Spelled vs. spelt

In American English, spelt primarily refers to the hardy wheat grown mostly in Europe, and the verb spell makes spelled in the past tense and as a past participle. In all other main varieties of English, spelt and spelled both work as the past tense and past participle of spell, at least where spell means to form words letter by letter or (with out) to make clear. Outside the U.S., the two forms are interchangeable in these uses, and both are common.

But when spell carries the sense to temporarily relieve (someone) from workspelled is the preferred form throughout the English-speaking world. This is a minor point, though, as this sense of spell is rarely used outside the U.S., where it is most common.

Spelled is not a recent Americanism, as many people assume (including some who have commented on this post). Both spelled and spelt are old, and examples of each are easily found in historical Google Books searches covering the 17th and 18th centuries. It is true, however, that spelt was ascendant everywhere through most of the 19th century. This ended when Americans permanently settled on spelled around 1900.


American publications (and Canadian ones to a lesser extent) prefer spelled over spelt for all uses relating to the verb spell—for example:

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

While the comment carried an obvious implication, he spelled it out for the first time Tuesday. [Globe and Mail (link now dead)]

Trump’s advisers later note that “absolutely” and “lime” are spelled wrong. [Star-Ledger]

Unless we’re missing something, U.K., Irish, Australian, and New Zealand writers make no distinction between spelled and spelt. Don’t bother trying to find any difference between the words in these examples, which we have chosen more or less at random, because there is none:

Will they skip through thousands of mundane and badly spelled missives from authors? [Independent]

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]

The sect’s strict rules are clearly spelled out on the wall of the gates. [New Zealand Herald]

He has also calmly spelt out his own desire to end his life when he chooses, not when the disease does. [Daily Mail]

Campaigners behind a community bid to rescue Leith Waterworld today spelled out how the leisure pool could be given a new lease of life. [Scotsman]

Their temperamental differences are spelt out in other ways. [Sydney Morning Herald]


The following ngram shows the use of spelt and spelled in American books published in the 20th century. It shows that spelt has barely registered against spelled during this time:

Spelled Vs Spelt American English

And the next ngram shows the use of spelled and spelt in British English during the same period. According to the graph (which only covers published books), spelled has recently become the prevalent spelling.

Spelled Vs Spelt British English

211 thoughts on “Spelled vs. spelt”

  1. I find it interesting that you chose a sentence (Trump’s advisers later note that “absolutely” and “lime” are spelled wrong. [Star-Ledger]) to show usage of the word spelled that incorrectly ends it’s sentence with the word wrong, rather than wrongly. I find the word incorrectly generally sounds better than the word wrongly, but I still think that’s the correct ending for the semtence.

    • We agree with you that the alternatives sound better, but “wrong” is often used adverbially, especially when it follows the word it modifies. It might be a mostly American thing, but we see it at least on occasion in writing from elsewhere. And all the dictionaries we use (including the main British ones) include the adverbial sense under “wrong.” The OED lists examples of the adverbial wrong going back centuries. We’ve received this comment before, though (earlier comments on this post were recently purged), so “wrong” used in this way clearly bothers some people. 

        • You’re doing it wrong. The purpose of chrisb’s post was to illustrate that the ‘flat adverb’ wrong is perfectly acceptable to use in place of ‘wrongly.’ John_Glah wrongly asserted that ‘wrongly’ is the only acceptable usage, chrisb chided him for being obtuse and shunning the ‘ly’ lacking adverb, and you chimed in to wrongly assert that chrisb was wrong in calling out John_Glah’s post for shunning a correct usage by incorrectly framing the situation and begging the question of whether or not it is acceptable to end a sentence with ‘wrong’ as an adverb. It’s very simply, really…

          • Raising the question, not begging the question. Begging the question is an argumentative fallacy in which the arguer assumes the conclusion in his/her premises (a kind of circular argument).

          • It is clearly not a hatred of the language. Only a love for said language would cause him to argue about how it should and shouldn’t be correctly used.

          • Pretty clear he meant ignoring the question rather than raising it. Garner, 3d Ed, places that sense in stage three, commonplace among many well-educated people but still avoided in careful usage. Your meaning he puts in stage four, which I will summarize as a dead duck though it still makes an occasional despairing quack.

          • I have no idea how to feel about this,^^ I don’t know whether to be shocked, or laugh until my eyes pour tears.

          • That post!!! ^^^
            It’s ok, bruder, The awesome ME will take care of it!
            “You know, part of the reason of why I’m so awesome is because I drink beer. The awesome taste of this stuff almost brings awesome tears to my awesome eyes.”

      • i love your comment so much. this thread is getting so crazy about grammar. Like, it’s different from YouTube threads getting super racist over some 30second video or whatever. This thread is getting worked up about grammar. it makes me happy.

        • Some really intense “fighting” happens on YouTube because of a small grammatical mistake made by someone.

    •  Mr. Glah,

      You misspelt/misspelled “its” above. It should be “…ends its sentence with…”

      Please refrain from commenting on grammar or spelling while making such mistakes. It is an insult to the rest of us.


      Mr. Doyle

      • Is it me, or does it seem pompous to refer to yourself as ‘Mr.’?

        Aren’t English honorifics reserved only for use with others’ names?

        • No. They are fine to use when you do not wish to be too friendly with the person you are addressing. Unlike Japanese for example.

          e.g. “Hello, I am Mister Smith, I live in the flat below. Would you mind turning the volume down?”

          – Nicholas-san.

          • My American ears would think that was an odd thing to say. I would think that Mr. Smith was either being pompous or trying to hide his first name (maybe “Chauncey”?). The only people I have ever heard introducing themselves as “Mr.”, “Mrs., “Miss”, or “Ms.” are school teachers; between adults such a thing would be a source of comment or mockery (unless Mr. Smith had a foreign accent).

          • The reason for this is that, in America, one must convey false conviviality and appear, on the surface, to be chums with people whose very existence irks one. In England, one may be a neighbour or an acquaintance without exchanging forenames.

          • I can only vote up up once, unfortunately. And you spell “neighbour” with a “u”, too.

