UK vs US Spelling: Interesting Differences

We share many lingual similarities with our American cousins. After all, we were the ones who brought them the English language! There are however a few interesting differences which have emerged over time, in how we pronounce and spell certain words. Here’s a run-down of some of the most well-known variations which can sometimes have your average website spell checker getting somewhat confused.

Aeroplane vs Airplane
Aeroplane is more commonly used in the UK and derives from a French word with a totally different meaning. Its variation, Airplane is used predominantly in the US and Canada.

Aluminium vs Aluminum
Aluminium is the standard both in the UK and internationally. However, Humphrey Davy, who discovered aluminium, proposed the latter spelling which has now been taken up by countries such as the US and Canada.

Behove vs Behoove
Dating back to the 19th century, and based on the Old English word behōfian, ‘Behove’ rhymes with ‘move’. The US changed the spelling to reflect its pronunciation. However, ‘Behove’ is still used extensively in the UK.

Fillet v Filet
The UK version is ‘fillet’ and is distinguished between the term ‘filet’ which describes cuts of beef. The US uses the French pronunciation.

Furore vs Furor
‘Furor’ is a Latinate word which actually precedes the word, ‘Furore,’ which is Italian. While Americans opt for the Latin version, the UK uses ‘Furore’. It has the same meaning, although some purists claim each word describes different things.

Moustache vs Mustache
‘Moustache’ is a French word which derives from the Italian term ‘moustacio’. According to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, ‘moustache’ is not used as often as the US version ‘mustache’. But actually the former variant is the most common.

Orientated vs Oriented
Originating from the term ‘Orient’, ‘Orientated’ is more commonly used in the UK and other countries such as Australia and New Zealand.  ‘Oriented’ is used exclusively in the United States.

Pyjamas vs Pajamas
Pyjamas’ derives from the Hindustani word ‘pajāmā’, which itself comes from the Persian term ’pāy-jāmeh’. The first version is used by all English-speaking countries apart from the US, although Canadians use both versions.

Speciality vs Specialty    
The standard usage in the UK is ‘speciality’ although the word ‘specialty’ can also be used in the fields of medicine. Americans use ‘specialty’ exclusively while countries such as Australia and New Zealand use both versions.

Tit-bit vs Tidbit
‘Tit-bit’ derives from the Old English word ‘tyd-bit’ and is the UK version. US versions don’t include the hyphen and use the letter ‘d’, which is actually closer to the original 16th century spelling.

Whilst vs While
The traditional version, ‘Whilst’ is considered by some to be outdated. And it seems that ‘while’ is now the most commonly used term, prevalent in international and US English.

So that’s our run-down of some of the most common differences between US and UK spellings and pronunciations.  If you’re ever in doubt about which version to use, take care to use a regional online spell checker or spell check website, like our totally free Typosaurus tool.