Spilled or Spilt?

What Is the Difference between "Spilled" and "Spilt"?

Spilled and spilt are interchangeable in the UK, but not in the US. If you're following US writing conventions, use "spilled." If you're following UK writing conventions, you should also use "spilled," but "spilt" is widely accepted.
spilled or spilt?
This graph shows that "spilled" has been more popular than "spilt" in British English since the 1940s.

More about "Spilled" and "Spilt"

As a verb, "spill" means "to let a liquid flow over the edge of its container (especially by accident)."

"Spill" has both an irregular form and a regular form. In other words, the past tense and the past participle can be written as either "spilled" or "spilt." However, "spilled" is the more popular in the UK and the US.

Americans Demand "Spilled"

In the US, "spilled" dominates. The use of "spilt" as the past tense or past participle of "to spill" is considered a spelling mistake.

Brits Prefer "Spilled" but Will Accept "Spilt"

Outside America, "spilled" is the more common of the two, but "spilt" is generally accepted. ("Spilt" was more common in British English throughout the 20th century, but "spilled" is now more common. [evidence] (The change is almost certainly a result of American influence spreading.)

Spilt Milk

The idiom "Do not cry over spilt milk" is advice not to get upset about something which cannot be changed.

If you're an American, this might be your big chance to use the word "spilt." You can always claim you're quoting an old idiom with British origins. ("Spilled milk" is also frequently written, so please don't think this is a rule. It's more of an opportunity.)

Verbs with Irregular and Regular Forms

Here are some other verbs that 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
Often, the second form (e.g., "learnt," "dreamt") is more common in British English, but this is not the case with "spilt." Read also about "hanged" and "hung."
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This page was written by Craig Shrives.