          • Not in the least bit, people introduce themselves as Mr. or Mrs. all the time. In fact, i’m Mr. Bellofatto, and i live in Las Vegas. Which is in America.

          • Actually, it is very strange to sign off a letter (especially hand-written) with a “san” etc. after your own name.

            The reason for that is such honorifics as “san” “sama” “kun” etc are used to show your relationship to the person whom you are sending the letter to.

          • Though my understanding of grammar is limited I believe one should not end a sentence with a preposition. (Never end a sentence with “with”). Therefore it would be better to write “… person to whom you are sending the letter.” Or perhaps restructure the letter to avoid the Churchill comment about the thing “up with which I shall not put”.

        • I love the fact that “T” is asking if calling yourself “Mr.” is pompous. If he called himself “Mr.”, he’d be “Mr. T”. ;-)

        • Certainly not. In any case, pomposity is entirely subjective. One might assume that a gentleman whose use of English passes muster might be permitted to sign himself “Mr.” without reaction!

      • Mr. Doyle,

        I would like to go ahead and point out that this page’s URL is http://grammarist.com/spelling/spelled-spelt/.

        Why must one refrain from commenting on the topic of spelling and/or grammar when that is entirely what this website is committed to? Surely, not everyone that visits here and comments is entirely accurate with their spelling and grammar, as no one person is perfect. This gentlemen was simply making an observation and stating an opinion. There is no need to turn Grammar Nazi here, and to assume that this man’s actions insult the rest of us would be a portrayal of one’s ignorance, for this statement is wholly inaccurate.

      • Rule 2
        Use the apostrophe to show possession. Place the apostrophe before the s to show singular possession.

        one boy’s hat
        one woman’s hat

        I would suggest that ending it’s sentence etc is correct.

        You, by omitting the apostrophe in your dialogue made the exact same mistake – something about people in glass houses . . . .?

        • No, this is an exception to possession rules. ” It’s” is the contraction of “it is”. “Its” is the possessive form of “it”. So check your stone at the door, please…

          • It’s not so much an exception to the apostrophe-s rule as it follows the rule for pronouns: hers, not her’s; its, not it’s.

        • Some words are inherently possesive and hence do not require apostrophes; like his or hers. Would you really put apostrophes in those?

        • Ghostrider939, you are incorrect regarding “It’s”. It’s the exception to the possession rule, as every boy and girl knows…

      • Mr. Glah,
        You are the doofus here; in fact, both Glah and Doyle are doofi. Mr. Glah did NOT misspell “it’s”, but rather used it incorrectly as a contraction, as in “it is”, instead of a possessive, which is what it should have been (“its sentence”). However, contractions are frequently misused. If I say (write): “This is my student’s paper”, I am referring to the possessive, the paper of one (1) student; however, if I say (write): “These are my students’ papers”, I now have more than one student in possession of more than one paper. It become possessive plural. Note the change of position of the apostrophe. I could also say, “This is my students’ paper” if they, indeed, all collaborated on one paper. Mr. Glah simply exchanged plural for possessive; he should have used plural in this instance. It is perfectly OK to jam an apostrophe in to say, “I gave A’s to all my students”, for the purpose of clarity, knowing that “A’s” in this case is certainly neither possessive nor plural. I hope this clears everything up, or as Yoda would say, “Up hope I everything clears!”

      • I agree Matthew – the word wrongly simply sounds like an incorrect word, yet it was a better choice than wrong. I prefer the word mid-sentence, as in “he was wrongly accused”

        • Here we find the difference between “wrongly” and “incorrectly”. “Wrongly” implies a moral or legal definition of “wrong”, something perhaps too heavy given the context. “Incorrectly” or “inaccurately” sounds nicer because it is nicer.

    • I find it interesting that you have used an apostrophe in it’s implying a contracted form of it is rather than a possessive pronoun. You also misspelled sentence.

    • Well, I think that “wrong” is correct. Take “Wrap up warm/warmly because it is cold”. Warmly is an adverb, and therefore qualifies a verb. Warm is an adjective and therefore qualifies a noun. The verb here is “Wrap”. This involves moving the arms to cover the body with a coat. I don’t see how you can move your arms warmly. Also, there is no noun here for “warm” to qualify. In the quotation the act of spelling was obviously carried out wrongly, but the quotation discusses the result, and the result produced is what is wrong.

      Some people think that this is pedantry. But people who have to write or speak clearly like lawyers, public administrators, when clarity is essential, need correct English. The rest of the population can use English in any way they like, jumbling things up, so long as people still understand them. That’s fine by me. Just don’t try to draft a will, a Regulation or a technical manual.

      • Interesting. ‘Wrap up warm’ doesn’t sound quite as right to my ears (I’m Australian—we have beautiful, sensitive ears) as ‘wrap up warmly’. But you’re right, now that I think about it.

      • Second paragraph – quite correct! First paragraph wrong, in that there IS a noun for ‘warm’ to qualify albeit it’s implied (i.e. invisible); try “Wrap (yourself) up warm”. However, ‘warmly’ is OK too – warmly, tightly, quickly – all describing the action of wrapping yourself.

        Flat adverbs? Never heard of ’em! I concur with John Glah’s second comment – “…the word wrongly simply sounds like an incorrect word, yet it was a better choice than wrong. I prefer the word mid-sentence, as in “he was wrongly accused”. Agreed about smacked wrist re its/it’s and semtence though :)

        • I think you’ll find that those who have been using the apostrophe in that fashion have long been using it incorrectly.

          Just because a mistake is repeated over time doesn’t make it any less of a mistake.

          ‘its’ is to ‘it’ as ‘hers’ is to ‘her’ – no apostrophe required to indicate possession.

          ‘it’s’ should only be used as a contraction of ‘it is’.

          • I don’t think you’ll find a dictionary that will back you up on that, but if you want to take the perspective that language and spelling can’t change then it is actually incorrect to write the possessive form without an apostrophe. OED’s entry on the etymology of its reads as follows:

            Formed in end of 16th cent. < it pron. + 's of the possessive or genitive case, and at first commonly written it's…

          • I do not want to take the perspective that language and spelling can’t change – that would be absurd – although I do understand that it is easier to argue against a straw man of one’s own design.

