Aeroplane vs. airplane

Aeroplane and airplane are different forms of the same word. Airplane is preferred in American and Canadian English, while aeroplane is traditionally preferred in non-North American varieties of English. But airplane has been steadily gaining ground in British publications, and it may someday become standard. Meanwhile, aeroplane is almost completely absent from American and Canadian publications, and to North Americans it may have an old-fashioned ring.


For example, these British and Australian news publications still use aeroplane at least some of the time:

Most other countries had opted to evacuate their nationals by aeroplane, many of which have arrived in Malta over the past two days. [Financial Times]

Yes, it is true that, like travelling on an aeroplane, the Oscars can be enhanced by upgrading to business class. [Sydney Morning Herald]

Another aeroplane woodcut print, it turns a newspaper shot of three military cargo planes on a runway into something awe-inspiring. [The Guardian]

And these Canadian and American publications use airplane:

The giant airplane maker has come up with a new interior for its 737 model, the workhorse of airlines around the world. [Wall Street Journal]

The money would likely be gathered through airlines and would show up on airplane tickets. [Globe and Mail]

Now, Alec Baldwin has been tossed off the air after his airplane incident apparently upset shoppers at a New York supermarket chain … [Los Angeles Times]


This ngram graphs the use or aeroplane and airplane in British books published from 1900 to 2019.

Airplane Vs Aeroplane Britisg English

And this ngram shows the words’ use in American books:

Airplane Vs Aeroplane American English

41 thoughts on “Aeroplane vs. airplane”

  1. As an engineering student in Canada, I find “aeroplane” better suited than “airplane”. After all, there’s no such thing as an ‘airplane-engineer,’ they are referred to as aerospace engineer. Thus, the ‘aero-‘ prefix is more descriptive.

    • They both seem equally accurate as far as their descriptive purpose as I’m fairly certain Air is just short for Aero (although it doesn’t quite as scientific — what abreviation does). I use airplane partly because I was raised saying it and partly because its simply faster to say. If not for that extra syllable I would definitely break my habit of using airplane. Aeroplane just sounds so much more elegant like a bird lol.

      • Aero implies aerodynamics, which not all planes are. Especially fighters which are designed to NOT be aerodynamic for breaking on initial and short final. Plus America invented the airplane, and named it so. So don’t change it, that’s nonsensical.

        • um….. no, Americans did not invent the aeroplane.

          the wright brothers contribution to aircraft is the three-axes control system/method (pitch, roll, yaw) which they actually patented – they gave us “wing work”. They then managed, to perform the first “practical” flight – that is, take off, cruise, land ready to go again.

          I’ll meet you half way – they got it right when they actually built an aircraft with wings up the front, the tail at the back, and stuck some wheels on it for better re-use, some years after the famous flight at Kitty Hawk.

        • The wright bros founded the Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company…. They knew what the machines were called.

          Then some slackjawed government official from texas couldn’t pronoubce it properly and you now have airplanes.

          Think nuclear vs nucular, aluminium vs aluminum, terrorist vs terrrist, america vs ‘merica.

          Stop voting in dumbasses and we’ll avoid so much bs.

      • While that seems the most obvious interpretation of the word airport, it’s not quite right. :) The ‘air’ in airport refers to where the ‘port’ leads to/from, as opposed to a seaport.

  2. Fascinating to see the massive spikes in the words’ use at the times of the two world wars, except for (and interesting to see) that the First World War made relatively little impact on use in American books. Slightly horrifying to see “aeroplane” is apparently being caught by “airplane” in British books currently. Of course, it would be instructive to see just how much both are probably outweighed by plain, erm, “plane”.

  3. In Australia, amongst both pilots and the general populace, ‘aeroplane’ is strongly preferred. However, I suspect ‘airplane’ may have been given lift (see what I did there?) by Apple: iPhones are ubiquitous in Australia and anyone getting aboard an aeroplane will, when prompted by the flight crew to switch their mobile phones to ‘flight mode’, see the words ‘airplane mode’ on their screens. Older Aussies will remember old, old ads for ‘Aeroplane Jelly’, complete with catchy jingle. To my Australian ears (and I really don’t mean to give offence here) ‘airplane’ sounds like something a small child would say, but since a couple of Americans invented the contraption, I would have to concede this one.

    Incidentally, though now rarely used in everyday speech, you still see ‘aerodrome’ used for small rural airfields and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Royal Australian Air Force refers to their airfields as ‘aerodromes’. Is ‘aerodrome’ used in American English at all?

        • Clearly it is not.

          The word aerodynamic is clearly the combination of 2 words which are aero and dynamic.

          Aero – meaning air – Greek

          dynamic – The branch of mechanics that is concerned with the effects of forces on the motion of objects.

          • OK, I see you are a worldly individual who knows every form of English used across the US. I have many family members who work in airline related industries. Aero is indeed used by some as a shorthand term for aerodynamic. Just because you can parrot word origins to me, does not mean I am wrong.

