'Cancelled' vs 'Canceled': Which is Correct?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on January 31, 2023

'Cancelled' vs 'canceled': two alternative spellings for the same word. But which one should you use? And what does the word mean? That's what we'll explore in today's article.

The short version is that 'cancelled' is the preferred spelling in British English, while 'canceled' is the preferred spelling in American English.

What is the Difference Between 'Cancelled' vs 'Canceled'

Like many other words in the English language, 'cancelled' vs 'canceled' have different spellings depending on where you are located.

If you're based in the US or writing for an American audience, you'll want to use the spelling 'canceled.'

If you're based in the UK or writing for a British audience, you'll want to use the spelling 'cancelled.'

The reason behind this difference can be traced back to Noah Webster's exercise in standardizing American spellings. In his view, it was unnecessary to add extra letters, and words should be spelled as closely as possible to the way they sound. This is an excellent way to determine which of two spellings you should use when there are two available options: in American English, pick the spelling closest to how the word sounds.

Some other words that have UK vs US spellings include:

I'll use the American spelling for the rest of this article since we are based in the US.

Top Tip! There's one exception to this rule (as there often is with the English language), and that's when using the noun 'cancellation.' It's always spelled with two 'l's. This is because the stress falls on the last syllable of the word.

What Does it Mean?

So now you know which spelling to use. But what does 'canceled' mean?

It's the past indefinite tense of the verb 'to cancel,' which has several meanings depending on the context.

To cancel an event is to stop it from happening.

You can also cancel a document (like a passport) or an immaterial concept (like debt), making it no longer valid.

And in recent years, another definition has become very prominent: the idea of canceling a person. It means that you will no longer support them because you disagree with their behavior or beliefs. Another word with a similar meaning is 'boycotting.'

Bearing in mind the above definitions, when something is 'canceled,' it implies that one of the above scenarios has occurred (in the past tense).

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Canceled'

Would you like to know how to pronounce the word? This is how the International Phonetic Alphabet spells it:


And when pronounced, it sounds like this:


How to Use 'Canceled': Examples

Now let's look at some examples of the word 'canceled' used in a sentence. Again, I'll be using the spelling 'canceled,' but remember that 'canceled' and 'cancelled' are interchangeable.

Unfortunately, the party was canceled that year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He was supposed to be traveling to Europe next week, but his visa was canceled.

The pilot episode wasn't popular enough, so the show's been canceled.

She was canceled after she refused to apologize for what she said.

Why have I been charged even though I canceled my membership last week?

Concluding Thoughts on 'Cancelled' vs 'Canceled'

So there you have it: use 'canceled' if you're in the US and 'cancelled' if you're in the UK. And if you forget, remember the American spelling is always the one most similar to how the word sounds.

Check out our blog if you'd like to learn more about UK vs US spelling and other confusing words.

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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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