"Cancelled" or "Canceled"?

Should I write "cancelled" or "canceled"?

homesitemapA-Z confused words "cancelled" or "canceled"?
The Quick Answer
If you're following American convention, write "canceled." If you're not, write "cancelled."
canceled or cancelled?
"Cancelled" and "canceled" are both past forms of the verb "to cancel." Those following American writing conventions should use "canceled" (one L), while those following British writing conventions should use "cancelled" (two Ls). It is the same deal with the following verbs:

British vs. American English

The difference between "cancelled" and "canceled" can be traced to Noah Webster, an American lexicographer who published "An American Dictionary of the English Language" in 1828. Webster's works had a profound influence on American English. An advocate for spelling reform, he believed that words should be spelled more like they sound. As part of this reform, he advocated for the removal of the surplus "l" in words like "travelling" (which became "traveling") and "cancelled."

Consequently, "canceled" with one "l" became the preferred spelling in American English. On the other hand, British English retained many of the original spellings, and so "cancelled" with double "l" is the preferred form in Britain, Australia, Canada, and South Africa.

The double-L versions of these words (so, "cancelled" in our case) is the older of the two spellings, aligning with the original Latin "cancellare," which meant "to cross out." This spelling was carried into Old French and then into Middle English, where our language began to take on its modern form.

Other Word Forms

The British and American variations are consistent with the participles and well as the past form:
FormTo CancelAlternative Name
Base FormcancelInfinitive Form
The -S FormcancelsThird Person Singular Form
Past Formcanceled/cancelledSimple Past Tense
The -ING Formcanceling/cancellingPresent Participle Form
The Past Participle Formcanceled/cancelled[no alternative name]

Important Observation

As a result of America's global influence, it is not unusual to see "canceled" and "canceling" in non-American contexts. Therefore, if you see the one-L version on a continent where you shouldn't, go easy on the writer.

New Meaning of "Canceled/Cancelled"

In recent years, "cancelled" has adopted a new connotation, especially in the context of social media and popular culture. This new meaning is tied to the concept of "cancel culture." When someone (typically a celebrity) is described as being "cancelled," it means they are being boycotted or shunned, often due to an action or statement considered objectionable or offensive.

"Cancelling" someone or an event in this modern sense (i.e., shunning them) is a controversial practice. Some advocate it as a way of holding people accountable, while others criticize it for attacking freedom of expression.
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This page was written by Craig Shrives.

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