Is there a categorical name for differences in the spelling of a word when the word keeps the same meaning and the same sound?

  • 1
    "variants"? but in the cases you provide the issue is one of geography so they are functions of dialect, not variants within the same dialect.
    – rosends
    Feb 15, 2013 at 0:49
  • 1
    Whey are not "words ... that are spelled differently". They are variant spellings of the same word.
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 15, 2013 at 0:55
  • 4
    “Anyone who can only think of one way to spell a word obviously lacks imagination.” ―Mark Twain
    – tchrist
    Feb 15, 2013 at 1:02
  • The picture here says that it is a 'different spelling'.
    – Mitch
    Feb 15, 2013 at 1:12
  • 1
    They're not, but they should be called homologues. Feb 15, 2013 at 2:05

5 Answers 5


In general, spelling variants or alternative spellings.

More specifically, when one is vastly predominate in one form of English, regional spelling variants.

  • While there is some regional variation going on when it comes to what we call these things, regional works much better with spelling variants than it does with alternate or alternative. That said, alternate is more common than alternative when placed immediately before the noun (without the word regional). books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – Adam
    Feb 20, 2013 at 18:50

Alternate spellings or spelling variants--I prefer alternate spelling but see notes below for which is more common where. The title of this post lists some British and American variations in spelling.

Oxford Dictionaries has a good overview of some of the differences between the UK and the US, and Wikipedia has a pretty big article on the topic.


"Alternate spellings" and "spelling variants" both directly make sense.


These are variant spellings. (Of course, the Commonwealth could have a body that could rule on the matter, based on which the most common pattern the word should follow. But, of course, no one cares about the million of kids who struggle to learn this hideous and flawed spelling system and no one cares to follow spelling rules either! Kids, why don't YOU follow rules? Complete laissez-faire is dangerous in economics and in ... linguisics. When will THEY get it? RULE(s) ... Britania?)

  • 2
    This is of course why English is such a minority language and languages like Irish and Basque which do have such official standards dominate International communication...
    – Jon Hanna
    Feb 18, 2013 at 10:46

I suggest

Homophonic synonyms.

  • props for coining the expression, but ultimately no, since the question is about same word variations in spelling.
    – Adam
    Feb 15, 2013 at 1:05
  • 2
    @Adam - Fair enough, I had read the question but not its title. Why not call them spelling variants?
    – The Frog
    Feb 15, 2013 at 2:05
  • Spelling variants works. On Google ngrams[1], Alternate spellings is more common in American English, and spelling variants is slightly more popular in the UK. Overall, they're equally common expressions. [1]books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – Adam
    Feb 15, 2013 at 2:17

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