General Question

ibstubro's avatar

Is there any difference between "grey" and "gray"? Why do we have two spellings?

Asked by ibstubro (18765points) February 1st, 2015

Is there any kind of ‘rule of thumb’ about which spelling is more acceptable?

Which do you use?

I tend to use ‘grey’, but it seems to me that ‘gray’ is more common.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

24 Answers

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
ZEPHYRA's avatar

American and British is the difference.

longgone's avatar

“Grey” is the British spelling. It’s the one I use, because I was taught the “Oxford English” Germany claims to teach.

If you’re in the U.S., “gray” would obviously be more common.

janbb's avatar

I used to think it was British and US but all of my American cousins on one side always spelled it “grey” so I think they are just alternate acceptable spellings.

tedibear's avatar

I think both are acceptable. I use grey for no particular reason.

Pachy's avatar

Both are acceptable. For some reason I usually write it with an “e.”

Kardamom's avatar

I use them both interchangeably. I did read something about how the word greyhound is always spelled with an e not an a though.

ibstubro's avatar

I didn’t know there was a traditional difference between the US and Britain.

Perhaps, @tedibear & @Pachy, ‘grey’ seems slightly more emotive (ey vs ay) and slightly more like the way we pronounce it? I have an instinct to use ‘grey’ but tend to use the spellings interchangeably like @Kardamom.

If there’s no protocol, I think I’ll stay with grey.

zenvelo's avatar

I use both, and I have a bit of logic. I describe moods and weather with grey, but I describe the color of things with gray. So, on a grey day I might go to a gray house.

JLeslie's avatar

No rule. They are synonymous and both used equally in America. I don’t know about other countries.

hearkat's avatar

I’ve always thought it was the British/American variants on the word; like behavior / behaviour. In both cases, I prefer the British spellings.

janbb's avatar

@hearkat Yeah – but all my American cousins used grey. My English husband’s nickname was “Gray” – short for Graham – and they all spelled it Grey.

JLeslie's avatar

@hearkat Which is British to you? I was always taught both are fine. It’s not like color and colour, or judgement and judgment, and travelled and traveled to name a few.

longgone's avatar

I, too, believe that both spellings are acceptable in America. Britain is stricter here, as far as I know.

@janbb Any Canadian influence there? “Grey” is preferred in Canada, I’ve read.

dxs's avatar

I wonder how many people actually recognize that one is supposedly British and the other American. They both seem right to me (an American). In middle school, there was a Mrs. Grey and a Mrs. Gray. In that case, the vowel made a BIG difference.

janbb's avatar

@longgone Nope – Jews who lived in Washington, D.C.

JLeslie's avatar

@longgone Canada follows British spelling usually. America is the only English speaking country that I know of that uses “American” spelling. Also, worth mentioning Latin America usually learns American English as a second language and so they use our spelling.

longgone's avatar

^^ This is interesting.

@janbb Will you ask your cousins why they’re being weird, please?

JLeslie's avatar

Actually, I assume Belize uses British spelling (I’m not sure) so possibly neighboring countries use it. As I think about it more, Argentina might use British since it has such a strong European connection. Mexico typically learns American English.

I think generalizing Latin America might have been a mistake on my part.

Stinley's avatar

Grey is British and gray is American spelling. Being British I wouldn’t use gray at all. It seems on this rule we are more strict.

JLeslie's avatar

If the Brits don’t use gray, which I accept as the truth, I still hold in America we use both spellings. In America no one is taught, nor uses colour, organise, and the long list of other British spellings, unless they purposely choose to use them for a specific reason. There are a some exceptions, like sometimes on formal invitations honour is used in lieu of honor.

I wouldn’t say gray is the American spelling, but possibly we can say America also uses gray along with grey.

To drive my point home, grey is also an American spelling, while colour simply isn’t.

There are other words like doughnut that are used in both countries, but America also has a shorter version, donut. As far as I know England doesn’t use donut, although maybe that has changed in the last 20 years.

Pachy's avatar

You may be right, @ibstubro, but now that I think about it I believe I started using the e version during my ad writing days when a manager told me it was his preference. Actually, many of the conventions I’ve used for decades in my wruting date back to those days.

basstrom188's avatar

The British spelling for the colour (color) is grey, but the family name can be spelt either way.Both are relatively common British family names. Were not a lot these differences created by Webster in the early days of the US to put some clear blue water (other than the Atlantic Ocean) between them and their former colonial rulers? Although when talking about the North Atlantic should that not be grey (or gray) water?

morphail's avatar

Both spellings have been around since Middle English. It’s possible that they were pronounced differently. They are not pronounced differently any more, but the spelling differences still exist.

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther