9

People are saying that Mom is the correct spelling and that it's not American, while others are saying it's Mum and that Mom is American.

So which is the correct spelling for the UK?

  • 8
    Who are these people? My guess is that these people are NOT native speakers, because a British child until the 1990s would never have called their mother "mom" or "mommy" or "ma", these are typical American terms of endearment. As for nowadays, maybe the odd British child does say mom because of American TV influence but personally, I have never watched a British TV programme, read a British book or heard a British-born person use that word or that particular spelling. Please provide support for your claim. – Mari-Lou A Jan 9 '16 at 6:37
  • 3
    Related: 1. Who says “mummy” and “daddy”? 2. “Mom and Dad” vs “Dad and Mom” Users also comment on "mum vs. mom" 3. “Soccer mom”: why soccer? – Mari-Lou A Jan 9 '16 at 6:52
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA - Although 'Mum(my)' is clear the dominant UK term there are lots of regional variations (I'm surprised they've not been mentioned here) - Mam, Ma, Pa and even Mimi ! – Dan Jan 9 '16 at 9:30
  • 3
    I live in Birmingham, West Midlands UK and always spell it MOM. My late Mom was born in 1916 and always signed cards etc. Mom, so did her Mom born 1879. So Mom is not new.Its local to Birmingham & Black Country in the West Midlands UK. – ASH M Feb 7 '17 at 13:00
  • 1
    Please quote your sources. Who are these people you mention? What nationality are they? In what country do you reside? What further research have you done to try to answer it? If I had posted a question like this I am confident that my friends here would have put it on hold in five minutes flat. – David Feb 28 '17 at 17:41
15

Both spellings are correct and derive from mommy and mummy. According to Ngram, Mom/mom is the more common spelling in AmE, while Mum/mum is more common in BrE:

Mom :

  • 1867, American English, perhaps a shortening of mommy; also see mamma. Adjectival phrase mom and pop dates from 1951.

Mum:

  • pet word for "mother," 1823, short for mummy (see mamma). In British sociology, used from 1957 in reference to "the working class mother as an influence in the lives of her children." Also sometimes a vulgar corruption of madam.

(Etymonline)

It is worth considering also the related term Mam/mam:

(informal and colloquial) Diminutive of mother.

Etymology:

Possibly either conserved from or influenced by earlier Brythonic language.

(Wiktionary)

Mam:

We have several informal words for “mother” in English: mum (heard in much of England), mom (heard in much of America), and mam (heard in Ireland and Northern England). But are these actually different words, or are they just, in some sense, the same word?

Although “mum,” “mam,” and “mom” read differently, they’re often pronounced in a very similar way. Here’s a comparison of three different dialects, and their “mom” pronunciations (don’t worry if you aren’t proficient in IPA — I’ll explain after):

  • London: “mum” — [mɐm]

  • General American: “mom” — [mɑm]

  • Manchester, UK: “mam” — [mam]

Whether you understand the IPA symbols above or not, the point is that in these three dialects, the words are quite close in pronunciation. To be fair, there are some regions where this is not the case. In the Western US, for example, mom is often more clearly “mawm.”

(dialectblog.com)

  • 2
    Hmm... and yet this answer had the most reliable, objective, and respected external sources ... – Mari-Lou A Mar 8 '17 at 19:21
12

Mum(my) is the most common spelling in the UK; Ngram:

enter image description here

Mom dominates in the US (although only since about 1970 ??); Ngram:

enter image description here

  • 3
    Virtually all the references to "mummy" in the US Ngram are to the cloth-wrapped corpse. – Hot Licks Jan 9 '16 at 2:31
  • 1
    (Net-net: There's really not much useful there.) – Hot Licks Jan 9 '16 at 2:44
  • 1
    @Mazura I wouldn't say "useless", you can always look at the results listed at the bottom of these charts. Often a British author will use American terms if the plot requires it, and British authors are published in the States, and hence AmEng and BrEng expressions will overlap. So, are you saying that none of the two charts should be taken seriously? The results seem to confirm that mom and its variants is AmEng, don't you think? – Mari-Lou A Jan 9 '16 at 6:45
  • 1
    mum British English informal, mom American English informal – I don't know who I am. Jan 9 '16 at 6:53
  • 3
    Although I understand the reasons, and in many circumstances it is justified, the requirement for documentation on SE English Language can be a problem. So for a question that every native Briton can tell you the answer, Dan is obliged to go to ngram, and then suffer a lecture from @HotLicks about ngram's limitations. Unlike others here, I never answer questions in comments, but I used to write to my own mum (when I was at college or living abroad) so I know how I addressed her. Perhaps I should put the letters on the web so I can quote them in an answer. – David Feb 28 '17 at 17:35
9
+300

Mom is an intimate, personal word, a nickname, though a common one. Such words have no standard spellings because they are not standards; they are personal. Everybody pronounces Mom or Ma or Muv or Mama or Momma or Mo or Muh -- or whatever -- their own way. That's before they learn there is any spelling.

And how often do you write words like that? Not nearly as often as you say them. So there are no standard spellings because there is no standard intimacy. At least not in writing.

Executive Summary: Spell it any way you like; it's your word.

  • 1
    +1 I think it's easiest for babies to develop speech with ma sounds, and which is why, I think, most languages have some spelling variants of those sounds -- mum, mom, mummy, mama, ummi/ummati (Arabic and related languages), amma/imma/umma/ammachi (various south Indian languages), maa/mataji (Hindi and related languages). – NVZ Mar 2 '17 at 8:04
7

Warning: Strong text

I quote the well-respected English poet, Philip Larkin, from This Be The Verse:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.

