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We all know that "license" in American English is "licence" in British English. But what about the person to whom the licence is given?

Various dictionaries show the 'c' version, e.g.:

Additionally, I can see other resources in my own country using this spelling, e.g.:

But managers in my own company (in Australia) claim to have done "a lot of research" on the subject, and decided to use the 's' version. This seems wrong to me, but I would like a better answer to the question before I decide whether to request a change or just change our spell checking to allow their spelling.

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It's BLOODY licencee! – Adel Jul 15 '11 at 1:12
I strenuously object to the licentious nature of this question! – MT_Head Apr 20 '12 at 21:30
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Obviously, in American English one would expect to see something like the following:

What is not so obvious is that British English has a similar graph on these words:

To prove that these graphs are reliable (at least reliable enough for this answer), graphs of American and British English on license vs. licence follow:

American English:

British English:

This ties in with what we already know about British vs. American preferences about the word licence/license. And to a degree it proves a point about licensee vs. licencee. It seems certain that licensee is the preferred spelling in either corpus.

And I'm terribly sorry for the gargantuan scale of this answer, but I thought the graphs would be helpful.

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I would suggest using either 's' or 'c' to match the spelling of the verb in whichever variety of English you're writing in, on the basis that the -ee ending is generally used to derive a noun from the verb, not the noun.

(Cf. train/training -> trainee, not *trainingee, or evacute/evacuation -> evacuee, not *evacuationee)

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Isn't it evacuatee? Although I see my browser marks that as misspelled, but doesn't object to evacuee... – Marthaª Jul 15 '11 at 0:02
I'm pretty sure it is evacuee. Google, dictionaries, they seem to agree. – Charles Goodwin Jul 15 '11 at 0:10
I can't say I've ever heard "evacuatee", and Googling it seems to bring up some silly music thing. However, I think it's immaterial to the point I was making. – Neil Coffey Jul 15 '11 at 0:51
OK, the usage you mention that your management want to adopt is conventional UK usage; the usage you want to adopt is conventional US usage. I'd say bang your heads together and decide whether you want UK or US usage... – Neil Coffey Jul 15 '11 at 2:34
+1 Isn't the spelling of the verb always license? I thought it was only the noun that changed spelling (licence in BrE and license in AmE). See also licensee in the OED and Merriam-Webster. – Tragicomic Jul 15 '11 at 10:36

There is no such word, "licencee".

Licence = noun; the licence document. License = verb; i.e. to grant licence. Licensee = the holder of the licence.

The Americans don't like the noun/verb distinction and just use license for both. However, licencee has never been a word.

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protected by RegDwigнt Apr 20 '12 at 22:30

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