Chilly, Chili, and Chile

The Quick Answer
What are the differences between chilly, chili, and chile?

A chili (American English) or chilli (British English) is a type of pepper.

Chilly means cold.

Chile is another way to spell chili.
When written with a capital letter, Chile is a country in South America.

Chilly, Chili, and Chile

Writers sometimes confuse chile and chili (also spelled chilli). All three words can be used to describe a type of pepper. The one you use depends on your regional dialect.


The word chilly is an adjective meaning cold or cool. When used figuratively, chilly means unfriendly.

  • Sweater: A garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly. (Ambrose Bierce)
  • (Here, chilly is used literally.)
  • He got a chilly reception from the Republican candidate.
  • (Here, chilly is used figuratively.)


The noun chili refers to a spicy pepper.

There are three different spellings:
  • Chili (plural chilies or chilis) is the standard American English name.
  • Chilli (plural chillies or chillis) is typically used in British English.
  • Chile is of Spanish origin. It is most common in Spanish-speaking areas of the U.S.
  • Chili peppers originated in Mexico.
  • The intensity of the "heat" of chilli peppers is commonly reported in Scoville heat units (SHU).
  • From fresh, sweet cubanelles to the scorchingly hot Scotch bonnet, chile peppers come in all shapes, sizes, flavors, and levels of heat.


The proper noun Chile is a long, narrow country stretching along South America's western edge.

  • On 12 February 1818, Chile was proclaimed an independent republic.
  • Chile's mines are very dangerous; the country has a lot of earthquakes.
Of note, chile is a possible but rare spelling of chilli used in Spanish-speaking areas of the U.S.
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See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose?
What are adjectives? List of easily confused words