I heard this recited on a BBC radio broadcast in the ’70s or ’80s (much to the consternation of my late mother-in-law). I can’t find a precise reference to the original programme, but I believe the poem was included in a more recent broadcast of his poems, so you could say that this establishes ‘mum’ as BBC English as well as literary English.

And as Wikipedia and everyone this side of the Atlantic knows, ‘Mum’ has the royal imprimatur: Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was known familiarly in Britain as “The Queen Mum”:

Popularly, she became the “Queen Mother” or the “Queen Mum”.

And for those who may ask whether this usage persists into the internet age, there is Mumsnet, which claims to be:

“the UK’s most popular parenting website”

So in Britain, albeit with regional variations, mum’s the word, used by poet, prince and parent. (And me.)

  • 1
    Great examples! – Dan Feb 28 '17 at 21:49
  • Minor point, but the Queen Mum, as she was widely known, was 'Her Royal Highness' only when she was Duchess of York, prior to December 1936., Since then she became 'Her Majesty' or since 2002 'Her late Majesty'. – davidlol Feb 28 '17 at 22:25
  • Thanks I'll correct that. (I blame my mum. She was a republican.) – David Feb 28 '17 at 22:38
  • 2
    Excellent pun "mum's the word" :) – mplungjan Mar 1 '17 at 10:03
1

Today 'mum' is certainly the correct spelling of the word in the UK.

Oxford dictionaries confirm that 'mom' is a spelling pertaining to North America:

mom (noun)

North American term for mum

While Cambridge concur that 'mom' is an American spelling of the equivalent 'mum': -

mom noun

/mɒm/ us ​ /mɑːm/ US informal UK mum

The difference in spelling may be cultural

...we know that America had officially become a "new nation" in 1776 so it seems that "mum" and "mom" are a cultural difference between the two countries.

Or Simply Phonetic:

One possible reason for the difference between the ‘o’ and ‘u’ of the more common ‘mom’ and ‘mum’ may be the Great Vowel Shift (GVS)...a major change in pronunciation in England...Vowel sounds changed in the GVS from 1350 and 1700 so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that America, as a new nation, got the tail end of the shift in pronunciation.

But 'mum' is the correct spelling in the UK, and 'mom' is recognised as an American word.

This wasn't always the case however. In Middle English Circa 1400s words were spoken as they were pronounced, the word 'mome' was used to mean mother, and was likely pronounced /moːm/.

The same source quoted above cites Etymonline when referring to both mom and mum as being derived from the word 'mamma'

...diminutives of ‘mother’ in English—such as ‘mom’, which uses the central nearly open vowel /ɒ/, and ‘mum’, which uses the back open-mid vowel /ʌ/—, are offshoots from ‘mamma’ which date back to the 1570s.

Having checked the source myself, this is what they have to say on the matter, regarding the noun mamma, and early English usage of 'mom' and 'mum':

Its late appearance in English is curious, but Middle English had mome (mid-13c.) "an aunt; an old woman," also an affectionate term of address for an older woman. In educated usage, the stress is always on the last syllable. In terms of recorded usage of related words in English, mama is from 1707, mum is from 1823, mummy in this sense from 1839, mommy 1844, momma 1852, and mom 1867.

So in fact both 'mom' and 'mum' are words derived from the word 'mamma' with early recorded usage back in the 1570s in England.

It's interesting to note also that there are regional differences across the UK, in the Midlands the word 'mom' is sometimes used still (owing to dialectical inflection) while in Northern Ireland 'mam' is in popular usage, and recognized as an informal word for 'mother', with origins dating back to the 16th century.

0

I have always spelled it mom, but depending where you live, it will be totally different. To me either way is right because a lot of words have multiple spelling choices.

-1

My comments are from my own experience. Both my husband and I served in the British Army, so between us we met a lot of people over the last forty years. We have never heard the word mum/mummy unless it was with someone making a joke.

Mom not sure from where, but I associate it with the USA. I have lots of aunts and cousins there and they do not use this form, but I cannot say if it's where I have heard it on visits. My husband is Scottish while I am Welsh from both Welsh and Scottish families.

We say Mam on both sides, though we often read Ma in the Scottish comics. (The Broons and Oou Wullie).

  • 3
    I'm amazed that Carol Simpson has never heard 'mum/mummy'. I know 'mam' is used in Wales, but 'mum' is the standard form in England. I believe the US/UK difference evolved because the 19th century 'mama/mamma' was pronounced 'momma' in the US but 'mu-MA' (with the stress on the second syllable' in England. – Kate Bunting Dec 7 '16 at 15:28
-2

The correct way to spell Mom is Mom.

The correct way to spell Mum is Mum.

But if you really want to be correct use

Mother

  • 4
    What does correct mean? Mum is the correct spelling for the British familar address (for those that use it). Mom is the correct spelling for the US familiar address (for those that use it). Mother is the correct spelling for the standard English word for a female parent. The spellings are all correct although the usage is different. Incorrect spellings would be Muem, Moom and Muther. – David Feb 28 '17 at 20:32
  • Sorry David - I misunderstood the question. – davidlol Feb 28 '17 at 21:19
  • 2
    You may delete your question in such a situation. – aparente001 Mar 2 '17 at 7:46

protected by tchrist Feb 28 '17 at 15:21

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

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