        • What you mean is that to some people that work in some industries aero is short for aerodynamic. “SOME PORTIONS OF” implies a geographic link whereas it’s got nothing to do with geography other than aero engineers (aerodynamicists) are likely to be in Seattle or maybe Wichita (aircraft) or maybe North Carolina (racing cars / racecars).
          With absolutely nothing to back up my assumption, it sounds to me like a lazy pronunciation that lead to a mispelling that became enshrined in language.
          Aerofoil / airfoil is the same, whereas an aircraft was never an ‘aerocraft’ and therefore hasn’t changed.

  4. I’m not being picky or anything, but I’ve never seen the word “airplane” used by the British media even once, except for when quoting US sources. Really wish the yanks would stick to using the English the rest of the bloody world use.

    • You realise that the “Yanks” invented the technology you’re talking about, right? Even if a lot of the conventions in the North American dialects are cringe-worthy, I’d say they at least get the right to decide how that word is spelled.

      • Actually this is definately up for debate. Many people, myself included, believe that they did not invent the first aeroplane. The French or the Brazilians have good claims to it as well. Remember history is remembered differently by those that wrote it. The first Wright plane needed a catapult to take off and many say that this was not the definition of an aeroplane as it needs to be self propelling.

        Also Dummont’s models are what the current modern planes are based around.
        Just my thoughts it really is a who knows tbh.

        • For that matter, we could say that the Greeks invented it for the fact that there is evidence of ancient powered gliders. The difference there is that the technology didn’t go anywhere from there, like most similarly-forgotten technology.

          As for Dumont’s technology (which, by chance, came after the Wrights’ successful flights, as well as others’), you might notice that the Demoiselle bears slightly less of a resemblance to early practical aircraft than the Wright III; the Wrights not only built it first, but they brought the technology into the mainstream through contracts with the US military.

          The Wrights may not have invented the aircraft, but they invented the “airplane” as it is recognised today. If nothing else, I’d say that spares their patron state from ridicule in regards to how the contraption is to be named.

      • The Wright Brothers named their invention the ‘flyer’. Aeroplane is a common noun invented by the french in the farking 19th century to describe an ‘heavier than air, flying machine’. Deserve the right to what, mate?

      • But they didn’t invent the word. It’s French from the mid 19th century. A Greek and Latin hybrid (like television, homosexual, etc.)
        The Wright’s called their contraption a “Flyer”. As I said above, it seems that both aeroplane and aerofoil, have been lazily mispronounced until airplane and airfoil became how to spell a mispronounciation. As Airdynamics doesn’t sound as good it was never affected, and aircraft was never in the form ‘aerocraft’ to misronounce in the first place!

    • The “Yanks” aren’t the “rest of the world” for one. Two, no two English speaking countries use the same form of English. Hell, no two counties or provinces use the same form of English.

  5. Google does also does not support aeroplane, there is no wiki entry and if you search in google define: aeroplane see what google changes it to. sucks because I agree with ‘The Engineer’

    • This is because these are run and maintained predominantly by North Americans. You’ll find that American spellings for any word will dominate among these sites. However, if you check Wiktionary, the Wikimedia dictionary, it contains both entries due to its thirst for exhaustiveness and the nature of a dictionary (it also contains etymologies).

    • Somewhere along the way I fear the Americans have fallen off the grammatical perch. Perhaps because they were in an airdyne, being flown by an operator using airnautical skills, that was performing airbatics and had been designed by an airdynamicist‎. It wasn’t until the erstwhile pilot stalled his craft that the passengers discovered there was no such thing as an airnaught let alone airdynamic principles. So sad they had to crash and burn due to bad airmechanics.

  6. To add to this discussion I was recently shocked to see CNN talking about passengers “deplaning” rather than “disembarking” from an aeroplane. Is this another case of americans turning a noun into a verb or even worse the case of an adjective into a noun as we have seen with “comforters”?

    • it was not invented in America.

      but two guys who never went to university and ran a bike shop did figure out the three-axis control system/method (pitch, roll, yaw, aka “wing work”) and patent that.

      they then went on, after the Flyer’s success, to build an aircraft that actually had the rudder and tail at the back, and a set of wheels, which they sold the rights to.

      they wouldn’t have done it were it not for the box kite (Australian), the underlying physics (English), and the pioneers in Europe.

      invent the “airplane.” next you’ll be convincing us that the correct way to right litre is “liter” – hate to tell you its a French word

  7. Can we get one thing straight. The Americans did NOT invent the plane, various Europeans and even Brazilians had already discovered the principles and even named the machine.

    What they did do, and have done many times in other areas, was to take a pre-existing idea and develop it to practical use, in this case they got it off the ground in a controllable way (yeah, they did invent tri-axial controls). And importantly, they did this with witnesses (which is why New Zealander Richard Pearce’s claims are usually ignored).

    So first use goes to aeroplane.

  8. I think people should continue to use aeroplane as an official spelling, things are shortened for ease to airplane and plane. I also use the word Deoxyribonucleic acid for instance others may not be able to spell this or would call it DNA. I would not stop using the correct spellings.

  9. ‘airplane has been steadily gaining ground in British publications, and it may someday become standard. ‘

    Ask any bairn in Scotland or England and they’ll say aeroplane. Odd that anyone would want airplane to be standard here.


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