Is there a term describe word pairs like colour/color that have the same meaning, similar or same pronunciation but a different spelling?

The most common examples I can think of are English/American spelling variants, though there are alternative transliterations of foreign words would fit the bill too (e.g., Ziggurat/Ziqqurat).

I was wondering if there is a recognised word for describing these word pairings as we have terminology like "homonym", "heteronym" etc. for words with different meanings.


The word you could be looking for is variant


1 obsolete : variable

2 : manifesting variety, deviation, or disagreement

3 : varying usually slightly from the standard form

(examples) variant readings; variant spellings

Also, from google search: enter image description here

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  • He already mentioned variant — and alternative — in his original posting. – tchrist Sep 27 '12 at 0:55
  • @tchrist Hence the could be. You've never used a word and then later realized it was the word you were looking for to begin with? I was throwing that suggestion out there because it has been used in the way his question is asking. – Souta Sep 27 '12 at 0:58
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    @tchrist And variant may be the best descriptor. – bib Sep 27 '12 at 0:58
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    Souta that's exactly what happened in this case. I used the word 'variant' thought there must be a better word, but I'm now persuaded that it's probably the best word in the situation. – ChrisGuest Sep 28 '12 at 4:40

This diagram on Wikipedia suggests that there is no such word:

enter image description here

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    The lack of inclusion in a diagram proves that something doesn't exist? – bib Sep 27 '12 at 0:52
  • neat diagram though :) Looks like a transit map – JoshP Sep 27 '12 at 0:52
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    @bib Pitarou never said that it didn't exist, just said that Wikipedia suggests that there is no such word (in Pitarou's defense) – Souta Sep 27 '12 at 0:55
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    @bib No, it doesn't. The kind of proof you seem to be asking for is all but impossible. But, to reiterate, I think this diagram is suggestive. – Pitarou Sep 27 '12 at 6:17
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    I came across that diagram when I was 'researching' (or dare I say Googling) this issue. I had actually thought of posting it in my initial question. But thanks for posting it, I think it illuminates an opportunity for creative lexicologists. – ChrisGuest Sep 28 '12 at 4:44

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