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Which is the formally correct spelling, dieing or dying? Is there any history of the alternative spelling? I type dieing naturally, but my spellchecker marks it wrong. This is largely an etymology question in the development of the spelling of the word dying, since when I think of dyeing I see the word meaning to stain a cloth with colors.

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1 Answer

up vote 34 down vote accepted

If someone is passing away, then they are dying. Its origins are:

late 13c., "death," verbal noun from die (v.). From mid-15c. as a pp. adj., "in the process of becoming dead."

Its confusable "dieing" means:

To cut, form, or stamp with or as if with a die.

Finally, dyeing means to stain something with color, with the origins:

c.1400, verbal noun and pp. adj. from dye.

Why is dying the gerund/verb form of to die? For one thing, it follows a general rule of forming gerunds:

The vowel group -ie is changed to -y before adding -ing.

As this page also says this, it is safe to say that this is a generally accepted rule. Other similar verbs are tie and lie. It is not a special case, but I cannot find an exact date for when this rule was created. It is worth noting that, whether or not this is correct, there are early examples of the spelling dieing for dying in the 1800s. This leads to the thought that the currently accepted form is because of a spelling reform at some point in time since then.

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Out of curiosity, is there any specific reason that die, in the cutting sense, doesn't follow the rule and become dying as well, or is it just an unexplained exception? –  Samthere Aug 19 '11 at 9:59
    
@Samthere Not that I could find. I wonder if it is because "to die" isn't as accepted (and came after) so it took on a different rule. –  simchona Aug 19 '11 at 10:00
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Yeah, it seems many fewer sites mention die in that sense or dieing at all. Purely speculatively, perhaps it was introduced as an industry spelling to differentiate it. –  Samthere Aug 19 '11 at 10:12
    
"Die" is not the only word that does this. There's also "lie"/ "lying" –  Thursagen Aug 19 '11 at 11:59
    
@thursagen yes, as I mentioned in my answer. Along with tie. –  simchona Aug 19 '11 at 12:01
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protected by tchrist Dec 19 '12 at 18:10

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