spilled and spilt - the difference
The Quick AnswerIf you're following US writing conventions, it's best to use spilled. If you're following UK writing conventions, you should also use spilled, but spilt is also widely accepted.
Spilled and SpiltThe verb to spill most commonly means to let a liquid flow over the edge of its container (especially by accident).
To spill 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 spilled or spilt. However, they are not fully interchangeable, especially in the US.
Americans Demand SpilledIn America, spilled dominates. The use of spilt as the past tense or past participle of to spill is considered a spelling mistake by many. It will certainly annoy a fair proportion of your readers.
Brits Prefer Spilled but Will Accept SpiltOutside America, spilled is the most common of the two, but spilt is generally accepted. (Spilt used to be more common. The change is almost certainly a result of American influence spreading.)
Verbs with Irregular and Regular FormsThe following verbs (like to spell) can be regular or irregular:
|Verb||Past Simple||Past Participle|
|burn||burned OR burnt||burned OR burnt|
|dream||dreamed OR dreamt||dreamed OR dreamt|
|learn||learned OR learnt||learned OR learnt|
|smell||smelled OR smelt||smelled OR smelt|
|spell||spelled OR spelt||spelled OR spelt|
Usually, the second form (e.g., learnt, dreamt) is more common in British English, but this is not the case with spilt.
See Alsoadverse 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? 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