            “If someone says “it’s been raining all day,” do you claim that they are not speaking English?”

            No, why would I suggest that to somebody who is patently speaking English?

            “Or that a phonetic “it’s” must be spelled “it has”?”

            I’m afraid I’m unfamiliar with the phonetic “it’s”. To my ear “it’s” and “its” sound identical. But I’m sure I must be missing some nuance here.

            I’m happy to clarify that I don’t believe contracting “It has a brown door” to “It’s a brown door” is correct, nor do I believe that “It has a shiny surface” should be rendered as “It’s a shiny surface”.

            I can concede; however, that where the contraction directly involves a relevant form of the verb ‘to be’ then an apostrophe would seem to be appropriate.

          • It’s been a hard day’s night! That surely means “it has”, because “it is been a hard day’s night” is clearly incorrect.

          • I’m afraid you have either not read my comment through to the end or failed to understand it.

            We can not have a rule that states “it has” can be contracted to “it’s” because there are so many instances where it clearly can’t. For example, If I am referring to the fact that my house has a blue door I can say “it has a blue door” but I can’t say “it’s a blue door”.

            However, where the present perfect tense, “has been”, is used then, as I stated, the “has” part of “has been” may be contracted to ” ‘s “.

          • “Where’d” can mean “where had”, “where did”, “where would”.

            “What’s” can mean “what is”, “what does”, “what has”.

            These are shortcuts, vague ones, and tend to be avoided in formal writing, but all the same still grammatically correct.

          • I’m sure that’s all very interesting but I’m not sure that it has anything to do with the “its vs it’s” discussion.

            What is confusing people here is that ‘its’ is part of the same grouping as ‘her/hers’ and ‘his’ – in other words ‘its’ is a possessive form in its own right and doesn’t need the addition of an ‘ ‘s ‘ in order to make it possessive.

            Perhaps a simple to remember rule would be along the lines of:

            “if you can replace ‘its’ with ‘his’ then you shouldn’t use an apostrophe”.

          • This doesn’t have to do with “its” versus “it’s”. it’s to do with “it’s” being a valid contraction of it has.

            it’s (ts)
            1. Contraction of it is.
            2. Contraction of it has

            If you ask “what’s that?”, you could be meaning “what is that?” or “what does that?” or “what has that?” Naturally “what is” is the one that goes with the context of that contraction the best, but it’s not always so simple. Just changing the context around the word changes what the implied contraction is. Just because you can say “it’s” and mean either “it is” and “it has” in some context doesn’t mean that “it has” is invalid because “it is” also works there.

            who’s == who has | who is
            what’s == what has | what is
            where’s == where has | where is
            when’s == when has | when is
            why’s == why has | why is
            how’s == how has | how is

            “where’d can mean either “where would” or “where had”.

            The rules of English are far from perfect, even evolving, and there’s no enforcing it. There will likely never be a reform either.

          • “This doesn’t have to do with “its” versus “it’s”. it’s to do with “it’s” being a valid contraction of it has.”

            I can only conclude that you haven’t been reading my posts properly so I will repeat:

            If I am talking about my house and state that it has a brown door, then I could not reasonably contract the “it has” portion of that phrase to ” it’s ” without completely losing the meaning.

            As I stated previously, while there are circumstances where ” it’s ” may be a valid contraction of “it has” (essentially where “has” is being used in a temporal sense) it is not true to say that ” it’s ” can be a valid contraction of “it has” when the “has” is being used in a possessive sense.

            “Contractions are shortcuts, that at the time occurred when two words were mashed together”

            Thank you for that (and I don’t feel condescended to in the slightest) and ” its ” is not a contraction and is not made by mashing together two separate words.

          • What I mean is that contractions occurred when people merged those commonly used words together. There’s no rule as to what can be a contraction and what cannot. They arose out of slang, and slang doesn’t create perfect rules. For instance, “it was” became ” twas’ ” because those two words were used so often that people had a tendency to merge these words together. There’s hundreds of contractions out there, and saying what contraction cannot be used in certain context is a futile effort at best.

            To put it another way, just because a word can have two possible meanings in the context of a sentence doesn’t mean that one of those meanings is invalid.

            Yet it’s not a great idea to not use a contraction in a place where it can have two possible meanings, just as it’s not often a great idea to use a word in a sentence that can mean two different things (especially in formal writing.)

          • I can only assume that you are replying to my comments out of convenience as you are clearly not ‘replying’ in any conventional understanding of the term.

            “What I mean..”

            I think you’ll find that the sort of clarification that follows this phrase is only useful where your correspondent has failed to understand something you have previously stated; it is simply tiresome, repetitive and condescending otherwise.

            “There’s hundreds of contractions out there, and saying what contraction cannot be used in certain context is a futile effort at best.”

            I imagine you will, therefore, consider it futile for me to suggest that your use of ” there’s ” as a contraction of “There are” is invalid, inappropriate and wrong (although not without a little irony given the context).

            “For instance, “it was” became ” twas’ ” ”

            Really? Aside from this contraction having nothing to do with ‘slang’ as you suggest, I think you will find that placing the apostrophe at the end of the word, as you have done, rather than at the beginning, as would be dictated by grammatical conventions, would lead a reader to wonder at the meaning of “twa”, contemplate how many “twas” were being referenced and puzzle at what quality or object these multiple “twas” were possessing. While I am sure that your meaning would likely have been able to be discerned through context this would have been in spite of the obstacle represented by your disregard of grammatical conventions; your flouting of rules would have hindered your meaning not helped it.

            “just because a word can have two possible meanings in the context of a sentence doesn’t mean that one of those meanings is invalid.”

            My house has a brown door. Once it is established that the subject of my sentence is my house I can quite legitimately rephrase that sentence to “It has a brown door”. It is not legitimate, valid or otherwise consistent with the intended meaning to then contract the ” it has ” portion of the sentence to read ” It’s a brown door “. To claim otherwise is a crime against effective communication. To claim that one of the meanings of “It’s a brown door” is “it has a brown door” is, regardless as to what you might assert, invalid.

