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I know publically appears as an incorrect spelling in most dictionaries (in fact as I type this up on my Safari browser it keeps trying to correct the spelling to publicly).

However I have seen the word spelled in that manner before in certain places so I did a search on Google and found that there is a definition for the spelling publically at dictionary.com and the free dictionary as well. The English wiktionary site considers it an alternate spelling.

Are both spellings valid or are there some subtle differences I am missing? Which version would you accept as correct in a spelling bee?

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If publically is accepted, how long before publical will be? –  GEdgar Jul 11 '13 at 19:30
    
I find it ridiculous that we spend energy on debating whether an alternate spelling is "correct" - real people, not English professors and dictionary authorities, are the authorities on English-as-used, and will ultimately make the distinction irrelevant. –  user51783 Sep 12 '13 at 4:02

4 Answers 4

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Publicly is certainly the commoner version, but publically is a logical alternative, mentioned in the OED with half a dozen citations from 1727 to 1998, so it can't really be called a mistake.

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Though "publicly" is far more common than "publically", it is bucking the trend. The OED has the following numbers of entries for the endings "-icly" and "-ically": 63 vs. 2100. Some of those "-ically" will be from words in "-ical" of course, but it has only 3500 "-ical" entries as against 11000 in "-ic". –  Colin Fine Oct 14 '11 at 11:50

Adjectives ending in -ic form the adverb with -ally: poetic poetically, systematic systematically, automatic automatically.

There is one exception to this rule, public has publicly. And its only natural that speakers in the course of time extend the general rule to public and form publically. I would see this as a natural "pruning" and rectification of the system. Of course, there is no difference between the two forms. The first is the older irregular form, still preached by a lot of grammars, the second is the newer and regular form and in this case I must say sometimes speakers have more sense than grammars or grammarians.

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Publicly is correct

Ly is an old English word meaning "part of, like" When added as a suffix it changes an adjective into an adverb.

Therefore Public----Public(ly)

You will find many words that look similar to Publically, but that is a coincidence of spelling

Example Cynical-----Cynical(ly) Trivial------Trivial(ly)

That's all there is to it and you will never misspell again! Just remember when turning a noun into an adjective by suffix it is LY

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In response to WackoJacko, I'd like to offer the word "specifically" as a contradicting example (for which the root word does not end in "al" as in the previous examples given, but instead ends in "ic", as does "public"). –  user45707 Jun 9 '13 at 5:59
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‘Publicly’ is an adverb made from an adjective; not an adjective made from a noun. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 12 '13 at 7:15

I would accept only "publicly" as being correct. I'm surprised that you found dictionaries listing "publically" as anything other than a mis-spelling of "publicly".

If this alternative spelling does become commonplace, there's still no difference in their meaning; they are, after all, alternative spellings of the same word, not different-but-similar words.

Update: In the 2-and-a-half years since I wrote this answer it seems that "publically" continues to grow in popularity, and more dictionaries are listing it. Nevertheless I would still advise against its use since it is still not yet globally accepted as a correct spelling and there's nothing wrong with "publicly"!

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Actually I found this as an accepted alternate spelling in my Merriam Websters Dictionary so its not just online dictionaries that carry the spelling. –  Nikhil Oct 16 '11 at 15:38
    
Not only does the OED, as noted above by TimLymington, have an entry for 'publically' (and who am I to gainsay that), but a pop into the Free Dictionary and you can easily find it defined there as well. It is, as has been noted, a rare but acceptable variant of 'publicly'. –  mister_pluto Nov 19 '12 at 8:05
    
Word also list publically as an option, whereas Google Chrome marks it as a mistake. –  AlexBG Jan 28 at 12:13

protected by Community Sep 12 '13 at 8:02

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