I would like to know which spelling is more common in the UK: fantasise or fantasize?

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    I think they might have used to phantasise. – Peter Shor Jul 18 '11 at 1:45
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    Related: “-zation” vs “-sation”? – Cerberus Jul 18 '11 at 2:34
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    Rule of thumb: Where there's a difference it always tends to be Americans who use "z", and English who use "s". e.g.organize/organise, realize/realise, recognize/recognise,...etc en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Urbycoz Jul 18 '11 at 7:37
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    @Urbycoz: If by where there is a difference you mean when both the -ise and -ize forms exist, the latter is always American. No exceptions. – FumbleFingers Jul 18 '11 at 11:29
  • @Urbycoz: Actually, it's "z" for Americans, "s" for Australians, and most often both are accepted in Britain, though usage may vary depending on what parts of Britain you're talking about. – Amos M. Carpenter Mar 29 '12 at 4:30

My 1983 Chambers gives the -ise spelling first, which seemed reasonable to me because I think the -ize one looks 'American'.

But my 1998 Chambers gives the -ize spelling first, so I guess I have to assume they've changed their tune in the interim. Note that this change is reflected for all relevant words in the later edition. As this article points out, almost all British 'authorities' apart from OED (Oxford English Dictionary) have now adopted/endorsed the American standard.

For what it's worth, NGram suggests that ever since the word[s] really started to take off in the 60s, fantasize has been more common even in British English. I think maybe the fact that it was so rarely used before has allowed Brits to take the 'easier' path of simply copying American usage; there's less historical usage to be swept under the carpet, and it seems to have been more used by Americans earlier on anyway, so it's only fair they get to say how we spell it.

Thanks to @Peter Shor for commenting that the 'original' British form was phantasise, as can be seen from this NGram. In light of that, perhaps the 'pseudo-original' fantasise could be seen as an abortive attempt to mimic (a dying) 'standard' British spelling for historical reasons. Which failed/is failing because there simply isn't enough history to sustain that position.

  • phantasize; verb; variant spelling of fantasize (restricted to archaic uses or, in modern use, to the fields of psychology and psychiatry). According to the Mac OS Dictionary. – Nerian Jul 18 '11 at 8:09
  • @Nerian: apropos which I note that even Americans don't seem to have espoused fantasm yet. So also phantasise is dying out, and phantasize should never have existed, phantasm is still out there in the wild! – FumbleFingers Jul 18 '11 at 11:20
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    @Peter Shor: I think a phantom is more "externally real" (albeit "supernatural"), whereas a phantasm is conjured up within the mind of the beholder, but I'll check some more. That'll be after listening to and laying the ghost of Ultra-Vivaldi on Curved Air's Phantasmogoria, which has been stuck in my head since you first mentioned phantasise (Grrr! :) – FumbleFingers Jul 18 '11 at 15:12
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    ...I can't find anything remotely like a definition to support my thoughts, but this discourse uses both, apparently in line with my distinction. Also, of course, phantom can be an adjective meaning "ghostly", whereas phantasm is always a "thing" (real or not, depending on whether it's viewed from the perspective of imagination or reason). – FumbleFingers Jul 18 '11 at 16:31
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    As used in radiology, phantoms are real things. In my experience they are never referred to as phantasms. But of course this is not a mainline use of phantom, and might not be well-known. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Sep 8 '12 at 3:12

The spelling fantasise is originally British; and appears to be more prevalent in British literature than fantasize (34 instances of the former for every 20 of the latter) according to the British National Corpus. (Thanks, @z7sg!)

Google NGrams is misleading here, showing that it is not more common than fantasize in British literature; but since the database is not entirely accurate, its evidence must go disregarded in this case.

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    BNC says 34 vs 20, that it is more common. – z7sg Ѫ Jul 18 '11 at 8:32
  • This usage of fantasize, published 1890, looks like the authentic words of Matteo Bandello, Bishop of Agen, who died in 1562. Both spellings are very rare in early writing, and many instances of fantasise look like quirky spelling of fantasies anyway. – FumbleFingers Jul 18 '11 at 15:24
  • Further, take a look at the 'British English' books from this ngram. Some of them have American authors. – z7sg Ѫ Jul 18 '11 at 18:09
  • @z7sg: I edited my answer to agree with BNC rather than Google; but I'm still curious. Can you show me how you know BNC is more trustworthy? – Daniel Jul 18 '11 at 23:01
  • @z7sg: So I should rollback my edit? I'd appreciate knowing. If I don't know who is trustworthy, I can't really give answers. Thanks! – Daniel Jul 18 '11 at 23:18

It is fantasise in British English.

The general rule with the Brits is to use s and not z. The confusion with fantasise is that, as spoken, it includes the word size which makes one think it would be written with as with the American English version fantasize, but this is not the case.

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    Many people in Britain think that the correct way to spell things is usually with -ize, actually. It's a bit of a fallacy that -ise is the 'British' way. – Jez Jul 18 '11 at 8:15
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    It's not a fallacy. But the use of -ize is surprisingly common and not more so for this word than recognise, realise etc. The speculation in this answer does not fit real usage patterns. – z7sg Ѫ Jul 18 '11 at 8:39
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    @Jez: the Americanization of British English is sadly unrelenting. – Charles Goodwin Jul 18 '11 at 13:48
  • @z7sg It is really. See this question and the answers about British English having -ize as the older spelling, and many respected dictionaries using it: english.stackexchange.com/questions/707/zation-vs-sation – Jez Jul 18 '11 at 13:51
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    @Jez It is not a fallacy. My source: usage statistics from the British National Corpus that show the -ise spellings are favoured. The answer you refer to on the other hand, cites no source. – z7sg Ѫ Jul 18 '11 at 17:12

"-ise" is commoner than -"ize" in British English, certainly. But the answers that assume that -ize is purely an invasion by American are barking up the wrong tree; it has a long and honourable history in Britain. My 1965 edition of Fowler has a long article, quoting the OED, which concludes that verbs derived from Greek (the vast majority of -ize/ise words) should follow the English -ize rather than the French -ise. (It also includes the sentence "But the Oxford University Press, The Cambridge University Press, The Times, and American usage, in all of which -ize is the accepted form, carry authority enough to outweigh superior numbers": ah, the good old days.)

And there was an Inspector Morse mystery (though I forget the name), turning on the fact that an Oxford lecturer would never have written a note conataining 'organise' and 'realise'.


Both 'fantasise' and 'fantasize' are equally correct in Standard British English. However, only 'fantasize' is permitted in standard American usage. The '-ize' suffix is not an Americanism, not nonstandard, and is more etymologically correct — that is, it is the older variant and closer to the original Greek. It is, however, less common in British English today, probably because it's perceived to be an Americanism.

Whatever spelling variant you use you ought to use it consistently throughout any given document.

protected by user2683 Mar 29 '12 at 16:58

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