            Grammatical rules are not in place to hinder communication but to make it more effective; to ensure that scope for miscommunication and misunderstanding is limited. You suggest that there is no enforcing grammatical rules and conventions in English? Well, the fact that those rules remain and work to such a large extent stands as testament to their effectiveness.

          • “it’s” is used as a contraction. whether it be “it has,” or “it is.” The word “its” is used when it is showing possession.

    • I realise that your comment is two years old, but feel the need to point out the hypocrisy inherent in criticising incorrect grammar (wrong/wrongly) when you have placed an incorrect apostrophe in the word its. Also, semtence?

      • Do you really think that ‘hypocrisy’ is the correct word in this instance?

        Are you aware that the inappropriate apostrophe and ‘semtence’ typo have already been commented on repeatedly in this discussion?

        Are you suggesting that it is somehow wrong of someone to draw attention to a grammatical error on a site dedicated to correct grammar if they have made an error themselves? Should only angels be able to comment on the actions of demons?

        Should the error in punctuation diminish the value of the point being made regarding the use of adverbs vs adjectives?

        Do you have any helpful contribution to the discussion or are you simply interested in calling Mr Glah a hypocrite for something he wrote two years ago?

        • Is it possible to ask too many questions? Are you suggesting that I should not have commented? Do you think Mr Glah is taking my comment so seriously? Should I apologise for offending you with my use of the word hypocrisy? Is it possible to take people who make comments about grammar too seriously?

          I don’t have any helpful contribution, other than giving you an opportunity to comment.

          • “Is it possible to ask too many questions?” – it depends on context*

            “Are you suggesting that I should not have commented?” – no, I was merely commenting on the comment you chose to post.

            “Do you think Mr Glah is taking my comment so seriously?” – I’m not sure about your use of the word “so”. I have no personal knowledge of Mr Glah or what he is or is not likely to take seriously or whether he is even aware of your post.

            “Should I apologise for offending you with my use of the word hypocrisy?” – no offence has been taken by me therefore any apology to me would be misguided. It was not, after all, me whom you were accusing of hypocrisy and I try not to be offended on behalf of others.

            “Is it possible to take people who make comments about grammar too seriously?” – yes.

            *There, 5 questions asked and 5 answered. I think we’ve successfully demonstrated that by most applicable measures 5 is not too great a quantity of questions to pose in this context.

          • Sorry, I was in desperate need of a distraction at work. Thanks for being such a good sport.

            (I still think the ‘hypocrisy’ comment came across as a little mean-spirited though).

          • I am regularly in need of distraction also. I guess calling it hypocrisy was probably a little severe. I would have called it irony, but I’m never quite sure what counts as irony and what doesn’t, and I’m pretty sure using the word “irony” in the incorrect context on this thread would result in being skeletonised by an entire school of grammar-piranhas.

            So there’s hypocrisy (or perhaps irony?) for you. I’m one of the piranhas, but afraid of being eaten by the rest of the school.

            I hope your work days become less boring/infuriating as time goes by.

    • I know this is three years later, but I find it interesting you wrote a comment about someone incorrectly ending their sentence and chose to end yours with an error as well. Thank you for the laugh.

  2. The past tense ‘spelt’ is heard quite routinely here in Canada, where it coexists with spelled just as learnt and learned are both commonly found in Canada.

    • You’re correct in saying that this word is ‘heard’, as opposed to written. This shamble of a word is just and example of people trying to write exactly what they hear regardless of taking into account differences in the spoken accent and dialect.  If you you hear someone say “I caint git no wawtuh out the sink”, it does not mean one would be correct in proceeding to spell those words as I did here.  “Spelt” is lazy and in my honest opinion has only become valid most likely to cover up the mistakes made by someone who touted a supposed education.  For instance, Sarah Palin and George Bush.

      • In Canada,  ‘spelt’ is an acceptable past participle of the verb to spell in both oral and written forms. It is like ‘burnt’ and ‘burned’. It has nothing to do with being lazy. Your opinion reminds me of one of my students who insists that poor should not rime with tour, but rather with more. This came to me as a shock, but she is still entitled to her erroneous opinion. Spelt has always been valid; this is not a new phenomenon.

        • I found “pore” (impoverished, pitiful) to be the normal pronunciation on the East Coast.  I was the one who was off-beat, with my “pooer”.

          • I read all three words as rhyming with one another. I have always pronounced “pore” and “tore” instead of “poo-er” and “too-er”. Am I incorrect in my pronunciation?

        • Well, your student was not incorrect, as pronouncing poor “pore” is quite common, and seems to be the prefered pronunciation in the US. As you can see in the second graph above, “spelled” has taken the lead in British spelling and is continuing on an upward trend, while “spelt” is on a downward trend. In international English “spelled” is far more common than “spelt”, as it should be.

        • Single syllable pronunciation is English, two syllable pronunciation is Scots. Canada has a large ex-Scotland population so it is not surprising that pronunciation there would follow Scots rules.

      • It’s more likely that ‘spelt’ is the older word, and ‘spelled’ merely came about because of some people being incapable of coping with irregular verbs. It most certainly is not a “shamble of a word” (surely you mean ‘shambles’ for the phrase?), and is in fact the more common form outside of America.

        • Quite correct. The word “spelt” has been a valid use for some time, perhaps longer than the word “spelled.” However, it’s more used in England than in America.

          • With my tongue placed firmly in my cheek I find myself compelled to say, ” My, how our great language has changed in the past two hundred and 36 years”!

            I wonder if the fact that “spelt” is apparently used more in England could be because we are discussing the English language here and not its ongoing “Americanisation”.

            Ironically in this case, the change involves the addition of extra letters and yet the process of “Americanisation” usually involves reducing the number of letters to “bastardise” the English language.
            For example colour > “color”
            and Aluminium > “Aluminum” etc.

