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I used "eery" yesterday in a text and was corrected jokingly by my correspondent to "eerie." Looking at it after the fact, neither 'looks' right to me and both get through auto-correct with no red underline. Some cursory googling showed that both are at least technically correct, but I'm curious as to preferred or standard usage. I read a lot and I guess I've rarely seen the word in print, and even then it was probably the adverb form eerily.

So, beyond actual correctness, are both equally acceptable? Regional differences?

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dictionary.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/eery indicates they are equivalent but eerie is preferred (and I'll comment that I've never encountered eery, ever). –  Andrew Leach Sep 7 '12 at 16:41
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Neither have I. I would never use "eery". It strikes me as one of those misspellings that the dictionary editors decided to include because it exists now, even if it didn't before. –  SevenSidedDie Sep 7 '12 at 16:51
    
Can someone clarify the downvotes? Thank you. –  TetonSig Sep 11 '12 at 9:44
    
I must say, I have used EERY in scrabble. –  abhi Dec 19 '13 at 13:57

4 Answers 4

up vote 8 down vote accepted

As a well-read native speaker, I've never encountered "eery" until this question. Despite its apparent inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary I would always change it to "eerie" in (for example) an editing job.

So to answer your question very literally, no, they're not equally acceptable, though they may both pass the minimum bar of being correct at all. Quite likely, the more formal the writing, the less acceptable is the "eery" spelling.

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Ngram might be useful. –  Andrew Leach Sep 7 '12 at 18:14
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Absolutely. It's archaic - as the NGram clearly shows –  FumbleFingers Sep 8 '12 at 1:53

The Oxford English Dictionary gives both.

It’s of Scottish origin, and probably derived from ‘argh’, an adjective now limited to regional dialects, and meaning ‘cowardly, pusillanimous, timid, fearful’ and also ‘inert, sluggish, lazy, slow, loath, reluctant’. ‘Eerie’ and ‘eery’ are just two of the word’s historical spellings, of which the earliest is ‘hery’.

'Eery' has been in use since the seventeenth century. ‘Eerie’ does now seem to be by far the most common.

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+1 Many outside of the UK don't have access to the online OED (far removed from a library or university, cannot or will not pay the £215.00+ yearly subscription). Also, I'm not sure how aggressive OUP is in defending their IP (e.g. 2.3.3) or I would ask you to quote the relevant portions of the entry (helps avoid link rot, as well). I don't know an alternative, but the link is useful in that one can assume the OED answers the question even if one can't confirm it directly. –  Zairja Sep 7 '12 at 17:04

The "eery" spelling is, I note after frequent use, given as the preferred alternative by most anagram generation sites when the entered letters do not allow "eerie". Presumably, therefore, "eery" is considered to be perfectly correct as far as the organisers of those sites are concerned. However, I would hesitate to use that spelling when writing carefully, as I have to say that I find it somewhat jarring.

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Actually, as an English pro, I know that eery is actually an alternate spelling of the word eerie. Eerie looks more correct, but they are equal in their grammatical correctness!

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Of course they are equal in their grammatical correctness—spelling has nothing to do with grammar, so their grammatical correctness, as influenced by spelling, is equally zero. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet 22 hours ago

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