Wintery vs wintry

In modern English, wintry is the preferred spelling of the adjective meaning of, like, or relating to winter. Wintery has a long history in English, but it has never been the preferred form, and it has no meanings of its own. In 21st-century books, it appears once for approximately every 20 instances of wintry. It is a little more common on the web and in newswriting, though still much rarer than wintry.

There is no evidence that wintery is becoming more common, but the spelling does accurately reflect how many English speakers pronounce the word—that is, with three syllables instead of two—so it may someday gain ground. For now, wintry prevails.


His nose was thick and flat and squared off at the bottom; it flamed a bright red in wintry wind. [Washington: A Life, Ron Chernow]

Wintry weather and snowfall has caused disruption to rail and road travel in Kent and Sussex. [BBC]

[A]ll is presented from the perspective of age, indirectuly adumbrated in the wintry description of the snow-capped mountain in the beginning. [The Oxford History of Classical Reception in English Literature, vol 3]

Thirty years and 300 leagues separate me from that wintry day and place, yet how well I remember. [New York Times]

He said criticism of the surface had been unfair after he battled wintry conditions to get it ready for early season shield cricket. [Sydney Morning Herald]

6 thoughts on “Wintery vs wintry”

  1. Unfortunately, TV announcers straining to be super-correct when in fact they are being uneducated, often (silent ‘t’ please, in ‘often,’ unless you pronounce the ‘t’ in ‘listen,’ in which case you are permitted to be completely eccentric) say “winter-ee weather” just as commercial announcers tell you to add x dollars for postage and “handul-eeng” instead of the correct two-syllable ”handling.”
    Reminds me of the woman talking about floor wax products in a TV commercial many years ago who was twisting herself in knots to sound oh very elegant about mopping and thus pronounced the word floors (“florz”) as flew-urz, (rhymes with Dewar’s Scotch) because by gum there were two “o”s in floors and she was going to “properly” pronounce both of them , customary usage be damned! I hesitate to think what she would have said had she encountered vacuums by Hoover hovering over floors!
    (Maybe “vak-ooh-ooms by Hoe-ver hoo-vering ewver flewurs”.!!!”
    Tom Southall 7 – 2013 humaniores at gmai l

    • The three syllables for two is one that grates on my brain when TV newscasters mispronounce words where a final “e” is dropped to add “ing.” I hardly ever hear anyone pronounce those words correctly, as you mentioned, handling, and tumbling, dangling, bungling, etc.

  2. “Wintry” is wrong. We don’t say “summry” for summer-like weather, nor “showry” for rainy weather. “Wintry” is an archaic contraction from the days when they said things like “o’er the bounding main” and “e’er we meet again.” If anything, it should be written “wint’ry.”

    • You surely must know by now that there are many inconsistencies in the English language. You make an interesting argument, but you are the one who needs to learn. ;-) If you say “wintery” you will sound uneducated to people who have learned how to speak correctly. The average person won’t notice, but we will.


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