            So, if you wish to use graphs to indicate how the language has changed, please at least base the change on the standard English language and not on what is normal in America?

            P.S. Only Superman wears pants on the outside. All other men wear trousers.
            Trousers have been the accepted wear for gentlemen since the days of the Duke of Wellington.
            Pants is a shortened version of the word pantaloons – an Itlalian term for the baggy trousers worn by a comic figure, a foolish old man, in Itlalian pantomine. Also referred to as “patalone”. The word does not appear to have evolved from a garment, but rather from the drama form “patomine”–which had a Latin origin.
            So, unless the garments are baggy and comical, they are trousers and not pants!

          • Isn’t it great that the English language is so rich and colorful, borrowing much from other languages?

            So, if you want to fork over brass for a wager at my advocate’s flat due to my bird’s distracting bomb of tight pants that cause my lori to go into the roadside channel, that’s alreet. By the way, should I have worn of Wellignton’s wellies and what graphical record are you speaking of? ;-)

          • I find it interesting that you would consider that response as being ‘tongue in cheek’. That is…quite a heady thing to say in response to a person who was simply stating their point of view. No matter how erroneous that person’s assertions may be, it is highly unnecessary to pull out the whole “British supremacy” tirade. Frankly, people like you frustrate and irritate me. When it comes to language, there is beauty to be found everywhere. Change is not the enemy–it is what has allowed English to develop into the beautiful language that it is today, and will allow it to flourish in the future.

            From your slanderous tone and unhelpful overcriticism, it seems more realistic for me to assume that you were merely posting here as a venue to channel your aparent rage at American English, rather than to form any sort of actual point. But I digress.

          • For those that complain about American English, they seem to be a bit silly. Every language evolves it is normal that the English spoken in America should differ from the one spoken in the UK, it’s only common sense nothing to be upset about

          • “Aluminum” is the older spelling. It was later changed to “aluminium” to match the names of the elements around it in a systematic way. Both spellings are considered correct under international standards.

          • Actually, there is no international English, in the sense of a single common standard. There are two main national standards that are used widely—British and American—and several other national standards. ‘Aluminium’ is standard in BrE and ‘aluminum’ in AmE.

          • Whoa, and here I thought we Americans were supposed to be the arrogant ones.

            Everyday my etymology teacher would say, “All languages are equally old.”

            All language has been evolving since humans began to communicate using spoken words/phrases. The English language is much older than 236 years; as it has been evolving (and continues to evolve) as one of several Germanic languages which have been recorded as far back as 200 years BCE.

            Words, in the way that you’re comparing them (trousers vs. pants or spelt vs. spelled) cannot be right or wrong. Language is much broader than that. For example, the etymology of your beloved trousers: “trouzes” (1580’s); trouse (1570’s), from the Gaelic or Middle Irish word “triubhas”(of unknown origin) which was defined as “close fitting shorts”.

            There is no “standard English language” because it all depends on the part of the world in which you grew up and learned to speak. Why would you assume such a thing as a “standard English language” would exist and is based on the way you speak? Certainly the simple fact that you speak it doesn’t make it superior to anyone else’s English language.

            Source for etymology of “trousers”: https://www.etymonline.com/

            Source for Germanic Language info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germanic_languages

          • So many things wrong with this I don’t know where to begin.

            More often than not, the so-called “Americanisation” is really a result of the British changing a spelling or trending in a different direction between two alternatives. People are convinced that Americans just make up words for the sake of being contrary when it’s often the British who just can’t make up their minds.

            Using your examples, “color,” from the French “color,” from the Latin “color,” is hardly a “bastardisation,” but more the centuries-old variant that most clearly reflects the etymological roots of the word. “Aluminum” was the spelling decided upon by Sir Humphrey Davy, the British inventor who first isolated the element, and it was not until after his death (and after the material and its spelling had spread to the Americas) that an anonymous contributor to a political journal suggested changing it to “aluminium” because it sounded “more classical.” For another popular misconception, check out the story behind the word “soccer” (spoiler: it’s a British term).

            Speaking of “Americanisation” and “bastardisation,” the original form of the suffix from Greek, via Latin, is in fact “-ize” and is the preferred spelling even in the OED.

            As for pants, the etymology has nothing to do with “patomine,” whatever that is. You are correct about the foolish old man, but completely wrong on the style. Through the 17th and 18th centuries, typical leg-wear consisted of knee-breeches, which were basically baggy poofy shorts, over tights. “Pants” is of course an abbreviated form of “pantaloons,” named for “Pantaloun,” a character in an Italian play who wore long tight trousers over his skinny legs, without any breeches, which was regarded at the time as silly and comical. Pantaloons were subsequently adopted, first by the French, as long tight trousers which replaced the knee-breeches. They were and are an outer garment. The term “underpants” didn’t come around for another few centuries, and the use of “pants” to refer to undergarments is a re-shortening of “underpants.”
            Incidentally, the adoption of pantaloons took place more than a hundred years before the first Duke of Wellington was even born, and the abbreviated form of “pants” was introduced during his lifetime.

          • The tradition is that the person who isolates an element gets to name it. Humphrey Davy named his element “aluminum”. It was later changed by some writers who had never heard of platinum, molybdenum and others and thought elements should end with “-ium”. This is one where the Americans have claim to the earlier and more traditional spelling.

      • Lol the very fact you’d make the comparison makes you an idiot. Not to mention that ‘spelt’ has been common in English English countries for a long time. Not everything is done with America or Americans in mind ya know…

      • No sir, spelt, dreamt, lept, knelt and learnt are acceptable witten verb forms in Canada. This has nothing to do with colloquialisms. These forms may be a result of German influence, but English is a Germanic language. That you perceive these forms of the verb to be ‘lazy’ is merely a personal opinion that has no basis in fact.

  3. Here in Australia it is spelt, not spelled, learnt is completely different to learned (pronounced learn-ed, as in my learn-ed colleague). Ho is something Santa says, Hoe is what you till the earth in your vegie patch and a Whore is a lady of the night or a prostitute.

    • For the most part it’s the same here in Scotland. I would have presumed this is true for the rest of the UK as well, but not according to the graph above.

