Color vs. Colour

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Difference between Color and Colour

Color and Colour are both pronounced the same and have the same meaning in English-speaking countries. There are many words in the English language that have the two variations depending on what English country you are living in. In the United States, it is much more common to use the derivative of -or versus -our ending, while in other English-speaking countries, the -our is still maintained. After the Normal Conquest, the termination of -our versus -or was in an attempt to represent the Old French pronunciation of words that originally ended in -or.

Color
Colour

Origins

The word Color is used to represent the pigmentation of something. It is usually used as an adjective to explain what someone sees when looking at an object. It can either be spelled as color or colour, however, even if the spelling is different, the meaning remains the same and so does the pronunciation. In 16th and 17th century, British scholars insisted that -or be used for words originating from Latin and -our for the words derived from French. In the United States it is more common for it to be spelled as color than colour, in fact, Webster’s dictionary featured only -or and is credited for the permanent spelling preference in the United States. Dr. Johnson’s 1755 dictionary in Britain maintained the -our spelling not only for color, but for all words that had the derivative variation. His belief in keeping the -our versus the or in color and other derivatives, was that the English language owed more to the French version than that of the Latin. Because most of the European languages that move across Europe had their derivative more from the French than from the original Latin, he thought it more appropriate to maintain the French influence than that of Latin. Not only did the British maintain the colour spelling, but used the -our in almost all of the spelling or words when acceptable.

Distinction

The major difference between the two spellings appears to be in the distinction between culture than between any actual difference. In the early 18th century English-spelling was not standardized, it only became so after the introduction of influential dictionaries that set the tone for how the word was to be spelled, but had no bearing on the pronunciation or the meaning. Most of the English-speaking countries maintain the -our instead of the English version -or.

In the U.S.

Although the word color and colour mean the exact same thing no matter how spelled and are both pronounced the same way, it can be spelled either way. Up until the introduction of the dictionary to Britain and the United States, there was no standard way of spelling it for either nation. Britain, believing that the word had it’s roots embedded more in French origins than in Latin, maintains the -our ending, while in the United States, they have opted to use the variation of -or versus -our. The only thing that sets the spelling apart appears to be nationalism.

Similarities and Differences

  • Color is primarily used in the United States
  • Colour is primarily used in other English-speaking nations
  • Colour is the French derived spelling adaption
  • Color is the Latin derived spelling adaption

Which spelling is more formal?
  • Color
  • Colour
 
 

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