Program vs. programme

In British English, program refers to computer programs and their programming, and programme is used for all other senses of the word. New Zealanders tend to go along with the British distinction, and programme is preferred by government and the media. Australians have for several decades been moving steadily to adopt program for all senses, but programme is still used, albeit much less commonly, and seldom in the media and official publications. Americans and Canadians don’t use programme at all, preferring program for all senses of the word.

Program is inflected programs, programming, programmer, and programmed. Programme makes programmes, programming, programmer, and programmed.


U.S., Canada, and Australia

Publicly funded programs have enabled 1.2 million more children to gain health insurance since 2008. [Washington Post]

They will try different jobs – and maybe different programs – before settling on one. [The Globe and Mail]

It is concerned about the lack of educational and rehabilitation programs in prisons. [Sydney Morning Herald]

Programme (U.K.)

The Home Office funded-project was set up in April 2007 as part of the government’s wider Prevent counterterrorism programme. [Guardian]

The IMF was on the verge of agreeing a new programme in September to replace a previous $120m facility. [Financial Times]

Over the past few days the programme has been systematically roasted by commentators on all sides. [Telegraph]

Program (U.K.)

From here, the attacker downloads a program onto the phone that is able to decrypt passwords held on it. [Guardian]

Another program, Maya, is the de facto tool for computer animation, and is used extensively throughout the film industry. [Financial Times]

The freeware solution is a program suite called Videora Converter. [Telegraph]

12 thoughts on “Program vs. programme”

  1. ‘Australian and New Zealand tend to go along with the British distinction, but they are rather loose with it, using program often in all sorts of contexts unrelated to computers.’

    It would be more accurate to say that Australians now prefer ‘program’ to ‘programme’ in all contexts. The Macquarie Dictionary, for instance, lists ‘program’ ahead of the variant, and it is rare to see ‘programme’ in the media and government publications. In fact, there is a series of Australian comedy TV programmes called ‘The McCallef P(r)ogram(me)’; poking fun at, inter alia, those of us who prefer the British spelling.

    The Kiwis have retained ‘programme’ as you suggest.

    Also, note the typos in your text: ‘AustralianS and New ZealandERS’.

    • Thank you for catching that typo.

      We’ll look more closely into the Australian spelling when the time comes to revise this post again.

      If you’re following up on this, do you mind if we ask where you are from? Based on your several comments, it looks like you have a broad knowledge of varieties of English. Since we’re American, we could use someone to consult from time to time about Australian English in particular and non-U.S. varieties of English in general. If you would be able/willing to help, email us at [email protected]

  2. I’m quite confused by this still. I think programme is still used in N. America for a “military weapons programme”, but maybe thats wrong. I also thought that a theatre you had a programme, but maybe its always program. Confused….

    • Occasionally ‘programme’ is used in North America in the same way ‘shoppe’ would be used. Even though it is a defunct word, it is used to bring a certain ‘olde english’ charm to the table.

  3. I can vouch that in Ontario, Canada “Programme” was used in the British sense right up until the mid-’90s, especially in Government and Academia. With the rise of desktop PC word-processing and spell-checkers that defaulted to US spelling, I’ve watched this fall into disuse in anything other than academia.

  4. In the UK, prior to the mass adoption of computers, the word was always programme. Program became widespread only in the computer industry and then only when referring to software instructions. Presumably it was adopted from American (where it probably was one of Webster’s silly notions).
    Nonetheless the distinction is useful! I have a program which downloads TV programmes.

    • I know ‘programme’ has been used since the early 19th century but it always annoyed me being derived ultimately from the Greek. It is inconsistent with anagram, telegram, etc which share a similar etymology. O English, the exceptional language!

  5. Most of Japanese utilise “program” because they learnt the US dialect, but I don’t utilise. I am always utilising the UK spelling “programme” as I believe it to be exact. The British English is my favourite and honourable.


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