Spelt or Spelled – Difference & Examples

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

I love how you get different meanings and spellings of words when depending on what region you’re dealing with. Canada shares a lot with the UK, whereas America usually has its own take on things. Like when it comes to the words spelt and spelled. They both are accepted versions of the past tense of spell, but spelt also has a secondary meaning. Let’s talk about it!

Spelled vs. Spelt

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When using the word spelt or spelled, it’s all about context and the region at hand. In America, Canada, and other parts of the modern world, the past tense form of spell is spelled. However, in the UK, where words tend to differ in meaning, pronunciation, and even spelling, the past tense form of spell is usually spelt.

Spelled vs Spelt Ngram
Spelled and spelt usage trend.

With that being said, both forms are widely accepted and totally correct, so don’t worry. But if you’re writing specifically for a UK audience, let’s say, then try and use regional preferences.

Is Spelt a Word?

It is definitely a word and not a spelling mistake. In fact, it has more than one meaning, as far as I know. Here in North America, spelt is actually a type of wheat that’s been hulled. It’s considered more natural and way healthier than processed wheat used for bread and baked goods.

But spelt is also how most people in the UK say and spell the word we know in North America as spelled, aka the past tense form of spell.

Is It Spelt or Spelled in the UK?

Birtish English Spelled vs Spelt Ngram
British English spelled and spelt usage trend.

It’s s-p-e-l-t for the preferred choice of the past tense form of spell if you’re dealing with the UK. However, they recognize and accept both spelt and spelled.

What Is the Past Tense of Spell?

The past tense form of the English verb spell is spelled in North America and most modern parts of the world. But spelt is also acceptable, especially in the UK.

Other Meanings for Spelled and Spell

Yes, spelled is the past tense of spell. But it’s also a verb when talking about using magical spells. If a witch put a curse on you, she ‘spelled’ the curse or ‘spelled’ magic.

Also, you can use the noun spell to describe taking a break. “I sat down for a spell.” It means you sat down for a short period of time. It’s also used to describe a period of time that has passed without desired results. If you go a while without dating, you could say you’re going through a dry spell. 

Using Spelled in a Sentence

  • I didn’t know he spelled his name that way; I’d never seen it like that before.
  • The teacher spelled out the word on the board for the class to see.
  • After watching The Shining, I learned that redrum is murder spelled backward.

They spelled out broad, clear theories of human behavior. [San Francisco Chronicle]

Using Spelt in a Sentence

  • My name is Aaron, but hers is Erin, spelt with an E.
  • Charlie spelt her name the way it was intended most of her life until she legally changed it to include a Y at the end instead of IE.
  • I prefer to use spelt instead of heavily processed wheat for my homemade bread because it’s healthier and tastes way better.

Her name was Joanna (or “Jo”) Hiffernan – you probably want to correct that, but it was how both she and her father spelt it. [Irish Times]

Spelt or Spelled: It’s Up to You

So, in the end, both spelt and spelled are what you’d use if talking about the past tense of spell. But, spelt is best for UK audiences, while spelled is good for American English and just about anywhere. Also, spelt is a type of hardy wheat, so keep that in mind. I hope my guide helped explain the differences between these alternative spellings.

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