‘Behaviour' or 'Behavior': How to Spell It?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on January 24, 2023

You might have seen these two spellings used for the same word and asked yourself: is it 'behaviour' or 'behavior?' What is the correct spelling? That's what we'll clarify today.

In short, 'behaviour' is the British English spelling, and 'behavior' is the US English spelling.

What Is the Difference Between 'Behaviour' or 'Behavior?'

Some words have varied spellings depending on which country you're in or the audience you're writing for. 'Behaviour' and 'behavior' are one of those words. Some other words we've covered include:

'Behaviour' is the preferred spelling in the United Kingdom, and 'behavior' is the preferred spelling in the United States. The best way to remember this is to know that US spellings favor the spelling that looks most like how to word is pronounced, with no unnecessary letters added in.

Be careful not to confuse homophones and words that have alternate spellings. Homophones are words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings. Like 'segue' and 'segway.' 'Behaviour' and 'behavior' are not homophones because they mean the same thing.

Definition of 'Behavior'

Now we've got that straight; I'll use the American spelling from here on out, but remember, both spellings are correct.

So what does 'behavior' mean? It's the way that a person, animal, or thing acts. It can be the temperament they display, their character traits, or simply what they do. If you use a sentence with the word 'behavior,' you'll usually follow it up by mentioning what kind of behavior you are referring to.

There is one exception to that, however. You could tell someone to "behave," which would mean you want them to act in a socially acceptable way or according to the expectations set in place for your particular setting.

Top tip! The spelling rules also apply to derivates of the word, such as behaviors, behavioral, behaviorist, and so on.

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Behavior'

Okay, you now understand the difference in spellings; perhaps you'd like to know how to pronounce the word. Perfect. Let's dive in, then.

The International Phonetic Alphabet spellings' behavior' like this:


And it sounds like this:


When to Use 'Behavior'

Here are some examples of the word 'behavior' used in context:

Jenny's behavior in class has worsened lately; is everything okay at home?

The cells' behavior changes when they are being observed under a microscope lens.

I am hoping my dog's behavior will improve if we hire an animal behaviorist to help us.

Concluding Thoughts for 'Behaviour' or 'Behavior'

So now you know: the spellings' behaviour' and 'behavior' are both correct. It's just preferable to use 'behaviour' in the UK and 'behaviour' in the US.

And if you'd like to learn about more US vs. UK alternate spellings and other confusing words, visit our blog.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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