieties of English from outside North America.


    The spelling distinction applies to all senses of the word, including figurative ones. British and Australian writers always use plough, along with ploughed and ploughing; American and Canadian writers always use plow, plowed, and plowing. Both spellings are pronounced the same.


    North America


    In winter he plows the streets, and in spring he trims the trees. [The Atlantic]

    Russell confronted a man who had stolen a snow plow and was driving across the city. [Toronto Sun]

    Plowing through a stack of mail, he came to an envelope that read “This is not a bill.” [Washington Post]

    Outside North America

    The larger ones had been removed by the boys, swinging pickaxes into the iron land before the ploughing began. [Independent]

    It was me that opted to plough through the storm. [Sydney Morning Herald]

    A man who ploughed into a crowd of revellers outside a bar in Rochdale has been jailed indefinitely. [BBC News]


    1. Plough is the Canadian spelling preference  – plow, the American

      • Justin Cronkright says

        Agreed. I do prefer to use Plow as the noun. But I have been know to use Plough both as a verb and the noun!

    2. Timothy Randal Lessing says

      No!!!! Canadian and American spelling of Plow are both exactly the same! It’s just old mother England Who likes to do everything the hard way :)

      • Actually, both ‘plough’ and ‘plow’ are acceptable in Canadian English. ‘Plow’ is considered archaic in British English.

      • don’t be rude!!!!!!!!!

      • Justin Cronkright says

        I AM CANADIAN! And I want every word ending with an ”or” to become like old ”our”, Creatour, Authour, etc. Just remember that although pronunced largely the same as an ”er” ending, FUCKER is still the same Timothy!

      • Saedi Folluf says

        Just fits an American egocentric prick to make a comment like yours. Your country existed a whole of “almost” 200 years and you behave like you’re a golden standard for culture and linguistics. And already you’re rotting from within! You’ll all be sold wholesale to China within a decade.

      • John Grey says

        In the US plough was used in the 1800’s.

      • Yes, true, and you like to bastardise it!

    3. If a writer chooses to use plough in Canada, then all other words in the piece of writing should also follow British spelling. This is common practice in academia. The rule is, once you pick a spelling style you need to stick with it. Some professors will even circle words if you switch from American to British or vice versa.

      • Donald K Rathburn says

        I guess then in academia I would be wrong. No wonder I didn’t finish college. I know the difference between American and British/Canadian spellings of plough vs. plow, but when writing, for some reason I would “plough” the farm field before I “plowed” the street in winter. Thank you for educating me.

      • Unless the writer chooses otherwise

    4. I’m Canadian, and automatically write “plough”. Surprised to see ‘plough’ acceptable on a variety of auto spell checkers on sites and services, but not ‘ploughed’. But OpenOffice allows both but rejects both ‘plow’ and ‘plowed’. If this means OO’s spell-check is Canadianized (or: Canadianised, Brits), then ‘plough’ is proper Canadian, eh?

    5. Come friendly bombs and drop on not-fast (Betjeman) :)

    6. Gregg Rich says

      “Ploughing your neighbor” reads much more elegantly.

      • Sean Hennessey says

        snicker…I have plowed some neighbors…or ploughed…or can’t I just say “plook”?

      • Ringspanner says

        actually the correct term is ploughing your neighbours wife

        • Donald K Rathburn says

          Once you have “ploughed” the neighbours wife . you should watch out for the “neighbors” husband, who wants to “plow” you in the face with his fist.

    7. I am a Canadian, and I almost always see “plough” and that’s what they teach my son who is in grade 3

    8. NO NO NO!!!!!! It ‘s ‘PLOUGH’ now put an end to it !!!

    9. Tyler Dolan says

      “Plough” and “plow” are both acceptable in American English too. At least, I am definitely American and the former looks more correct than the latter. My instructors have never corrected me and my peers spell it the same way. I suppose I should disclose that I’ve lived my whole life in the far North of the country, never more than a few hours from Canada.

    10. BellatrixMcDougall says

      Canadian and spell it plough. The exception being a specific reference to a snowplow.

    11. Ringspanner says

      Plough is correct. Phonetically Plow would be ploe

      • English ignores a lot of rules in pronunciation. A bow in her hair is boe. I took a bow after my performance is bou.

    12. Surely if it is ‘plowed’ then shouldn’t it sound the same as ‘blowed’? blow, low, flow, plow?!? It shouldn’t even be a word?

    13. Bryan Wiley says

      Bow, sow, cow, how, now, pow, vow, wow
      Bow, low, mow, row, tow.
      Though, Dough,

      I prefer “plough” though (npi)

    14. I’m in rural Central NY, and I have always spelled a thing for moving snow a plow, and a thing for farming a plough. So for me, it is two different words

    15. I am Canadian and when I read plow or plough, either way looks normal. So I’m going with “both” being correct. That being said, “our” as in favour, drives me crazy with the auto correct so I use favor and I also say ‘z’ as opposed to zed, so all you grammar fans, have at it. Also I may have some of my commas and quotation marks incorrectly placed, so no comments about that please.

    16. In Canada we use a plough in the field not a plow.

    17. I grew up stateside, but always saw / wrote plough until Chrome corrected me recently…Guess I read a lot of Canadian / British books.

    18. Colonel Sanders says

      Canadian (and proud of it – don’t let the Colonel fool you – just a moniker), and we’re having a snow storm (go figure). I just tried to text ‘ploughed’, and my Blackberry didn’t like it. Doesn’t look right with relation to snow removal anyway. For the record, Google won’t recognize it either, so I’m going to side with Jacob from New York, and plow snow, or plough land, separately. They really aren’t the same anyway, and this is a good way to make the distinction, eh. Lol!
      Happy spelling folks.

    19. TRDAS3

    20. Toni Massari says

      There is only ONE English: British English, the rest are American, Canadian, Australian, South African, New Zealander or whatever you care to call them… just as there are only ONE each of French, German, Spanish, Portuguese… AND we have Quebecois, Belgian Swiss French, Swiss German, Swiss Italian, Colombian, Mexican, Uruguayan, Brzilian etc.

    21. Bill Lewis III says

      KISS! As for our Canadian cousins, I suspect the customs (not the rules) are different in Alberta as compared to Quebec, Nova Scotia, or Ontario.

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