Spelled or Spelt?

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Spelled or Spelt?

Here is the quick answer:
  • If you're following US writing conventions, use "spelled."
  • If you're following UK writing conventions, you can use "spelled" or "spelt."
  • If you're referring to the wheat-like foodstuff, use "spelt."
spelled or spelt?
This graph shows how "spelled" has overtaken "spelt" in British English.

More about "Spelled" and "Spelt"

The verb "to spell" most commonly means "to write or name the letters that form a word in correct sequence."

"To spell" is one of those verbs with both an irregular form and a regular form. (See the table below for some others.)

The past tense and the past participle can be written as either "spelled" or "spelt." However, they are not interchangeable. The version you should use depends on whether you're following US or UK writing conventions.

Americans Demand "Spelled"

In America, "spelled" dominates. The use of "spelt" as the past tense or past participle of "to spell" is considered a spelling mistake by many. It will certainly annoy a fair proportion of your readers.

Brits Can Use "Spelled" or "Spelt"

Outside America, "spelled" has become more common, but "spelt" is widely accepted. (The recent emergence of "spelled" is a result of growing American influence.)

Here is the evidence that "spelled" has overtaken "spelt" in British English.

Misspelled and Misspelt

It's the same with "misspelled" and "misspelt." Americans demand "misspelled" (and Brits will accept it). However, Brits prefer "misspelt."

Verbs with Irregular and Regular Forms

The following verbs (like "to spell") can be regular or irregular :
VerbPast SimplePast Participle
burnburned OR burntburned OR burnt
dreamdreamed OR dreamtdreamed OR dreamt
learnlearned OR learntlearned OR learnt
smellsmelled OR smeltsmelled OR smelt
spellspelled OR speltspelled OR spelt
As with "spelt," the second form (e.g., "learnt," "dreamt") is more common in British English.

"Spelt" the Wheat

Of note, the noun "spelt" refers to a kind of wheat grain.

Ready for the Test?
Here is a confirmatory test for this lesson.

This test can also be:
  • Edited (i.e., you can delete questions and play with the order of the questions).
  • Printed to create a handout.
  • Sent electronically to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? Ms., Miss, or Mrs? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? dived and dove e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? hanged and hung imply or infer? its or it's? learned and learnt material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? What are verbs? What are regular verbs? What are regular verbs? What is the past tense? What are past participles? What are nouns? List of easily confused words