Which is more correct:

We were burgled yesterday.


We were burglarized yesterday.

I'm from the U.K. and never use burglarized but my friend from the U.S.A. seems to think it's OK.

  • 1
    I forget where I read it, but someone once wrote that "Originally, a house that had been stoled from had been burgled, and the person who did it was a burglar. The American fondness for long names turned burgled into burglarised, and, inevitably, the person who did it became a burglariser." I'm with you on this, and so is the spelling checked as I type this in... Mar 23, 2011 at 21:44
  • 1
    I would note that the term 'burglar' is more common than 'burglariser' in the US. In fact, I've never heard anyone use the term 'burglariser'. Then again, I don't work in law enforcement...
    – morganpdx
    Mar 23, 2011 at 22:25
  • 3
    @Brian whoever wrote that was wrong. Originally, one who stole from a house was a burglar. Both "burgle" and "burglarize" were new words coined from "burglar" around the same time—the 1870s. Each one became popular in different places, but there is no reason to believe that one is "better" than the other in terms of etymological "purity" or historical precedent.
    – nohat
    Mar 26, 2011 at 22:55
  • 3
    In fact, if you wanted to make an argument you might say that "burglarize" is more regular because -ize is the way you form verbs from nouns. "Burgle" is a corruption because the word "burglar" came first, and its -ar is not the agentive -er as in "writer", "toaster", etc. The presupposition that it is based on the previously nonexistent verb "burgle" would therefore be an error. If it were, "burglar" would have had the spelling "burgler", which it does not.
    – nohat
    Mar 26, 2011 at 22:59
  • The word "burglarized" sounds hilarious. I mean c'mon. That's not a real word!
    – Harry Wood
    Jul 28, 2011 at 20:29

4 Answers 4


Either is acceptable. Burglarized is much more common in the USA, although burgled is less cumbersome. Dictionary.com dates both burgle and burglarize from the 1870s. Burgle is a back-formation from burglar.

  • I would say that "burgle" is more cumbersome if you say it in the US, since people aren't used to hearing it and might not realize what you said.
    – Kosmonaut
    Mar 24, 2011 at 0:20
  • True. I just meant in terms of (unnecessary) syllables.
    – Kelly Hess
    Mar 24, 2011 at 0:24
  • 1
    @Kelly C Hess: That is true, although I would say they are a worthwhile expense for clarity (hey, syllables are cheap :).
    – Kosmonaut
    Mar 24, 2011 at 0:36
  • Hey, I love a bargain. :)
    – Kelly Hess
    Mar 24, 2011 at 0:40
  • Burglarize and burgle are clearly both different ways to verb burglar. If they both date from the 1870's, they were likely coined independently. Mar 24, 2011 at 12:54

I really like Google's N-gram viewer. Look how a picture says more on the subject than a thousand books could :)

Burgled vs. burglarized in Google's corpus of British English:
British http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/chart?content=burgle%2Cburglarize&corpus=6&smoothing=3&year_start=1800&year_end=2000

Burgled vs. burglarized in Google's corpus of American English:
American http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/chart?content=burgle%2Cburglarize&corpus=5&smoothing=3&year_start=1800&year_end=2000


According to Wiktionary burglarize is an acceptable US synonym to burgle.


A deleted answer made a distinction that was already in my mind...

While both are clearly acceptible in the U.S., nobody has pointed out the distinction in meaning that I perceive: Thieves burgle. Houses are burglarized. That is, burglarize is a form which is predominantly used in the passive tense.

...and supplied what I see as plausible evidence in favour of that distinction. Counting google hits...

The house was burglarized gets 76000.

The house was burgled gets 21700, giving a ratio of 3.5 for the passive.

burglarized the house gets 18200.

burgled the house gets 11500, giving a ratio of only 1.6 for the active.

I know it's commonly said here that Google hits can be misleading, but in this case I fail to see how such a significant change in ratio can be ignored across so many results. Either some Americans make the distinction, or Brits are over twice as likely as Americans to report the burglary by saying what the burglar did (as opposed to Americans reporting the same event by saying what happened to the house). An unlikely US/UK difference, given an Englishman's home is his castle!

Though I'm a Brit who normally uses the shorter word, the house being burglarised (my spelling!) sounds fine. But I think it sounds distinctly odd to speak of someone burglarising the house.

  • Isn't a 'UK speaker' some sort of politician? As a British (-English) speaker, I tend to follow UK usage Aug 5, 2011 at 21:33
  • @TimLymington: Mix & match, I guess. On EL&U at least, I tend to think I'm a Brit as opposed to Yank, in UK not US, and the language difference is British not American usage. But I'm not necessarily consistent. Aug 6, 2011 at 0:32

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