What is the correct spelling of the expression "lip sync[h]," which refers to miming singing over a recording--usually in a public performance and with the intention to mislead?

Google has approximately 13,700,000 results for "lip-sync," and only ~465,000 for "lip synch" (presumably, it ignores the hyphens). It also suggests "lip sync" as a correction for "lip synch." However, Webster's, Cambridge, and Macmillan give "lip synch" as a headword, and list "lip sync" as a variant or not at all.

What, then, is truly the preferred spelling according to (American-) English convention? I am interested in an answer that makes a compelling argument for one choice or another--informed by knowledge and example of the morphological norms of English, and particularly the rules of clipping--rather than argue that both are acceptable.

Related, but not a duplicate (as it does not treat the fixed phrase with "lip-," but instead other uses of "synch"): "Synced" or "synched"

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    Try using Ngram: books.google.com/ngrams/… . Prior to 1995 "sync" was the clear winner, but lately there is disturbance in the force. (However, it's not unusual for recent numbers to be "odd", perhaps due to the lag in entering documents into the database.)
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 23, 2016 at 19:02
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    There is no real reason to expect that having a "lip-" prefix would change folks' preference for the spelling of "sync", and that spelling has been preferred by techies over "synch" for decades.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 23, 2016 at 19:04
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    @HotLicks It's not unimaginable one group -- musicians -- spelled it one way, and another -- programmers -- independently developed a different standard. Unlikely, but I'd believe it. Sep 24, 2016 at 0:19
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    @Azor-Ahai - Yeah, my recollection is that, circa 1975, there was a "battle" of sorts between the two spellings. While "sync" was probably always the most popular, there were those in the techie community arguing for "synch", and different sub-disciplines would adopt different spellings. Likely the same was true outside the techie community. (And much the same holds for "disk" and "disc",though that battle is still going on.)
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 24, 2016 at 1:15
  • Yeah, "disc" and "disk"! That's the example I was trying to come up with. Sep 24, 2016 at 3:12

1 Answer 1


My Merriam-Webster Unabridged lists:

  • The noun form of sync (the sound track is out of sync with the actors' lips)
  • The verb form of sync (timecode is a great aid for syncing)
  • The adjective form of sync ("relating to or having to do with synchronization")
  • The abbreviation sync (which it lists without comment)
  • The noun lip sync (the primary definition being "lip synchronization")
  • The adjective lip-sync ("of, relating to, or produced by lip synchronization or lip sync")
  • The verb lip-synch, which does list lip-sync as an alternative form ("to pretend to sing or say (something) in synchronization with recorded sound")

Of the forms of sync listed, only the noun form lists synch as an alternative form.

Given the preponderance of the spelling sync in their definitions, I find it curious that M-W list lip-synch as the headword of the verb form.

Their own definitions seem to come down firmly on the side of lip-sync.

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