I saw "mediaeval" on a Wikipedia page, and figuring it was a typo, edited it to "medieval", it was reverted as apparently mediaeval is the UK spelling. However, in all the dictionaries I've found from a quick peruse, including those of the UK, they now prefer the medieval spelling.

Is mediaeval still preferred anywhere officially, or is it completely outdated?

Resources I found:

  • 4
    I may be outdated but I would not dream of spelling these words with "e" rather than "ae". Seriously, my point is that educated BrE native speakers still use these spellings and associate the newer versions with North America.
    – JeremyC
    Jul 18, 2018 at 22:06
  • 2
    No. It's an optional, and to many users clearly more correct spelling. That doesn't make it outdated. Jul 20, 2018 at 18:43

2 Answers 2


(Routledge 2016 p.121) suggests that spellings using the ae digraph are still favored in some words but are gradually being simplified. The spelling can be simplified because there is no pronunciation difference: the ai/ae diphthong was monophthonged in English hundreds of years ago.

English spelling has many quirks inherited from orthographers who insisted on spellings that reflected origins of words rather than actual pronunciation. See (Algeo & Butcher 2013 p.162). Some spellings even introduced letters that weren't pronounced at the time, such as the “l” in “palm” or “falcon”, that have since become spelling pronunciations.

In the case of mediaeval it seems plausible that the spelling was chosen to reflect the Latin original medium aevum (middle age).

  • 1
    While I agree about falcon (/ˈfælkən/? /ˈfɒlkən/?)There isn't a pronounced l in palm; it's pronounced /pɑːm/ where I come from.
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 14, 2019 at 8:10
  • Merriam-Webster suggests you might pronounce the L in palm and palmistry; it's an alternative at least in the US. "Palmistry" seems more probable to me than "palm" but I won't argue.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 3, 2023 at 19:04

The 'a' is now commonly dropped in English spelling which reflects the increased dominance of American pronunciation. In traditional English the word contains an 'ae' sound, so using 'ae' is appropriate. In American English the sound is pronounced as 'evil', hence the unfortunate development in pronunciation.

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    Aug 3, 2023 at 18:49
  • 1
    What is an "ae" sound? The IPA /æ/?
    – Stuart F
    Aug 3, 2023 at 19:03
  • 1
    Traditional English surely used æsc (æ) rather than ae? Aug 4, 2023 at 14:53

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