English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

My son is learning English as a foreign language and I notice a mixture of British and American words in his vocab lists. Is there such thing as a checked shirt, or should it be a check shirt?

share|improve this question

If you are talking about this kind of pattern, I believe "checkered" would be correct.

Depending on the exact pattern, though, "plaid" may be a better word.

share|improve this answer
What? The predominant term in American English, at least according to Google Ngrams is "checked shirt" (what I'd use), with "checkered shirt" and "check shirt" both around half the frequency. – Peter Shor Oct 3 '11 at 20:11
In the northeast US, I agree that "checked shirt" would be most common for alternating colored blocks of approximately the same size (like this), although "checkered shirt" is not uncommon. "Check shirt" would be understandable, but rare. The shirt pictured in the above answer would commonly be described as plaid, but I agree that checkered would be acceptable. – Kit Z. Fox Oct 3 '11 at 20:12
Interesting, I've never seen "check shirt" or "checked shirt" used in this context. I assumed it was just a British English thing. – yoozer8 Oct 3 '11 at 20:14
Check is the name of the pattern, so you would say "checked shirt" like stripe = "striped shirt." – Kit Z. Fox Oct 3 '11 at 20:15
I rescind my edit saying it is unused in American English. – yoozer8 Oct 3 '11 at 20:17

Check shirt would be normal in British English. A checked shirt suggests one that has been inspected and found to be satisfactory.

share|improve this answer
Depending on your sense of style, the two may never be the same. – yoozer8 Oct 3 '11 at 18:59
Google Ngrams says that "checked shirt" and "check shirt" are used nearly equally often in the U.K. Of course, it's possible they are both pronounced "check shirt". – Peter Shor Oct 3 '11 at 20:18
Yes. Any difference would be barely noticeable. – Barrie England Oct 3 '11 at 20:19
I can't say that it inspires confidence that the first few results for "check shirt" (British English) are obviously American sources. OTOH BNC also has them equal (12 hits each). (Surprising to me: "check shirt" as a noun isn't in my idiolect). – Peter Taylor Oct 4 '11 at 8:49
@Peter: Google books Ngram actually doesn't separate British and American sources when you check the results (although they separate them in the Ngram). I hope they eventually get around to fixing this. Re: "check shirt" not being in your idiolect, I would have said that "check shirt" is a spelling pronunciation for "checked shirt", except for the fact that Google Ngrams shows they both been quite common since people started using either term circa 1800. – Peter Shor Oct 5 '11 at 19:25

The Corpus of Contemporary American English shows that plaid is much more common in American English (more than 3x) than the variants of checked combined. (The following numbers are for collocates with shirt, for example, plaid shirt.)

plaid       213
check       6
checked     34
checkered   23

It seems checked shirt may be slightly more common than check or checkered in the US.

The British National Corpus does not seem to have many instances referencing these patterns, but it does suggest that the checked shirt and check shirt variants are more common in British English than plaid.

plaid       4
check       12
checked     12
checkered   0 

This doesn't mean that there's no difference between plaid and checked for anyone, but as Wikipedia suggests,

Plaid (pattern) is also used as a synonym for tartan or, in the USA, any checked cloth pattern.

In summary, for American English, you might want to avoid the question entirely and substitute the much more common plaid. For British English, or to be understood internationally, checked is likely a good way to describe this type of pattern (and as @Peter Shor notes, check shirt and checked shirt will not be easily distinguishable in speech in any case).

share|improve this answer

protected by tchrist Feb 26 '15 at 2:20

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.