American and British spelling differences (part 2)

English words of Italian origin
April 12, 2018
Maypole Dancing
Early May bank holiday: May Day and International Worker’s Day
April 26, 2018

American and British spelling differences (part 2)

US and UK language

Last time we wrote about our/or, ise/ize and yse/ize. This time we are continuing with spelling differences between American and British English.


RE vs ER: theatre and theater

This is probably the best known difference between American and British spellings.

Most words that end in an unstressed -er in British English are spelt with -re in American English. For example:

  • centre and center
  • fibre and fiber
  • litre and liter
  • manoeuvre and maneuver
  • meagre and meager
  • metre and meter
  • theatre and theater

However, there are a few exceptions. Words that end in an unstressed -cre keep the -re in American English to show that the c takes a hard (/k/) sound and not a soft one (/s/). And there are also a few random words that don’t change to -er in American usage.

  • acre
  • ogre
  • mediocre

Also, keep in mind that this rule doesn’t work both ways. There are many words in British English that have the -er ending. For example:

  • anger
  • barometer
  • chapter
  • danger
  • December
  • enter
  • letter
  • member
  • mother
  • monster
  • November
  • number
  • October
  • powder
  • river
  • September
  • thermometer
  • water


AE vs E, and OE vs E: organise and organize, and analyse and analyze

If you were paying attention to the previous section, you might have spotted this difference in the word manoeuvre, that shows this rule.

Most words that take the diphthongs ae and oe in British English use only e in American English. Most of these words are technical terms, many used in medicine. However, generally in American English both spellings are accepted even if the simplified version is more common. Some words that suffer this change are:

  • aeon and eon/aeon
  • amoeba and ameba/amoeba
  • anaemia and anemia/anaemia
  • anaesthesia and anesthesia/anaesthesia
  • archaeology and archeology/archaeology
  • coeliac and celiac/coeliac
  • diarrhoea and diarrhea/diarrhoea
  • encyclopaedia and encyclopedia/encyclopaedia
  • gynaecology and gynecology/gynaecology
  • leukaemia and leukemia/leukaemia
  • palaeontology and paleontology/palaeontology
  • paediatric and pediatric/paediatric
  • paedophile and pedophile/paedophile

In British English some of these words can be spelt either way also, and it is becoming more and more common to see the varieties with the dropped a and o.

We have one more post about spelling before we move on to other differences between the English used in the US and the UK.

To know more about is always better to learn the language with the best English Language school.