    • I have lived in Australia all my life and ‘learned’ is most definitely an acceptable variant of ‘learnt’ and ‘spelled’ of ‘spelt’. It’s not unusual for people to use the -ed ending, but -t is still more common.

    • As far as I know, it’s the same in the UK, I never use ‘spelled’ and can’t think of anyone who does! Also I agree on the learn-ed/learnt situation!

  4. “It’s sentence”?! Seriously, Mr. Grammar Nazi?!

    I tried, I really did, and searched far and wide for any trace of sarcasm, a joke, a reason… No, none to be found.


  5. You Americans illiterate people are killing me!!! I wouldn’t expect you to know that a “homonym”is; I would, however, ecpect you to know the simple difference between “spell” as in “Can you please spell your name for me?” and “spell” as in, “I put a spell on you”. So… have you spelt correctly the name of the spelled person?! That would be your homework; hopefully you’ll get it right. Brithish will… Americans… neh, I wouldn’t be giving you the credit.

    • Can you help us understand what you are referring to? “Participial” is the adjective meaning “of or relating to participles,” so we don’t see how “past-participial” makes us bad. Clarification?

      •  Grammarist is correct on this one… I do understand what ‘oops’ thought the sentence structure should have been, but, in fact, Grammarist wasn’t formulating his sentence in that way.

    • I would agree with that. I have always said and written “spelt”, as have all my schoolmates, teachers and family – when I started using Microsoft Word more often than I used to, I noticed spellchecker and autocorrect would pick up on a few things like that. All the same I am positive I am correct in this. I for one am going to continue spelling the way I was taught.

    • How would the spellchecker pick up on ‘spelt’ as a misspelt word when ‘spelt’ has several other meanings quite apart from ‘spelled’?

      • It would probably put up the blue line not the red. So it would be asking if you are sure that is the word you want rather than letting a person know it was not spelled correctly.

        Although Word is not wanting to correct mine when I type spelt, but my web browser wants to.

  6. Colour. Oh? It has a red line under it? But I’m sure it’s spelt like
    that. Oh wait! Another red line under spelt? Well. That is strange.
    Maybe I’ll change it to: “But I’m sure it’s spelled like that”. That’s better. Makes no sense though. I guess I’ve learnt – not again…

    • I found this thread interesting and amusing. I was born in 1960 in Yorkshire, England. The graph shows a clear change from “spelt” to “spelled” after 1960 and I can say that during my years in grammar school I was taught that the correct word to use is “spelled”. In fact, I would say that in my travels around the UK most people do use “spelled” but here in Yorkshire where traditions die hard, many people still use “spelt”. I suppose it depends largely upon where you were raised and educated as to which version you believe is correct. However, I still prefer “spelled”. If you really want to hear examples of the raping of the Queen`s English then you need only come visit!
      Perhaps I should also say that I am descended from 10 generations of Yorkshire folk; love my county; and all the people in it – or is it Innit!

  7. Hi, just wanted to say that English is a beautiful language, that’s why so many people speak it and so many more are learning it. for those that complain about American English, they seem to be a bit silly. Every language evolves it is normal that the English spoken in America should differ from the one spoken in the UK, it’s only common sense nothing to be upset about. Peace out

    • I dont think its about evolving the same language,if it changes into a different language then your point makes sense as then it would be American but English is English and must remain so or is not English anymore,if you say its American rather than American English that makes sense.Am i making sense?

      • IMO there is no such thing as “dyslexia” -it’s another fabricated bit of nonsense like “fibromyalgia” (addicted to pain killers) and “chronic fatigue syndrome” (laziness). Dyslexia should just be called “adjusting to printed text”. EVERYONE has to do that to some degree. I used to mix up “b” and “d” … in kindergarten. Oooooo I was dyslexic….. I had a handicap…. a “learning disability”. Baloney.

        • You are apparently an Idiot. Fibromyalgia isn’t dealt with painkillers, there is such things as Dyslexia it doesn’t just do with things that have be misspelled, it is actually about how you see the words on the page. It is not about adjusting to printed text. before you go and say stuff and make yourself look stupid you should probably research things.

        • I’m sorry, but you are so dead wrong. I’ve been suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome for almost 2 years. I’m not lazy. At its worst, I would have given anything to be able to function, but the most I was able to be upright was two or three hours a day. I would sleep 72 hours at a clip and need to lie down again after only a couple hours of being up. The inescapable, debilitating exhaustion was brutal. It fed a terrible depression and attacked my memory and cognition. It has nothing to do with being lazy. I wanted dearly to be able to live normally. If I were lazy, all I would need to do is strike up some motivation, but that’s not the case. Further, fibromyalgia is NOT an addiction to pain killers. It is chronic body-wide joint pain. Pain killers are used to ease the suffering and doesn’t always lead to addiction. And one more… Can you read Cyrillic script? When you look at it, does it make any sense to you? Imagine spending years learning it, but you fail to discern the characters properly from each other… Welcome to dyslexia. It’s a cognition handy cap. Being unable to properly associate symbols to their meaning. These things are science fact, not liberal coddling. IMO, your opinion is baloney.

        • You are a moron. I have fibromyalgia and I don’t take ANY pain killers, barring the occassional ibuprofen. Pain killers do not work for fibromyalgia. I treat my symptoms with regular exercise, eating right and getting enough rest. I believe you are suffering from a terrible case of stupidity. Unfortunately I don’t think there is a cure for that.

        • Well good thing that these conditions are not a matter of opinion but of facts. My Fiancee has Fibromylagia and stopping narcotic analgesics was part of the process of diagnosing it, as was stated by another, they don’t work on fibromylagia. I wish they did, I have never seen someone in so much pain as she is when it flares up.

          As for Dyslexia, well that would be my lot in life, tends to go hand in hand to some extent with left handedness, or is that fabricated nonsense too, maybe we lefties are just unwilling to conform to societies standards, because we really just don’t want to use scissors the same way and want to complain about how can openers work.

