In the following sentence, should I say spelled or spelt:

You spelt/spelled "Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis" wrong.

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    Something about reading "Spelt" makes me shudder. – EightyOne Unite Feb 7 '11 at 16:29
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    I would say "spelt" but write "spelled" - may just be me. – neil May 21 '11 at 22:10
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    -1 for... drat, I've been spelling it wrong my whole life. – krs013 Mar 19 '14 at 16:29
  • It's not usual to introduce non-sentential / non-sentence fragment quotes with a capital. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 8 '15 at 18:51
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From Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary:

spell (FORM WORDS) /spel/ verb [I or T] spelled or UK AND AUSTRALIAN ENGLISH ALSO spelt, spelled or UK AND AUSTRALIAN ENGLISH ALSO spelt

This means that you should say "spelled" in US English and you can use both "spelt" and "spelled" in UK/Australian English.

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    Yes, although "spelled" exists in UK/Australian English as well. – ShreevatsaR Nov 27 '10 at 10:17
  • It's funny how people say US but almost always mean North America, since they need to include Canadians in most of these things, and although Canadians are quite easy-going, they don't much cater to being called American. – tchrist Aug 19 '13 at 4:35
  • @tchrist we also spell defence and colour differently ^.^ – Cruncher Nov 15 '13 at 16:09
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    Actually, in this context, @tchrist US is the correct usage. Canadians have always spelt spelt correctly. – Tamsyn Michael Mar 10 '16 at 6:02
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    @TamsynMichael: By saying “Canadians have always spelt spelt correctly.” you risk starting a flame war.  Better to go for the trifecta and say “Canadians have always spelt spelt spelt.” ⁠  (Buffalo buffalo buffalo …   :-)   ⁠ – Scott Aug 14 '16 at 4:50

Spelled vs spelt:

  • In American English, spelt primarily refers to the hardy wheat grown mostly in Europe, and the verb spell makes spelled in the past tense and as a past participle.

  • In all other main varieties of English, spelt and spelled both work as the past tense and past participle of spell, at least where spell means to form words letter by letter or (with out) to make clear. Outside the U.S., the two forms are interchangeable in these uses, and both are common.

  • But when spell carries the sense to temporarily relieve (someone) from work, spelled is the preferred form throughout the English-speaking world. This is a minor point, though, as this sense of spell is rarely used outside the U.S., where it is most common.

  • Spelled is not a recent Americanism as many people assume (including some who have commented on this post). Both spelled and spelt are old, and examples of each are easily found in historical Google Books searches covering the 17th and 18th centuries. It is true, however, that spelt was ascendant everywhere through most of the 19th century. This ended when Americans permanently settled on spelled around 1900.


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I believe the Guardian and Observer Style Guide has a better answer than just “it's different between US / UK / AUS”:

spelled is the past tense

“she spelled it out for him”


spelt is the past participle

“the word is spelt like this”

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According to WordReference.com and the Concise oxford English Dictionary, both forms are correct.

spell: verb (past and past participle spelled or chiefly British spelt)

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Mainly a correct British variant. In perhaps the best AmE dictionary:



spelled \ˈspeld, ˈspelt\ (audio pronunciation) or chiefly British spelt \ˈspelt\ (audio pronunciation) ; spelled or chiefly British spelt; spell·ing; spells

3 a : to name in order the letters of

Merriam Webster Unabridged Dictionary

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h2g2 Writing Guidelines say

Please use the word spelled rather than spelt. There was a long-running discussion about it and 'spelled' won 10 votes to 8. Besides, loads of people thought that 'spelt' was a type of wheat. Schpelled and spellted were among the other suggestions. But no, you can't use them

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  • Whose votes? Not mine! I was brought up in both England and Australia and during my schooling years it was 'spelt' and should remain as such ie I'm not about to change. Other such modern variances should remain. – user49993 Aug 19 '13 at 4:11
  • I thought of the grain too. – starsplusplus Jan 21 '14 at 16:04
  • Who on Earth are h2g2? – Edwin Ashworth Apr 7 '15 at 21:37
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    I hope you realize 10 votes to 8 cannot be called a decisive victory. – Peter Shor Apr 8 '15 at 16:56
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    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Earth Edition Style Guide is perhaps not the most prestigious of such guides. Although it adds the nice touch of prefacing its arrogations-disguised-as-recommendations with 'please'. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 8 '15 at 18:48

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