The Wiktionary entry for glamourous, for what it's worth, claims that it is "a common British spelling", but many native English speakers dismiss it as incorrect. Some, though, draw a distinction between "glamorous" and "glamourous", saying that the latter is a valid, British spelling.

What's your take on this?

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    Oddly enough, "glamourous" is what I would default to here in the US. Although spellcheck has it underlined right now, so I'd probably change it, as I have no strong feelings either way. – Izkata May 11 '12 at 13:54
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    I really wouldn’t trust Wikipedia. If it were me doing it, I’d use glamour and glamorous, but I’m corrupt and no longer count as an innocent/native speaker of anything. As @NeilCoffey correctly observes, at the end of the day it comes down to a matter a personal choice. That’s not a bad thing. – tchrist May 11 '12 at 22:22

Edit in response to comments: as has been pointed out in the other answers, the spelling glamourous is included in the Oxford English Dictionary, which is why my answer doesn't so much as address the question of whether it is considered wrong by everyone, but rather tries to quantify its popularity — or, as it turns out, the lack thereof.

Here are the usage stats from the British National Corpus (BNC) and the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA):

              BNC   COCA
glamorous     562   2375
glamourous      9     22

So the spelling without the u is preferred on both sides of the pond, though the preference is marginally stronger in the US (99.1%) than in the UK (98.4%).

Here's a breakdown by publication type:

                  ou/o  ratio (%)

MAGAZINE  (BNC)   4/114   3.5
NEWSPAPER (BNC)   3/109   2.8
MISC      (BNC)   2/113   1.8
FICTION   (COCA)  5/392   1.3
MAGAZINE  (COCA)  8/811   1.0
NEWSPAPER (COCA)  5/535   0.9
ACADEMIC  (COCA)  1/120   0.8
FICTION   (BNC)   0/142   0     
NON-ACAD  (BNC)   0/50    0     
ACADEMIC  (BNC)   0/17    0     

This means that relatively speaking, you are most likely to encounter the spelling glamourous in British magazines and newspapers, but seeing the absolute numbers you might consider yourself lucky if you encounter it at all.

So, both spellings are used — and in print, not just in YouTube comments —, but if you want to be on the safe side, glamorous is the way to go.

  • +1 for giving a nerdily detailed answer to an inconsequential question :) – Neil Coffey May 11 '12 at 12:10
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    There's nothing inconsequential about my question. It did come to my attention that "glamorous" is far more common, to say the least, but I've been wondering whether glamourous should really be considered wrong, as stated by some native speakers on a another forum. I'm happy to find out it's not regarded as such by most contributors of this site... – dreamlike May 11 '12 at 12:57
  • -1: The implication of your final "both spellings are used" is that somehow glamourous might be considered "correct" by some people. All those corpus results are saying is that slightly more Brits (still only 1.6%) spell it wrong. But so do apparently 0.9% of Americans, despite the fact that they very rarely write "glamour" in the first place. – FumbleFingers May 11 '12 at 18:02
  • @FumbleFingers it wasn't my intention to imply that it might be considered correct by some people; it was my intention to assume that. As David points out in his answer (which predates mine), you will find "glamourous" in the OED. So I take it for granted that it is considered correct by some people. My answer is to quantify, not to prove, as a proof is not necessary. But I guess I should have expressly stated just that in the answer proper. – RegDwigнt May 11 '12 at 19:04
  • The OED includes glamourous as an “Also” spelling for the more standard glamorous. The only 6 head words returned for *ourous are anomourous, anourous, brachyurous | brachyourous, † enˈdeavourous, † ˈfavourous, and † ˈhonorous | honourous. If you search instead for “variant spellings” (which includes historical forms) of the form *ourous, you then get 23 results, of which glamourous is one. Me, I always thought glamour was the standard spelling in America,too, but that’s less than clear. These glamour, glamorous are OED2 entries, still unupdated for OED3. – tchrist May 11 '12 at 22:11

Not being British, I hesitate to comment. However, the OED(1973) entry for "glamorous" begins with the words "also glamourous". This means it's valid, although I believe that most speakers of British English would not use it.

