Cancelled or Canceled ? Which one is right?

You have successfully canceled the registration


You have successfully cancelled the registration

  • 13
    Both. [US] canceled and [UK] cancelled.
    – JoseK
    Commented Jan 18, 2011 at 12:33
  • 6
    @JoseK: This should have been written as an answer instead of a comment.
    – Kosmonaut
    Commented Jan 19, 2011 at 17:47

4 Answers 4


The past tense of cancel is strictly cancelled in British English (BrE). In American English (AmE), however, it is spelled (BrE spelt!) canceled. Note that cancelled is also acceptable in American usage. There are many other verbs whose past tenses and present participles follow a similar pattern:

  • worship: worshiped (AmE)/worshipped (BrE) • worshiping (AmE)/worshipping (BrE)
  • travel: traveled (AmE)/travelled (BrE) • traveling (AmE)/travelling (BrE)
  • label: labeled (AmE)/labelled (BrE) • labeling (AmE)/labelling (BrE)
  • libel: libeled (AmE)/libelled (BrE) • libeling (AmE)/libelling (BrE)
  • devil: deviled (AmE)/devilled (BrE) • deviling (AmE)/devilling (BrE)

There are some notable exceptions in which the last consonant is always doubled in the past tense and present participle. Examples:

  • compel: compelled • compelling
  • corral: corralled • corralling
  • repel: repelled • repelling
  • refer: referred • referring
  • occur: occurred • occurring
  • demur: demurred • demurring
  • whip: whipped • whipping
  • fit: fitted • fitting

And there also those words whose last consonant is never doubled when forming the past tense or present participle. Examples:

  • differ: differed • differing
  • succo[u]r: succo[u]red • succo[u]ring
  • solicit: solicited • soliciting
  • gallop: galloped • galloping

A special example is the verb program[me]:

  • (AmE) program: programed/programmed • programing/programming
  • (BrE) programme: programmed • programming
  • 6
    Note that the examples in the second list (double consonant in both varieties) are all accented on the final syllable of the basic word; and those in the third list are not.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jan 18, 2011 at 17:50
  • 1
    Did you mean "worshipped"?
    – Steve Tjoa
    Commented Jan 19, 2011 at 1:53
  • 1
    I still can't believe "programed" and "programing" are valid, they look so very wrong to my eyes. (BTW, you have progaming, which, with a hyphen, is something else ;-)
    – Orbling
    Commented Jan 19, 2011 at 3:15
  • 4
    Well, for program, the preferred (and by far most common) way is programmed and programming, even in American English. Like Orbling, I thought the single-m version was actually wrong, but it's listed as the alternate in Merriam-Webster.
    – John Y
    Commented Jan 19, 2011 at 4:23
  • 3
    Google's Ngram Viewer: canceled vs. cancelled, from 1800, corpus American English. This shows canceled wrestling with cancelled between about 1940 and 1980 and finally triumphing by about 1990—but cancelled appears to be making a comeback this century. I'm Australian and find the canceled form extremely ugly, so I'm glad that cancelled is becoming more popular. Commented Jun 6, 2013 at 10:55

See the number of occurrences of cancelled and canceled from the American Corpus and British Corpus below. This supports what @JoseK wrote as comment to the question:

Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA):

 CANCELED   3746     

British National Corpus:

  • 1
    Well we British certainly don't like the short form then!
    – Orbling
    Commented Jan 19, 2011 at 3:16

The American system for forming the past tense of these verbs usually follows these rules:

  1. If the final vowel is long, leave a single consonant, as otherwise a double consonant would convert the vowel to short: reviled, amazed, completed.
  2. Else, if the stress is on the final syllable, double the final consonant, same as the British system: compelled, deferred.
  3. Else, if the final vowel is e, we leave it single: traveled, canceled.
  4. Else, it varies. For the vowels a and i, I think it's standard to leave the vowel single: kidnaped, worshiped. But to me that looks like it's a long vowel, and I think it looks better with the consonant doubled, which I believe is also acceptable: kidnapped, worshipped.
  • When I was a kid in (American) school, I was taught that if the final vowel is short, double the consonant before adding -ed or -ing. This rule made sense to me as the resulting word then followed the usual rules for determining if the vowel is long or short. To my eyes, "canceled" should be pronounced "kan-seeld". This is the rule I followed until Microsoft spell-check came along and told me it was wrong. I see from Google ngrams that "cancelled" was more popular than "canceled" until circa 1985, so I wonder if Microsoft spell-check is, in fact, dictating the future course of the language!
    – Jay
    Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 15:52
  • @Jay: While I believe it's possible that spell checkers can and are having an effect on spelling, I am confident the specific case of canceled is more that Microsoft was just following (and thus possibly reinforcing) the prevailing American conventions. You can find canceled as the preferred (with cancelled as acceptable alternate) in many print dictionaries that predate the rise of Microsoft.
    – John Y
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 21:06
  • The identity of the vowel letter in the last syllable doesn't make that much of a difference. Doubling is usually absent in American English in totaled and imperiled.
    – herisson
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 21:42

It can be both, 'canceled and 'cancelled'. But to me, 'cancelled' looks way better than 'canceled'.

P.S.-Nice play on the words 'canceled' and 'cancelled'!!!!! Seems quite a tongue twister!

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.