Spoiled vs. spoilt

In American and Canadian English, spoiled is both a past-tense verb (e.g., it spoiled yesterday) and a past-participial adjective (e.g., the spoiled milk). In varieties of English from outside North America, spoiled is usually the past-tense verb (it spoiled yesterday),  and spoilt is usually the past-participial adjective (the spoilt milk). This is not a rule, however, and examples of spoiled used as an adjective outside the North America are easily found in all sorts of writing.


These British publications, for instance, use spoilt as the adjective at least some of the time:

Belgium’s former world No1 Kim Clijsters has accused British youngsters of being spoilt and lacking the hunger to succeed at the highest level in tennis. [Guardian]

This is a sum of money designed to compensate you for the distress, upset and inconvenience that the spoilt holiday caused. [Telegraph]

Alongside recipes for milk tarts and remedies for spoilt wines are dishes that require “flesh”, “solid matter” and “brawn”, all synonyms for meat. [The Times]

The same publications use spoiled instead of spoilt as the past-tense verb:

But it was Winston Churchill, once again Tory prime minister, who spoiled their equestrian pursuits. [Guardian]

But Defago and the silver medallist, Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, spoiled what would have been one of the more rip-roaring stories of the Games. [Telegraph]

Spoilt is almost totally absent from American and Canadian publications. North American writers use spoiled as the adjective, as in these cases:

Others say Holden is a whiner, a rich spoiled brat who ought to shut up and get on with his life. [NY Times]

Mr. Charest took comfort in the fact that his party lost the riding by a slim margin, noting that there were more spoiled ballots (296) than the PQ’s margin of victory. [The Globe and Mail (Canada)]

5 thoughts on “Spoiled vs. spoilt”

  1. I am a fan of ‘reasonable’ English, but I’ll leave the pure English to the academics to fight over.
    Pure English should be preserved in some quarters so that the language does not degenerate into slang and text talk.
    Whilst ‘Winston’ (an unlikely real name) puts his point across in a coarse and angry manner, he does have a grain of sanity in his rant, why don’t Americans just rename their language ‘American’? Problem solved, you have 50 shades of gray, and we’ll have 50 shades of grey.
    You say tomato, we’ll say tomato….. Okay, that doesn’t work on a screen.
    Just rename your language after your proud Nation, American, the American language is American.


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