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Which is correct: synced or synched? Is one of these American and the other British spelling or are they interchangeable?

I have only ever seen sync used in the computing industry.

  • 11
    sync, sanc, sunc???? – Peter Shor Oct 27 '11 at 12:39
  • since the word is the short form for "synchronization" I'd suggest to analyze the word's morphology: syn- "together" (see syn-) + khronos "time" (see chrono-). so the second word's TWO LETTERS form /k/ sound ("ch" = "k") and thus - I believe the use of "synched" would be logically correct – Rossitten Dec 1 '15 at 20:48
  • 3
    @Rossitten i have a different take. the shortened verb is sync not synch. to me, sync is what you're conjugating, so synced makes the most sense. it's also shorter, which i tend to prefer by default. – ell Jan 25 '16 at 18:10
  • 2
    This has been an ongoing battle since the 70s, at least. The terms are mostly used in computer and electronics contexts, where forming abbreviations is a common (and necessary) activity. Many, including myself, prefer "sync", in large part because an annoying number of people tend to pronounce "synch" as "cinch". But both are fairly common. – Hot Licks Dec 19 '16 at 12:56
  • 1
    How about sync'd? – Константин Ван Sep 2 '17 at 22:06

12 Answers 12

29

The Corpus of Contemporary American English has 30 incidences of synced and 14 of synched. Over half of the incidences of synced are from the magazine PC World, though. Synced does appear to be most commonly used in computing contexts.

  • 3
    There is a Unix command called sync, from section 8 of the manual (system administration). That may have influenced it. I guess you could write that you'd sync (8)ed the disks, but certainly synched looked better than the hypothetical (and largely unattested) syncked. – tchrist Mar 19 '13 at 18:40
15

American English: American English

British English: British English

Synched is more popular than synced for both American and British English, but the gap is closer in British English.

I've seen both used in the computer industry. The common and my preferred way of abbreviating synchronous is sync, rather than synch, partly because it makes more sense to pronounce it as sink than sinch and the shorter abbreviation is simpler and clearer. Also to avoid any confusion with the slang word cinch (pronounced sinch).

For similar reasons and consistency, I'd recommend synced over synched and async over asynch.

You'll also save ink and disk space.

12

The spelling "synch" is a variant of "sync", and "sync" (synced) is the one mostly used.

Both are the informal short form of synchronize (as in synchronization).

  • 10
    as a verb, it’s short for synchronize – nohat Aug 13 '10 at 19:38
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Merriam-Webster on 'sync' versus 'synch'

In the United States, many publications (including PC World, which nohat specifically mentions in his answer) use Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary as their default guide to spelling words, and the historical preference of Merriam-Webster for sync over synch goes back very far—certainly to an era before personal computers.

The first time sync/synch shows up in the Collegiate Dictionary series in in the Sixth Edition (1949). Here is the relevant entry:

sync, n. & v. Also synch. Motion Pictures & Television. Short for SYNCHRONIZATION, SYNCHRONIZE.

This brief entry tells us that from 1949, when sync/synch first became common enough to merit (in the eyes of Merriam-Webster's lexicographers) an entry in the Collegiate Dictionary series, the publisher viewed sync as the more common spelling of the word. The entry also tells us that the original preference for sync probably arose in the film and television industry, a field where the fact that the ch in synchronize can be traced to the chi (χ) in chronos (χρονος) was probably not of widespread interest or concern.

The Seventh Collegiate (1963) dispenses with the -ch spelling altogether:

1sync n : SYNCHRONIZATION, SYNCHRONISM —sync adj

2sync vb synced syncing : SYNCHRONIZE

The spelling synch makes a comeback in the Eighth Collegiate (1973):

1sync also synch n : SYNCHRONIZATION, SYNCHRONISM —sync adj

2sync also synch vt synced also synched syncing also synching : SYNCHRONIZE

The Ninth (1983), Tenth (1993), and Eleventh (2003) Collegiates have retained the skeleton of the entries from the Eighth Collegiate, but they have added a couple of examples of sync as a noun, and they report that sync as a noun dates to 1929 and sync as a verb to 1945.

As this chronology demonstrates, for the past 57 years, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary has always expressed a preference for sync over synch as the primary spelling of this truncated word—and for the period 1963–1972, it didn't include synch as even a variant spelling.


Ngram charts of 'sync' versus 'synch' and 'synced' versus 'synched'

In his answer, Hugo provides Ngram charts of relative frequency of use of synced and synched in American English and in British English for the period 1960–2000. These are interesting charts, but they don't reflect a rather significant difference in frequency of use between sync and synch. Here is the chart I got for sync (blue line) versus synch (red line) for the period 1900–2008, with no year-to-year smoothing and no distinction between British English and U.S. English sources:

And here is the corresponding Ngram chart for synced (blue line) versus synched for the same period with the same conditions:

The rather startling thing here is the difference between the results for sync/synch (where sync has a huge advantage in frequency of usage over synch) and synced/synched (where between 1989 and 2005 synched was the more common form).