  8. I am loving this website will all of my heart. I may only be 20 years old but living in America during this time is becoming a grammatical headache. I cannot take the influx of horrible American grammar and spelling! I find myself constantly correcting the people in my household and I dare not speak to anyone who believes grammar doesn’t matter. I love American English to such a degree as to show it proper respect. English outside of the U.S. isn’t really something that interests me, particularly European English as almost everything about it contradicts American English, but I’m not picky about correcting even foreign grammar. I did not know however that ‘spelt’, ‘smelt’ and ‘learnt’ were viewed as grammatically correct overseas. I have always considered them as incorrect and lazy on the speaker’s part and as something only younger people did.

    • If you want to get the English version of anything, and not an Americanisation, always look on the left hand side when googling, and click the “pages from the UK” part. I know it is annoying, but the Americans seem to think they are the only nation on the Earth.

      • In my experience, most websites cater especially to the region of people in which they were created. European and Asian websites are no different.

      • The problem is that some spellcheckers assume British or Australian English is narrower in spelling options than it actually is. Take, for example, ‘Americanisation’, it is actually perfectly acceptable in British English to spell it ‘Americanization’, and has been for centuries. Even so, the spellchecker used by Apple (for example) allows either ‘English’ (by which they mean US English) or ‘British English’, and the latter won’t accept the -ize suffix. Apple need to read a dictionary.

      • Please refrain from using such broad statements…you only show arrogance and ignorance when you define a country as a whole based on the actions of a few.

  9. While -t and -ed spellings may be accepted as correct usage, in my experience growing up in the Southeastern US, -t endings are more commonly chosen by less educated speakers. That, of course, has the upshot that usage of spelt, learnt, and similar gives the impression that the speaker is less educated.

    • Really?! That surprises me, as here in the UK some I know have been of the perception that the -t ending was more correct, and those that used the -ed ending were less well educated, simply using the usual past tense ending.

      • You’ve got to use historical context here Nicholas. Back in the ‘Revolution days’, when the new land was trying to provide itself with an identity, they mongrelised quite a bit of the English language and formed the American language. Stick to real English like us Kiwis do.

        • The vast majority of English speakers live in America, so what was that about “real English?” (I think ~300 million of the 375 million of total English speakers in the World)
          Also, UK English isn’t even the same in the different countries that reportedly speak it.

          There is either no longer a “real English,” or there is a new “real English” in town.

          • I’ve got to agree with you Dustin – but I don’t have to like it, although your vast majority would probably be significantly reduced if you thought of countries where English is an official language – but secondary to another ie India. Just understand, I’ll die gladly before admitting that “I speak American.” LOL

          • Ethnologue puts it as only 210 million out of ~325 million native speakers of English (there’d be 60+ million in the UK, 20+ million in Canada and Australia both at least so there’s 100 million non American native born English speakers not even counting Ireland and the rest of the Commonwealth) although the US government would put it at 82% of the current US population of around 330 million, so 265 million is probably more accurate. All English is pretty much the same. We’re arguing over whether it is ‘more correct’ to say ‘t’ or ‘d’ in one or two words. But if there were competing dialects might does not make right.

          • There are around 250 million people who speak English as a first language in the US (out of 315 million people).
            If you added up all the other people in the world who speak English as a 1st language – the number would be about the same, maybe 10-30 million less.
            Now, add in everybody who can speak English as a 2nd and 3rd language, and the number surpasses the number who speak English in the US alone.

        • Real English would be “as we Kiwis do”. “Like us Kiwis do” is a terrible bastardization of English, on any continent. I’ll stick to ‘proper’ English, as defined by Oxford and Webster’s.

  10. It is funny that you argue for the words “spelt” and “spelled”, because if you read the older editions of many books, you’ll find spelt was frequently used, and also other words, such as; wept, slept, etc. In my humble opinion; please read as much as you can, do some research in your spare time, and don’t write the first idea that comes to your mind, remember language is something that is always changing, but let’s not forget the past, we might not use some words that our grandparents used, but that doesn’t make us complete idiots, such as those that use them daily, aren’t dummies.

    • If you payed attention to anything that was said, spelt WAS more common in OLDER books so idk what the hell you’re trying to argue there. As for wept, and slept… There IS NO “ed” ending versions of those words so idk what the hell your brain’s thinking there either. There is no wepped or sleped… or slepped >.<

  11. “But when spell carries the sense to temporarily relieve (someone) from work, spelled is the preferred form throughout the English-speaking world. This is a minor point, though, as this sense of spell is rarely used outside the U.S., where it is most common.”

    Interestingly this is commonly used in Cornwall, UK. You’ll often hear, “D’you want a spell?”.

  12. Hong Kong was under the rule of Britain for a very long time., and in the year of 1997, the hundred-year-contract finally came to an end. Although it has been twenty-five years since HK was returned back to China, some of the influences of the British customs remain evident even to this day. We still take afternoon tea breaks at 3 o’clock, we address our teachers, elders, and/or strangers using prefixes such as Mr. Mrs. and Miss. There are still a number of English-based local schools that teaches all subjects in English, with the exception of Chinese literature, and Chinese history. I attended an English-based, all-girl Catholic school back when I was in HK, and they taught me both “spelled” and “spelt”, “Alluminium” instead of “Alu-mi-num”, “colour”instead of “color”, “realize” vs. “realise”. “Its” – a possessive pronoun and a possessive adjective, should be written without an apostrophe. It’s a common misconception that “Its” and “It’s” are interchangeable, such grammatical error (from my personal observations) is often made by many native Americans. Here’s another one that confused me for a bit ——-➠ (Every single person of whom I have conversed with in the U.S.), they’d say, for example, “If I WAS you, ……”, instead of “If I WERE you, ….” (which contradicts with what I’ve been taught since I was a kid)…….. Frankly, I really don’t care much about the spelling differences between the U.S. and the U.K, and I wouldn’t mind spelling words the U.K. way to accomodate the person who I’m communicating with. Language was created by people to understand other people, it is a mean to connect, build networks and bonds in which facilitates the exchange of knowledge, and innovative ideas. Just remember that the “rules” that you’re accostumed to should not be used as the standards to criticize and judge those who share rules and cultural believes that are different than yours. Your “rules” isn’t necessarily better than mine, and vice versa…… They’re just different, that’s all.

