Unit 7.1

Words with alternative spelling


Words with alternative spelling are words that you can spell in two ways depending on where they are said: words are spelt differently in British and American English.


These are the main type of words in British English (BR) that change when spelling them into American English (AM):

  • BR: Nouns ending in -tre ⇒ AM: Nouns ending in -ter
  • BR: Nouns ending in -ence ⇒ AM: Nouns ending in -ense
  • BR: Verbs ending in -ise ⇒ AM: Verbs ending in -ize
  • BR: Nouns ending in -our ⇒ AM: Nouns ending in -or
  • BR: Technical words still written as their originals in Latin that have double vowels: ‘ae’ or ‘oe’ ⇒ AM: Technical words in Latin without double vowels, just ‘e’
  • BR: Infinitives that double the last consonant to create other verb forms when they finish in: consonant + vowel + L ⇒ AM: Infinitive forms creating other verb forms maintaining just one ‘l’


  • BR: -tre / AM: -ter
    • Br. centre, Am. center
    • Br. theatre, Am. theater
    • Br. metre, Am. meter
  • BR: -ence / AM: -ense
    • Br. licence, Am. license
    • Br. defence, Am. defense
    • Br. pretence, Am pretense
  • BR: –ise / AM: –ize
    • Br. organise, Am. organize
    • Br. customise, Am. customize
    • Br. realise, Am. realize
  • BR: –our / AM: –or
    • Br. honour, Am. honor
    • Br. colour, Am. color
    • Br. humour Am. humor
  • Technical words ⇒ BR: –ae- and –oe- / AM: -e- 
    • Br. leukaemia, Am. leukemia
    • Br. maneouvre, Am. maneuver
    • Br. paediatric, Am. pediatric
  • Infinitives to form other verb forms ⇒ BR: -ll- / AM: -l-
    • Br. cancelled, Am. canceled
    • Br. marvellous, Am. marvelous
    • Br. traveller, Am. traveler


The words with alternative spelling in English will be used according to the place where one is speaking, either in America or in Britain.