14

I'm trying to figure out if there is a specific rule behind the word "cancel" that would cause "cancellation" to have two L's, but "canceled" and "canceling" to have only one (in the US).

I understand the rules are very loose when it comes to double L's in English, and I have read several posts on here talking about "canceled" and "canceling" (vs "cancelled" and "cancelling"), but my specific question is more about the spelling of "cancellation".

  • US English Oxford Dictionary - they do NOT mention cancelation with one "L"
  • Meriam Webster - they do seem to have cancelation listed with one "L"
  • Microsoft Word marks "cancelation" as an invalid word
  • Same with the spell checker in Firefox

So my question is: is there a reason or rule why in US English, "cancellation" seems to have two L's (to most dictionaries), while "canceled" and "canceling" does not?

  • 2
    Some Americans spell it cancelled and cancelling, just like signalled and signalling or levelled and levelling. Don’t believe the silly stuff that Microsoft or anybody else’s computerized spellchecker throws at you. The reality is that these things are not so simple, and that there is nothing wrong with doubling the consonant, even in America, even if dumb computer programs written by programmers who knew no better know no better. – tchrist Jun 10 '14 at 2:48
  • @tchrist thanks for the info. I have done a bit of of research in regards to the double L and although I am from the US, I don't have a real preference. My interest in this came from the necessity to use these words in my software (which specifically targets US users). It just seems that we have the option of using double or single L's with "Canceling/Canceled" but not so much with "Cancellation". Most dictionaries do not consider the single L as being an option (exception Miriam Webster I guess). – Adam Plocher Jun 10 '14 at 5:53
  • If you looked at the -elation words versus the -ellation words, they’re pretty distinct in origin and formation. I can’t think of any that admit both spellings. – tchrist Jun 11 '14 at 6:18
11

These words were all originally spelled with two l's (in British English, which is why the English Oxford dictionary will not recognize the single-L spelling).

Webster was one of the first to publish Americanized (more phonetic) spellings in his dictionary in the late 1800s (which is why you did find it in the Webster dictionary).

An American committee for simplified spelling published the Handbook of Simplified Spelling to record these changes in the early 1900s. One of the rules dictated that VERBS with double consonants, preceded by short vowels would drop their second consonant. Since cancellation is not a verb, the rule did not apply.

  • 3
    The OED would mention ?cancelation if it had references using that spelling. It does have examples with canceled however. – tchrist Jun 11 '14 at 6:15
  • 3
    A source for the statements of the second and third paragraphs would be nice. – pazzo May 4 '15 at 15:21
2

The simple answer is that cancellation is directly derived from the Latin cancellatio.

  • This doesn't actually answer the question, which has an accepted answer 3 years ago (we therefore assume it is solved). – marcellothearcane Jul 1 '17 at 8:54
  • 1
    @marcellothearcane It is perfectly acceptable to add additional answers after there is an accepted answer. Upvoted. – Nate Cook Jan 23 '18 at 13:04
  • @NateCook fair enough – marcellothearcane Jan 23 '18 at 14:29
1

Also consider syllable stress. I just read on Wikii that the original rule generally requires the doubling of the consonant (specifically a consonant following an 'e') ONLY WHEN THAT CONSONANT IS PART OF THE STRESSED SYLLABLE. For example, 'refer', 'referring', 'referral', or 'compel', 'compelling'. 'Cancel', however, is not stressed on that final syllable, and therefore in theory should not have the doubling of that 'l'. Hence 'canceled', and 'canceling'. So based on that, my guess is that maybe the American simplification mentioned above did not include the noun 'cancellation' because in this case that noun actually has it's main pronounced stress on the syllable containing the consonant in question, therefore requiring its doubling. Just a thought.

  • 1
    The stress in "cancellation" comes after the double consonant, though, not before it. – herisson Jul 1 '17 at 9:17
-1

It should be pronounced with accent on the in the first syllable. With two L’s it looks like the accent is on the Cell.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.