  13. I just had to searched this spelt verbed online because I read it in a book and for a moment I felted kinda dumbed… like I still had a lot to learnt! I’m sorry I think my vocabulary just got even more messed upped than what it already was.

  14. Another early 19th century anachronism in my humble opinion. Americans were running from pronouncing the ‘ed’ as a separate syllable (learn-ed) and started substituting the stupid “t” instead. Even though it may be grammatically OK, it looks and sounds out of place. I teach my student to avoid ‘burnt, learnt, etc.unless they’re going for that old-timey dialect.

    • “Spelt” is almost nonexistent in North America, as the first paragraph above says.

      By the way, these -t spellings came about during a period from the 15th through 18th centuries when some Britons thought it proper to change the spellings of words from which they’d dropped the final “ed” syllable in speech. The practice predates the United States and American English as we know it by several centuries.

      • They are both proper but for whatever reason the shortened “t” sounds almost like slang. These days language seems to be shortened a lot amongst the youth. As a sort of trendy or urban dialect. Personally I prefer the “ed” version of spelt. However, you are saying that the original version of the word started as spelled and then shifted to spelt.

  15. “Spelled” and “spelt” are pronounced differently; generally I prefer “spelled” because “spelt” sounds abrupt and harsh. Same for “learned” rather than “learnt”.

  16. English came from, well England, so I guess they get Kudus when it comes to how things are spelt – oh I live in Nevada

  17. This is the most dignified trolling i’ve ever seen. Makes me think of a bunch of old professor hanging out by the fireplace and smoking pipes, having a casual prolixity contest

  18. Very interesting! As an English teacher in Australia, I definitely prefer “spelt” over “spelled”; though your graphs and newspaper quotes are very helpful in understanding why so many more teachers are accepting the American spelling. Thank you!

  19. I noticed in one of the above examples, taken from the Star-Ledger, that four grammatical errors, three of which are unrelated to the discussion, are evident: “Trump’s advisers later note that “absolutely” and “lime” are spelled wrong.” It should be ” incorrectly spelled,” not “spelled wrong,” as “wrong” is an adjective, not an adverb. Further, the advisors noted, in the future; they do not presently note that words are incorrect. The sentence should read, “Trump’s advisors later noted that ‘absolutely’ and ‘lime’ were incorrectly spelled.”

  20. Re the comments below:

    1. John_Glah, Ghostrider939, and Matthew Tansley are wrong in asserting that wrong is not an adverb:
    ‘wrong … adv. …
    4. a. Out of accordance or consistence with facts or the truth of the case; mistakenly, erroneously; incorrectly; = wrongfully adv. 2b. …

    5. a. Not in the right or proper way; in an improper or unfitting manner; improperly, unduly, amiss.’ etc.
    — Oxford English Dictionary entry for WRONG (adverb).
    N.B. that ‘wrong’ is only admissible as an adverb when it follows the verb it modifies.

    2. John Glah and Ghostrider939 use ‘it’s’ incorrectly:
    ‘1. Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding ‘s. … A common error is to write it’s for its, or vice versa. The first is a contraction, meaning “it is.” The second is a possessive.’
    —Strunk and White, The Elements of Style (more or less regarded as the authority on American English grammar and usage). Note that this is the first rule in the entire book.

    3. Dondles is right about ‘begging the question’ v. ‘raising the question’.

    4. You can totally split infinitives, though Ben Salfield frames the issue as a matter of personal choice, not a rule.
    The prohibition on split infinitives was a short-lived and misguided attempt by grammarians to preserve analogies to Latin in English; the thinking was that because Latin infinitives are single words English infinitives ought to be treated as single words; but that idea was introduced relatively recently and has been mostly abandoned by serious writers and academia.

    5. Mr. Butsex is wrong; you can, absolutely, use quotation marks within parentheses, as wilemutt does.

    6. Christopher Bell wrongly asserts that parentheses are not brackets; American convention calls them two different things, but most other languages and dialects refer to parentheses as brackets.

    7. Stevekir’s justification of ‘wrong’ v. ‘wrongly’/’warm’ v. ‘warmly’ is also incorrect in its formulation. ‘Wrong’ and ‘wrongfully’ are adverbs that split the sometimes-ambiguous meanings of ‘wrongly’: ‘wrong’ generally = incorrectly, poorly, or erroneously; ‘wrongfully’ (adj. = ‘wrongful’) generally = unjustly, without grounds, or illegally; though the two adverbs are sometimes used interchangeably. (Oxford English Dictionary)

  21. I wonder if this is a remnant of the Danelaw. As the translation of Spelled in most norwegian languages is spelt, which has linquistically, strong germanic intonations.

  22. As a 88-year old grammar and spelling diehard, I’m enjoying all the stuff on FaceBook about spelling and grammar. It has been my experience that after my generation, schools didn’t emphasize spelling and grammar outside of the standard English classes. But following my grandkids on FB and seeing all of the posts about grammar and spelling have amused me greatly. It seems they didn’t really learn spelling and grammar, but they sure learned one-up-smanship!.

  23. The differences are there in the use of spelled/spelt and are to do with the specific use of the past tense etc. Subtle, and I’m not sure I would be able to tell you how I do it, but ask a linguist and they will be able to tell you exactly.

  24. Well, I treat ‘spelt’ as the simple past and ‘spelled’ as a past participle with the appropriate auxiliary verb. It’s a habit I picked up from learning German and with both of them being Germanic languages no less, I figured that a little incestuous syntactic substitution was worthy of some bold experimentation. It’s probably incorrect in Ye Olde Proper English though, but that’s the price some of us pay in order to have a dalliance with the stalwarts of grammatical intelligentsia.


  25. Spelt in terms of spelling a word.. eg. The word “sentence” is spelt incorrectly at the end of John_Glahs sentence, which I’m sure is due to a typing error. .


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