Program vs. Programme – Difference, Meaning & Examples

The English language has a multitude of words that are spelled differently but have the same meaning. Compound this fact with British vs. American spellings, and things can get quite confusing rather quickly.

The difference between program and programme is the perfect example of spelling discrepancies from “across the pond.” At first glance, the words look to be both pronounced and spelled differently, hence having a different meaning from one another altogether. However, we assure you, they are the same word.

Let’s look closer at this difference so you know how and when to use it in the proper context.

Programme vs. Program Meaning

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No matter how you spell it, program (or programme) can mean various things. But, the version of the spelling (and the context you use it in) is highly dependent upon which country you are in.

Let’s explain below.

Program

In American English, “program” is a noun and can mean any of the following,

  • A broadcast of some sort
  • A series of training or activities
  • Software
  • A pamphlet explaining an event or timeline of a series of events

In British English, “program” as a noun refers only to software.

Programme

In American English, you will not see the word “programme” used in any context. You may see a similar spelling when “program” is used as a verb but not when used as a noun.

For example:

  • The programming of that computer is wrong and will need work.
  • She programmed the machine to respond in training cycle mode.

In British English, “programme” is a noun and can mean any of the following,

  • A broadcast of some sort
  • A series of training or activities
  • A pamphlet explaining an event or timeline of a series of events

Notice the only thing different from the American English spelling is the application of the word when referring to a software or computer program. As mentioned above, the British use “program” rather than “programme” in that context.

The History of Program vs. Programme

Programme ngram
The British adaptation of the word Programme.

Many American English words are variations of British spellings, but “program” is different. The word was spelled program and remained unchanged in use until the nineteenth century when the British began to favor the French spelling programme.

When to Use Program vs. Programme

Since both spellings are pronounced the same, their differences only show up in writing. Unless you are writing for the U.K. or New Zealand, you will always use “program.”

For example:

  • The publicly funded program offers educational scholarships in high-risk communities.
  • Can you please record the evening news program on channel 34 for me tonight?
    Pick me up a program from the musical for my scrapbook.

In the U.K., you will also use “program’ for computer software.

For example:

  • The updated program is scheduled to install on the office computers at five o’clock tonight.

If you do happen to write for a British publication, then you would want to use the spelling “programme” in your text.

For example:

  • Please turn channel 16 to the Christmas Programme.
  • I need to have 250 programmes printed for the children’s play.

Let’s Review

Program and programme are pronounced the same and mean the same thing, but “programme” is the British spelling of the word after its French adaptation during the nineteenth century.

Use program as a noun to mean a program, series of events or activities, computer software, or pamphlet in American English. It also is used in British English to mean computer software.

Use programme to mean all of those things (except computer software) when using British English.

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