4

I have seen people using both Gray and Grey but I wonder which one is correct and when to use one?

12

They are both correct, they differ in usage: "gray" is AmE while "grey" is BrE spelling;

gray and grey , (American vs British usage):

  • are different spellings of the same word, and both are used throughout the English-speaking world.

  • But gray is more common in American English, while grey is more common in all the other main varieties of English. In the U.K., for instance, grey appears about twenty times for every instance of gray. In the U.S. the ratio is reversed.

  • Both spellings, which have origins in the Old English grǽg, have existed hundreds of years. Grey gained ascendancy in all varieties of English in the early 18th century, but its dominance as the preferred form was checked when American writers adopted gray about a century later. As the Ngram below shows, this change in American English came around 1825. Since then, both forms have remained fairly common throughout the English-speaking world, but the favoring of gray in the U.S. and grey everywhere else has remained consistent.

  • Some people make their own distinctions between gray and grey. There is nothing wrong with these preferences, but they are not borne out in broader usage. For most people, gray and grey are simply different spellings of the same word.

  • *Both spellings are used for the participles, grayed/greyed and graying/greying, as well as for most of the words and phrases involving gray/grey. For instance, grey area/gray area, referring to an area having characteristics of two extremes, is commonly spelled both ways. So is graybeard/greybeard, referring to an older man with a beard, and gray squirrel/grey squirrel (which refer to closely related types of squirrels on opposite sides of the Atlantic). There are at least a couple of exceptions, though: greyhound, for the breed of dog, always has an e, while grayling, which refers to several types of fish, always has an a.

Ngrams:

  • This Ngram graphs the use of gray and grey (as a percentage of all words) in American books, magazines, and journals published from 1800 to 2000:

  • And this Ngram shows the words’ use in British publications during the same period.

(The Grammarist)

  • 3
    +1 You may not be aware that you can display both on one graph, thus – StoneyB on hiatus Jun 27 '15 at 20:17
  • Note that, according to Merriam-Webster, the grey in greyhound doesn't refer to a colo[u]r (or shade): "Middle English grehound, fr Old English grīghund, fr grīg- (akin to Old Norse grey bitch) + hund hound." – Sven Yargs Jun 27 '15 at 23:42
  • why don't you just put the images of Ngram in the answer? – Ooker Jun 28 '15 at 1:31
5

For the most part, gray is the American English spelling and grey is the British English spelling.

  • 7
    Yep. E for England, A for America. +1. – Tushar Raj Jun 27 '15 at 20:10

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