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What is the difference between flavourful and flavoursome?

I was reading a packet of raisins, which described the raisins as flavourful. I didn't recognise that word. Is it less common than flavoursome?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary just lists them both as adjectives, without elucidating further.

  • Look 'em up in a dictionary. Tell us what you found. – Kris Sep 5 '18 at 9:25
  • @Kris the Merriam-Webster just lists them both as adjectives, without elucidating further. – ahorn Sep 5 '18 at 9:30
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    @ahorn That counts as what this site calls "research" and should go into the question text. – Lawrence Sep 5 '18 at 9:47
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    Please include that in the question. It's more of a ritual, you see, we are required to show some prior effort. – Kris Sep 7 '18 at 11:51
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    Great question. Dictionaries aren't good at answering this type of question beyond some vague 'primarily British'. I, an AmE speaker, didn't know that flavoursome (or flavorsome) was even a word (same for my AmE spellchecker). – Mitch Sep 7 '18 at 12:57
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Earlier flavorsome (1853), flavory (1727), flavorous (1690s).

Today, it's flavorful (1904).

Flavoursome may still be found in British English writing and flavorsome rarely in some AmE.

Google nGram "flavoursome,flavorsome,flavourful,flavorful; 1920-2000; English.

Google nGram "flavoursome,flavorsome,flavourful,flavorful"; 1920-2000.

Google nGram "flavoursome,flavorsome,flavourful,flavorful; 1920-2000; British English.

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    Note that the first graph, made for 'English' is for all sources of English, not simply American English. If you do the search for just American English (for a one-to-one comparison with British English), it turns out that AmE has a very similar (almost identical?) distribution to the more inclusive 'English'. This could be because 'all' English is more similar to AmE than BrE, or it could be because there are way more AmE texts/instances than BrE. – Mitch Sep 7 '18 at 12:56
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    Following on from @Mithc's comment, it's also worth noting the different scales in your two graphs. "Flavorful" in AmE usage is an order of magnitude more common than any of the options in BrE usage. Or, put another way, none of these words are common in BrE. I suspect we'd be much more likely to use "tasty". – AndyT Sep 7 '18 at 14:25
  • @AndyT Taste vs. Flavo(u)r as a moot point is as old as the hills. AFAIK they're distinct. – Kris Sep 10 '18 at 6:43
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The British National Corpus contains the following words beginning flavour (slightly manipulated to combine the same word with or without trailing punctuation):

FLAVOUR                1467
FLAVOURS                280
FLAVOURED               245
FLAVOURING               70
FLAVOURINGS              34
FLAVOURSOME              20
FLAVOUR-AVERSION         13
FLAVOURFUL                9
FLAVOURLESS               7
FLAVOUR-OF-THE-MONTH      4
FLAVOURISTS               1
FLAVOURED'MOST            1
FLAVOUR-TESTED            1
FLAVOUR-ENHANCING         1

The Corpus of Contemporary American English has a lot of words beginning flavor. Some of them are clearly bad data (e.g. FLAVOR-WAS is really flavor - was). Others are clearly brand names (e.g. FLAVORWIRE). One is a personal name from a sci-fi book (FLAVORIUS).

FLAVOR                11899
FLAVORS                5040
FLAVORED               1388
FLAVORFUL              1082
FLAVORING               416
FLAVORINGS              223
FLAVORLESS              109
FLAVOR-PACKED            45
FLAVOR-OF-THE-MONTH      14
FLAVORIST                13
FLAVORSOME               12
FLAVOR-ENHANCING          8
FLAVORIZER                7
FLAVOR-FILLED             6
FLAVORISTS                5
FLAVOR-RICH               4
FLAVOR-WISE               4
FLAVOR-BOOSTING           3
FLAVOROUS                 3
FLAVOR-BOMB               2
FLAVOR-ENHANCED           2
FLAVOR-ENGINEERING        2
FLAVOR-GIVING             2
FLAVOR-FORWARD            2
FLAVOR-TRIPPING           2
FLAVOR-INTENSE            2
FLAVOR-INFUSED            2
FLAVORED-IN               2
FLAVORIZED                2
FLAVORWISE                2

and a whole stack of hapax legomena, most of which should really count towards plain FLAVOR.

If we filter those down to words which seem to have similar meanings to flavourful and flavoursome we get

BNC:

FLAVOURSOME              20
FLAVOURFUL                9

COCA:

FLAVORFUL              1082
FLAVOR-PACKED            45
FLAVORSOME               12
FLAVOR-FILLED             6
FLAVOR-RICH               4
FLAVOROUS                 3
FLAVOR-FORWARD            2
FLAVOR-INFUSED            2

The proportions are similar to the Google NGrams data in @Kris' answer: flavorful predominates in US English, and is quite common. Flavoursome is about twice as common as flavourful in British English, but they're both rare.

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