On this record it appears that people are far more likely to choose sync over synch than to choose synced over synched. Nevertheless, in the most recent years for which Ngram offers graph data (2006–2008), synced appears to have moved ahead of synched in overall frequency, too.


Conclusion

Returning briefly to nohat's remarks about PC World magazine, I observe that PC World began publication in 1983, well into the era of Merriam-Webster's express preference for sync (and synced) over synch (and synched). When I started working at PC World in 1995, I tried to use the spelling synch—because of the ancient Greek single letter (χ) for ch, obviously—and I was told that house style was sync, synced, syncing because Merriam-Webster recommended it. Case closed. Under the circumstances, it's surprising that synched has done as well as it has against synced, especially when you consider how thoroughly sync has dominated synch during the same period.

  • 1
    Kind of a short answer for you. Usually you throw in everything but the kitchen synch. – Hot Licks Sep 24 '16 at 11:57
  • 4
    @HotLicks: Yeah, but answering this one was a cinc. – Sven Yargs Sep 24 '16 at 15:05
  • I posit that synx is a more logical derivative. As a bonus: 'x' is way cooler than 'c'. – Suncat2000 Mar 14 '18 at 17:25
6

I have several computer-savvy friends, and they use the word a lot. I have only ever seen synced.

Looking at the Ngram of "synced" vs. "synched", I see that since the widespread use of computers, "synched" is becoming more popular. However, the spellchecker on this site does not recognize "synched", and Dictionary.com does not help with the past tense form of "sync". So make of that what you will.

http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/chart?content=synced%2Csynched%2Csyncked&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=0&smoothing=3

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The OED records the word as a noun and gives both spellings.

  • 1
    I presume that's for "sync"/"synch". What about "synced"/"synched"? – Hugo Oct 27 '11 at 11:22
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    @Hugo: There is no separate entry for 'sync/synch' as a verb. However, the noun entry includes these two citations: 'If they . . . are synced with a clock and thus with each other' and 'They wanted it synched to within one frame.' The entry also says that 'sink' is another form of the word. – Barrie England Oct 27 '11 at 11:41
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I'm a longtime American IT executive, not a linguist, but I see both variations in IT:

  • "sync" is very common, e.g., in the name of the widespread utility "rsync" (of Australian origin); "synch" is less common but still frequently seen
  • "synched" is more common than "synced"
  • "synching" is uncommon; "syncing" is uncommon, too, especially recently
3

In the Roman Alphabet, the voiceless velar fricative is represented by the ch digraph. However, most words containing a voiceless velar fricative in borrowee language have the voiceless velar fricative coverted into a voiceless velar plosive, due to English-speakers' traditional inability to voice the appropriate pronunciation.

Thus, in the english language,because the H in Synchronise no longer serves a purpose at all (the ch digraph being converted into a sound that can be represented solely by C), Sync would be more correct that Synch would if you're following the rules established in the English language.

http://languagelover.blogspot.com/2009/09/sync-or-synch.html

2

Both are questionable abbreviations of "synchronized".

If one insists on the "sync" neologism, then "synced" looks more reasonable to me.

  • 7
    Why are they "questionable"? – delete Aug 14 '10 at 3:20
  • 1
    Because they are not in the dictionary. – Pavel Radzivilovsky Aug 14 '10 at 21:47
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    Which dictionary is "the" dictionary? Because they are in some dictionaries. – Ben Hocking May 12 '11 at 12:53
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    There was the expression "in sync" even before computers got involved. – GEdgar Jun 29 '11 at 14:22
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    @PavelRadzivilovsky dictionaries attempt to describe language. they don't define it. – ell Jan 25 '16 at 18:12
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"Synced" is a little confusing for the reader since it could be pronounced like "since", thus the "synched" spelling is probably to make it more readable.

  • 7
    Of course, "synched" can easily be pronounced as "cinched" by mistake. – mipadi Jul 8 '11 at 19:26
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The grammar rule which has applied to words ending with the letter C states the addition of the K, as in picnicked, shellacked, tarmacked, mimicked, zincked, etc. While we're talking about the abbreviations of synchronize which allow sync or synch, the version we choose determines what is proper. Ultimately, this is a decision between synched (which I would discourage, but that's just my opinion) or syncked, never synced.

  • 6
    -1. This "rule" doesn't match usage even a little for sync[h], and I'm frankly dubious about several of your other examples. – user1579 Jun 29 '11 at 12:05
  • The exception proves the rule.... – aparente001 Dec 19 '16 at 7:10
  • How about synchked? Or synckhed? – Drew May 13 '17 at 19:50
0

The word you are actually looking for is "synchronised" (BE) or "synchronized" (AE)

"Synced" is an incorrect extension of the abbreviation "sync" which is equal to "synch" (it has just been abbreviated one letter more).

  • Not sure incorrect if a fair description. Perhaps new or recently evolved? – k1eran Sep 23 '16 at 19:43

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