  • You make it sound like the compilers of the OED are party to some divine judgement about what is "valid" that is based on revelation unavailable to the rest of humanity or unavailable from any other source...! – Neil Coffey May 11 '12 at 11:30
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    Not divine judgement. Just thorough research and many, many person-years of hard work. There is good reason for the OED to be widely considered the most authoritative dictionary of British English. When the OED tells me that "glamourous" exists, I see no need to look for additional information on the subject. – user16269 May 11 '12 at 11:35
  • Ah OK, well yes-- if the OED suggests that a word exists, then that's probably true (with some provisos about actual frequency/trends in usage, e.g. it came up in discussion the other day that the OED lists the head entry "run time" whereas in reality "runtime" is generally the used spelling)... – Neil Coffey May 11 '12 at 12:06
  • ...just that you said "valid", which seemed to be lending some other quality to the OED compilers' judgement. – Neil Coffey May 11 '12 at 12:07
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    I used the word "valid" because that's what the OP put in the question. It's hard to be precise about exactly what this means; but I think the key point is that when the word is used, the person who speaks/writes it wouldn't acknowledge it as an error. – user16269 May 11 '12 at 12:09

It certainly is not a common British spelling, and most people would probably shy away from using -ou- twice in a word. I would.

The ngrams for British English and American English look very similar.

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    +1 This is the correct answer. There are many words like this (odour, rigour, humour) where Brits always drop the first u when forming an adjective with the -ous suffix. The Wikipedia article cited by OP is simply wrong. – FumbleFingers May 11 '12 at 17:51

"Glamourous" is not an invalid British English spelling but it is not a common British English spelling.

The stem of the word, when used on its own (without a suffix), can be spelt "glamor" or "glamour", so called US English spelling and British English spelling respectively. However, when used with the "-ous" suffix in British English the stem is overwhelmingly spelt in the US English way, to form the British English word "glamorous".

To give you a measure of what "not a common British English spelling" means, a search of the British National Corpus for "glamorous" returns 562 occurrences, while a search for "glamourous" returns 9 occurrences.

I would say that the Wikipedia entry is confused between the common British English spellings of the words "glamour" and "glamorous": "glamour" is a common British English spelling, "glamourous" is not a common British English spelling.

The word "glamourous" does appear in the Oxford English Dictionary (2007). It does not have a separate entry but appears as a listed adjective to the verb "glamourise".

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    Very good answer, probably the best so far, as it pretty much sums up all the other answers (and comments) in one place and adds insight of its own. Comprehensive yet concise. +1 from me. – RegDwigнt May 11 '12 at 21:56
  • @RegDwightΒВBẞ8 Thanks for the comment. I started writing this "corpus" answer when there were only two answers those by Andrew Leach and David Wallace. By the time I posted, you had already posted your "corpus" answer too. :-) The first table that you present makes the point especially clear. – Andrew Fogg May 14 '12 at 11:13

Having a rare afternoon at home Noel Edmunds show about being ‘smarter than a ten year old’ just threw a contestant off for spelling glamourous. Evidently Noel knows more than the OED. Next thing you know they will be adding an apostrophe to it!


My personal take on this is: what does it possibly matter? Pick whichever of the alternatives you prefer and use it.

Remember that fluent readers don't generally read by picking out individual letters in the middle of words. It's quite likely that whichever spelling you adopt, most readers won't even notice (or, if they do, care).

  • I failed to mention (I thought it irrelevant either way) that it was my assignment to create a new word out of "GLAMOUR". It's glamorous/glamourous that suited the context given. The use of British spelling, "GLAMOUR", misled me into thinking that I should use "GLAMOUROUS". – dreamlike May 11 '12 at 12:59
  • @dreamlike Words ending in -our often but not always become -or- in compounds. – tchrist May 11 '12 at 22:20
  • I'm surprised to read such a comment on your part. You always seem so precise with post wording, so careful in distinguishing nuances in terms, in always being a kind of watchdog to the proper use of the language, maybe even too much so at times. I do not understand this lack of interest in being precise with spelling, although I acknowledge the fact that most people read without actually noticing how words are spelt. – Paola May 12 '12 at 7:38
  • My point is that in this case, both alternatives 'glamorous' and 'glamourous' are used and which one you choose is of no consequence. You may as well just choose the one you prefer and dedicate your brain to more interesting issues. – Neil Coffey May 12 '12 at 13:46

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