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Is this cherry licorice... or cherry liquorice? (Photo: Fotolia)
Is this cherry licorice... or cherry liquorice? (Photo: Fotolia)
Is this cherry licorice… or cherry liquorice? (Photo: Fotolia)

Ask most Brits and Americans to compile a list of spelling differences between their two nations and—more often than not—comparisons such as color/colour, theater/theatre, and meter/metre will land among the three most common suggestions. However, the disparity between British and American spellings reaches far beyond these oft-cited examples, to the point that some variations go almost unnoticed. On that note, here are 10 lesser-known British and American spelling differences.

Annexe vs. annex
While both countries always spell the verb form of this word (meaning to append or attach) as “annex,” we Brits typically add on an extra “e” when writing the noun form (meaning an extension to a main building).

Grey vs. gray
This is perhaps the only color (or is that “colour”?) whose spelling Americans and Brits cannot quite agree upon, with Americans most often opting for “gray” compared to the British variant “grey.” However, Americans did not change the spelling of the popular dog breed the greyhound, even co-opting the name for their ubiquitous bus service.

Cosy vs. cozy
As with a lot of words that would otherwise contain an “s” in British English (e.g. “analyse”), the word “cosy” is spelled “cozy” in the United States.

Draught vs. draft
This particular word is one that has an abundance of different meanings, from a slight gust of air to an order for a bank to extract money. However, unlike in the U.S. where “draft” encompasses all meanings, the British distinguish between certain usages of the word by, for example, using “draught” when referring to a portion of liquid and “draft” to describe a written plan.

Liquorice vs. licorice
Much in the same way Americans simplify “cheque” (the British variant of “check,” as in the payment method), the American spelling of “liquorice” replaces “qu-” with “c” to form “licorice.”

Manoeuvre vs. maneuver
As you can see, two distinct differences are at play here: firstly, the “o” used in the British (and indeed French) spelling “manoeuvre” is absent from the U.S. spelling, which—as with “meter” and “theatre”—also switches the “r” and the “e” around.

Mould vs. mold
As sure as there are scores of food-related word differences between Britain and the U.S., there is also even a disparity between each country’s respective spelling of the very thing you don’t want growing on your food: “mold” (U.S. spelling) or “mould” (British spelling). Note, these variants are even applied when, for example, referring to the molding of something (as in to shape).

Plough vs. plow
Here, each country adopts just one spelling for every meaning. Whether we are talking about the farming implement itself or the verb, the British always spell it “plough,” while the Americans opt once more for simplification in the form of “plow.”

Smoulder vs. smolder
In much the same grain as the “mould”/”mold” difference (and, for that matter, “colour”/”color”), Americans drop the “u” from the British spelling “smoulder.” It should be noted, however, that while many American English spellings follow a consistent pattern (“humor,” “color,” “honor” etc.), the dropping of the “u” within a word’s initial syllable is not a regular trait within American English, as evidenced by the U.S. spelling of “shoulder” or “boulder.”

Kerb vs. curb
It is fairly well known that Americans refer to the paved walkway at the side of a road as a “sidewalk” compared to the British equivalent “pavement.” What is less known is that the stone edging at the side of such a walkway is spelled (or is that spelt?) “curb” stateside and “kerb” in the U.K.

See more:
10 Words and Phrases That Cause Confusion Between Brits and Americans
10 American Slang Terms and Phrases That Confuse Brits
10 Celebrity Names Brits and Americans Pronounce Differently

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Filed Under: spelling
By Laurence Brown