Color vs. Colour – Pick the Correct Word
If you’re new to the confusing world of English grammar, you may be wondering about the disagreement on the spelling of “color,” or “colour.” Do they mean different things? Are they different words?
They don’t, and they aren’t.
Color and colour are just different ways of spelling the same word. But which one is correct for you to use? Well, that depends.
Differences in Usage: Color vs. Colour
This article compares the words color and colour and disambiguates their usage in different cultures. Below are a few example sentences to demonstrate the context of each spelling. Lastly, there is a memory trick to help you choose whether to use colour or color in your writing.
What Does Color Mean?
Meaning of Color: Color describes how humans perceive objects based on the wavelengths of light reflected off of them. Red, blue, and yellow are the primary colors.
The spelling “color” is primarily used in The United States. If you’re writing for an American audience, this is the only spelling you should use.
- What color is your new truck going to be?
- The colors of the American flag are red, white, and blue.
I have used example sentences about American culture to emphasize that color is the American spelling. However,color is not used when writing about the United States, but rather when writing for a U.S. audience.
What Does Colour Mean?
Meaning of Colour:Colour has the exact same definition and is interchangeable with color in every meaning. The only difference between these two variations is regional preference.
Colour is the preferred spelling in the United Kingdom, which includes the countries of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
- I love my new tea cups. They’re such a lovely colour!
- Those fish and chips are a funny colour; you probably shouldn’t eat them.
Other English-speaking countries such as Canada and Australia have preferred colour in the past. While colour remains the official spelling, color has become widely accepted in recent years. In these countries, either spelling is generally perceived as correct. However, for formal writing outside the U.S., it’s still best to use colour.
Below is an Ngram chart from Google that visualizes the rise and fall of color and colour,as demonstrated by the frequency of their usage in English books written in the last 200 years.
Colour has steadily declined in usage, and color has risen to take its place since 1800. There appears to be some unsteadiness in this trend since the trajectories crossed in about 1890. Nevertheless, color continues to rise in preference over colour.
What about writing for an ESL audience? This is where it gets tricky. Many former British colonies, such as India, still speak British English and use British pronunciation and spelling. However, other Eastern countries such as China teach American English in their schools, or even a mix of the two.
If you’re not sure, it’s best to research the nationality of your audience and discover whether they primarily use British or American English. If no such preference exists, it’s probably best to default to the American spelling, as it continues to increase in its worldwide use—even in the U.K.
Colour vs. Color How to Remember the Difference
Americans have a long history of shortening the spellings of various words, and color is the exception. If you think of the “U” in colour as standing for U.K., you can remember that this is the British English spelling of the word.
Recap: When to Use Color and Colour
Color and colour are same word. The spelling varies in different English-speaking cultures. Whether you should use color or colour depends on your audience.
- If you are writing for an American audience, always use color.
- If you are writing outside the U.S., use colour, particularly for a British audience.
Color is becoming more frequently used, and is informally accepted as correct in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. For non-native English speakers, research the kind of English with which they are most familiar.