Spelling matters: -our or -or?

Aug 07, 2013

Many words ending in -our, such as colour, honour and vigour, can also be spelt with -or. This variation arose in England in the 17th century, when some theorists believed words ought to be spelt according to their origins. The words from French were supposed, in this case, to be spelt with -our and those directly from Latin with -or. As people were not always sure from which language a word came, there was some confusion, and more and more people felt it best to use -or for all of them. The trend ran its full course in the US where -or is always used. However, it was halted in England by Samuel Johnson's dictionary of 1755. He allowed some of these words, such as error, horror and terror, to go to -or, but the rest were fixed with -our

In Australia, as in Britain, the most common spelling of these words is with -our, although -or is often used and certainly occurs consistently in a large number of magazines and newspapers.

Which do you use, -our or -or?

Find more spelling tips and tricks in our Spelling Matters series.

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