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I looked up both lambast and lambaste in several dictionaries, but came up with no conclusions about which one is AE and which BE (if this distinction can ever be made). Moreover, the different spelling entails different pronunciations: lambast [læmˈbæst] vs lambaste [læmˈbeɪst].

The Macmillan Dictionary s.v. states that this verb is mainly used in journalism, so I suppose that it's a relatively recently-formed word.

Are there any diatopic variations between the two forms? That is, is one mainly British and the other mainly American?

If there are no such variations, which one is more correct or widespread in terms of pronunciation and spelling?

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I prefer my lamb basted with mint jelly, personally. – Mark Beadles Apr 22 '12 at 14:29
up vote 5 down vote accepted

The Oxford English Dictionary lists lambaste from the 17th century, then notes lambust and lambast as alternate spellings dating only from the 18th century. My American dictionary also has lambaste.

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Does it say anything about the origin of the alternate spellings? The Merriam-Webster says that "lambaste" probably comes from "lam" + "baste". Maybe, its variations—"lambast", "lambust"—stem from some sort of false etymology. – Giorgiomastrò Apr 22 '12 at 13:53
I'd guess the spelling lambast comes from using that pronunciation for lambaste (for example, you can't tell anything from the word lambasted). The etymology is interesting. I'd always wondered where the British Army got "beasting" from. – Andrew Leach Apr 22 '12 at 14:14
The American dictionary shows both pronunciations for lambaste and only one pronunciation for lambast. – GEdgar Apr 22 '12 at 16:40
Thank you. That sounds to me like an exception to the rule that links orthography and pronunciation in English. I'll explain: usually when a two syllable word has a stressed "a" and is written with a mute "e" at the end, the stressed vowel become a diphthong: e.g. "sale", "bathe", "late". On the contrary, when there's no mute "e" at the end of the word, the "a" is pronounced as a pure vowel: e.g. "bath", "sat", "flat". I suppose that the pronunciation of "lambast" influenced that of "lambaste" in this case. – Giorgiomastrò Apr 22 '12 at 16:53

Analysing the nGrams for "lambast" and "lambaste",

The words appear to have gained currency c1900, and competed ever since, with "lambaste" nearly always a step ahead of its shorter cousin.

As of 2000, "lambaste" is trending up while "lambast" has lost a lot of ground in usage.

nGrams show no major difference between BrE and AmE usage.

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You seem to have misstated some of the ngrams results, -1, while correctly stating others of them. – jwpat7 Apr 22 '12 at 15:37
and down voting was such fun! lol – Kris Apr 22 '12 at 16:42
No, not at all! It's a grave and serious responsibility. :) – jwpat7 Apr 22 '12 at 17:45
I have no time to discuss that. What were right and what not, in the analysis? – Kris Apr 23 '12 at 17:50
In American English ngrams for lambast,lambaste we see lambaste well ahead (not just "a step ahead") and lambast declining. More significantly, in British English ngrams lambaste is behind – not ahead – which is an important difference between BrE and AmE usage. – jwpat7 Apr 23 '12 at 18:09

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