I live in Australia, but am expected to use US English in my work. I am therefore used to spelling "-ise" as "-ize". I was a little surprised to find that "enterprise" is almost universally spelt with "-ise". Is there any particular reason that this is the case for this example, when "-ize" is so widely preferred in US English?

  • 65
    I surmise you’re just improvising here without actual knowledge. I despise it when people are surprised that there is actually an undisguised method and reason behind these things; consider yourself duly apprised that there very much is such. And while I don’t quite mean to chastise you too severely, I must advise you to study English morphology with considerably more diligence than heretofore displayed that you might excise these ridiculous notions from your head. This may, however, require that a tutor supervise your exercises.
    – tchrist
    Nov 10, 2014 at 1:38
  • 26
    @tchrist - Pompous much?
    – Erik Kowal
    Nov 10, 2014 at 2:17
  • 31
    @ErikKowal woosh. Nov 10, 2014 at 2:23
  • 20
    @ErikKowal ~ tchrist is just playing with words... look at all the -ise words he uses. Nov 10, 2014 at 2:52
  • 8
    @tchrist That was beautiful. Thank you. You should have posted it as an answer, though, because it definitely deserves rep.
    – reirab
    Nov 10, 2014 at 6:07

1 Answer 1


For one, because the etymology is different.

-ise (-ize) is a causative suffix in formalise, realise etc. (to make something formal, to make something real...)

But enterprise is not "to make something enterpre" or similar (whatever that might mean). The prise bit comes as a past participle of French prendre (to grasp, to take).

Another answer is that enterprize is actually attested, and was apparently used more than enterprise in the second half of 18th century (N-gram viewer).

  • 6
    "Enterprise" and "surprise" both come from the French verb "prendre" -- to take. Several of the verb forms of this verb have the "pris" syllable. No surprise (or pun intended) that this is an "-ise" spelling in American and other forms of english. Nov 10, 2014 at 2:31
  • 1
    Note that "prise" is also an English verb (from the same origin) meaning "to force open".
    – Max
    Nov 10, 2014 at 11:53
  • Interesting... I always assumed it was related to prix (price)
    – Liath
    Nov 10, 2014 at 11:56
  • 6
    @Max in US and Canada (since this is a question about US English), we say "pry" rather than "prise" (past-tense: pried).
    – TylerH
    Nov 10, 2014 at 14:33
  • 2
    @Max "prized" is not used in US English to mean "forced open". At least, I have never heard it used as such. Other dictionaries list "pry" as the US English version of the British English "prised"
    – TylerH
    Nov 10, 2014 at 18:09

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