What is the difference between color and colour?

2 Answers 2


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this word comes to us from the Latin word color-em, which was inherited by old French. The o segment in Old French was actually somewhere between [o] and [u] and was represented by the digraph ou. When this syllable became accented, it became fronted, represented by eu (this the Modern French couleur). The corresponding English word of old is the ancestor of hue.

The world was adopted directly into Middle English as colur; later colour from the Old French color, culur, colur; later colour; and finally coulour, which was the preferred Anglo-French spelling. Colour was eventually standardized in post Anglo-French English. Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary is credited with standardizing the latinate color in American English.


"Color" is favored in the United states, and "Colour" is favored (I believe) everywhere else.

Here is a Wikipedia article commenting on "or" vs. "our".

  • 19
    As an programmer, it takes years of training/swearing to remember to write color in code, yet colour everywhere else ;)
    – Jon Hadley
    Aug 7, 2010 at 19:53
  • 2
    @jon, always made me wonder why Tim Berners Lee, himself British, used the American spelling throughout HTML, e.g. <FONT COLOR="#cc6600"> and not <FONT COLOUR="#cc6600"> and <TABLE BGCOLOR=...> and not <TABLE BGCOLOUR=...>. Aug 8, 2010 at 1:39
  • 2
    @Vaibhav, favor/favour is exactly analogous to color/colour. Being American, mac9416 quite naturally favoured "favor". :-)
    – Jonik
    Aug 9, 2010 at 17:38
  • 4
    If he had used the British spelling, HTML would be forever earmarked as British. Aug 10, 2010 at 2:01
  • 28
    The FONT/COLOR tags were introduced by Netscape in a rush to add proprietary features, not by Tim Berners-Lee. The HTML 2.0 spec makes no mention of "COLOR". That first appeared in HTML 3.2
    – njd
    Aug 11, 2010 at 9:35

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