Cambridge: past tense and past participle : here is the cambridge link:spat.https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/spit#british-1-1-2

Oxford:spits, spitting, spat, spitted Oxford link :https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/spit

Collins:spits, spitting, spat or spit Word forms: spits, spitting or spitted Collins link:https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/spit

Wikitionary:spitted,spitted spat/spit,spat/spit https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/spit

Which one is correct?

  • 3
    One issue is that you've got two different words that both sound like "spit" in the bare infinitive; one means to project saliva or other matter out of your mouth, and the other means to skewer something with a pointy stick. The second is quite regular (that's the one that uses "spitted", always), so you might want to eliminate it from your question.
    – 1006a
    Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 17:55
  • 1
    "Which one is correct?" is usually the wrong question about language.
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 21:35

1 Answer 1


There used to be two separate verbs for spitting something from the mouth: the weak verb spit and the strong verb spete, whose preterite and past participle were both spat. These verbs merged in the fifteenth century, leaving spit with the preterite and past participle of spete, which otherwise disappeared. Both forms, however, continue to be used: spit spit/spat spit/spat.

Garner's Modern English Usage (2016) finds a decided preference for spat as the preterite, but less clarity with the past participle. The verb sit may have also be of influence in choice of participle.

Babies with Anglophone parents, however, have a strong preference for past tense spit: according to a Google NGram, no infant has ever spat up in English, at least not in print.

Please note that these considerations do not apply to the verb spit as in "spit-roast." Its principle parts are spit, spitted, spitted.

  • 1
    In British English, it's definitely spat, whatever NGrams says.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 19:13
  • I was surprised by the NGram, because I'm sure babies in my family spat up all the time.
    – KarlG
    Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 19:16
  • Maybe you're thinking of spat out and babies can also spat out too
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 20:41
  • Babies can spit in all directions, but as far as I know, they spit up when they vomit. I've never heard of spit out.
    – KarlG
    Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 20:54
  • 1
    Given that the various forms have coexisted since the 15th c., I think your definitive announcement may be rather premature. I personally use both past tenses.
    – KarlG
    Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 22:59

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