spelt vs. spelled

I used the word ‘spelt’ in my last journal entry. Upon seeing my mother’s comment asking if spelt was a type of grain, I questioned whether ‘spelt’ was a real word at all.

According to Dictionary.com ‘spelt’ is, in fact, an acceptable past tense conjugation of the verb ‘to spell’ meaning ‘To constitute the letters of a word.’ However, “spelled” sounds like the better choice.

Upon further investigation I discovered the reason for my confusion. ‘Spelt’ is actually the British past tense of ‘to spell’ while ‘spelled’ is the American past tense. So, as surprising as it may seem, I was incorrect.

And to answer my mother’s question: Yes, spelt is also a hearty wheat grown in Europe.

25 thoughts on “spelt vs. spelled

  • 2/1/2005 at 11:58 am
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    Mmmmm. Whole Grains. In honor of this entry you should make something with Spelt.

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  • 7/7/2005 at 12:21 am
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    Spelt all the way, its proper english after all!

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  • 8/13/2005 at 11:49 am
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    Is this the same Mike Didonato that I work with in Seeb, Oman? I was actually doing a google search to verify that I didn’t make a mistake by using the word “spelt” instead of “spelled”. After I read the entry, I noticed the banner at the top of the page with a familiar name. What a coincidence if this is indeed the same Mike I know.

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  • 10/26/2005 at 8:49 am
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    Alas. Different Mike DiDonato.

    There are a few of us in the world. It’s exciting to know that there is another man with my name in Seeb Oman. If that mike didonato ever finds this page, I greet him with a friendly hello.

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  • 3/7/2006 at 8:40 pm
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    Hi, I found you because I searched for the difference between spelt and spelled. Where did you find the information regarding the British/American explanation? Thanks! I hope that I spelled everything correctly in this note. If I spelt anything wrong, please let me know! Haysun, USA.

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  • 10/29/2006 at 7:49 pm
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    I always use “spelt” – being British. “Spelled” looks unfamiliar to us over here and to be honest looks like it’s spelt wrong. As regards pronunciation – I wondered if there was a difference. Do you guys say “speld” or “spelt”? In the UK “spelt” is pronounced as it is written.

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  • 12/21/2006 at 5:44 am
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    My word; am I to become ashamed of the British here? It seems to me that the word ‘spelt’ may have derived from the more properly formed word (IMHO), ‘spelled’. I’m English and i don’t think ‘spelled’ looks unfamiliar at all! After all we don’t spell ‘jumped’, ‘jumpt’; or ‘danced’, ‘danct’. The English, at some wonderful point in history decided that spelling words as they are pronounced was not a good way to go. Or at the very least our pronunciation of much of the English language has changed over time.

    The difficulty would arise when you make the distinction between when you have spelled something and how something is spelt. Maybe it ought to be ‘spelt’ when used in the declarative and ‘spelled’ when used as a past-tense verb.

    Who knows…..

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  • 12/21/2006 at 12:42 pm
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    Styl1n, you rock! Felicitations from the Grammar Goddess.

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  • 3/23/2007 at 3:51 pm
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    So, being that I am canadian (and our English is derived from British) i can say Spelt and be correct, but you cant say I spelled it wrong. ;)

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  • 5/15/2007 at 10:53 am
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    its spelled!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • 5/15/2007 at 3:42 pm
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    HAHA bonus; shot down at sundown with the “it’s” rule. lol

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  • 8/15/2007 at 1:11 pm
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    I also was looking for the difference as I had seen it both ways. Now that this is clear is it burned or burnt? Are they alternative spellings or just rather similiar synonyms as the pronounciation also seems to be different unlike colour and color. Why is felt the past of feel and not fell which is fall, while call is called and not cell. Why, why, why…

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  • 8/15/2007 at 1:52 pm
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    I always used burned as a past tense verb, and used burnt as an adjective.

    As for the others…just chalk it up to the oddities of the crazy English language.

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  • 9/19/2007 at 8:54 pm
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    hah thanks yea my mom just asked the same thing

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  • 10/5/2007 at 3:44 pm
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    It’s quite odd. I’m a Yorkshire man and as one we pronounce everything in it’s short way. Spelt is Spelled. Jumped as a previous poster mention is actually pronounced Jumpt etc. It to me feels like the word “spelt” is probably incorrect but at the same time correct as per pronunciation. somhow across the way It’s been pronounced wrongly but has become correct – If you get my meaning.

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  • 12/18/2007 at 10:28 am
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    Because so many idiots use the spelling that over time it becomes acceptable or ignored then worms it’s way into the English language.

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  • 1/6/2008 at 11:23 pm
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    While we’re on the topic of incorrect spellings “worming” their way into the English language….
    It’s “its” in the possessive form, not the contraction. Nobody writes “hi’s” (unless they want to be incorrect).
    “idiots” does seem a bit harsh, after all.

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  • 2/22/2008 at 11:29 am
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    Yes! Glad I found this entry. I have been wondering this and just avoid the past tense of “spell”. Well now I know, and how convenient that I am an American working on a document for a British company.

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  • 3/28/2008 at 6:23 pm
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    As an aspiring writer, I’m paranoid about spelling words incorrectly. About a week ago I wrote that something had been “spelled” wrong, and whether or not I used the proper version has been on my mind since! Your journal entry clarified it, and I’m glad I now know. Personally I agree with Styl1n in that “spelled” sounds and looks better, even though I am Canadian and more comfortable with British rather than American English.

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  • 4/3/2008 at 3:58 pm
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    Because so many idiots use the spelling that over time it becomes acceptable or ignored then worms it’s way into the English language.

    its way. No apostrophe for its in the possesive. “It’s” is a contraction of “it is”. But as you point out, language changes as certain people (mis)use it.

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  • 7/4/2008 at 10:25 pm
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    Spelling is ortografía in Spanish. Here’s an old one.. How do you spell “ca_ón (the underscore marks the missing consonant; the word refers to a box or a dresser drawer)? Do you spell it with j or with g? Ask you Spanish speaking friends and they will howl with delight. As old as it is, they still fall for it. If you use it and don’t know spanish, you can pronounce the word as “cah HOAN” the first syllable is a broad a and the second accented syllable is a long o. Enjoy it.

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  • 2/14/2009 at 1:07 pm
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    Thank you! When i learn Ehglish i use Abbyy Lingvo. I found example with word “spelled” and was very confused. I most like Brit form. Thanx!

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  • 7/21/2009 at 3:04 am
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    I’ve always thought “spelled” looked so strange. I always “spelt” (lol) it as “spelt”. Because throughout my life I’ve been thinking that for a past tense for a verb ending with an “L” should have a “T” after it (except the word “tell”. The past tense of it is “told”). I live in California, America, by the way.

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