‘Center' or 'Centre': What's the Difference?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on November 28, 2022

If you’ve seen both spellings for the same word and are wondering which one to use - ‘center’ or ‘centre’ - this article will help you differentiate the two.

In short, ‘center’ is the American English spelling, and ‘centre’ is the spelling used in British English.

Origin and Definition of ‘Center’ or ‘Centre’

Let’s begin by defining the word ‘center’ or ‘centre.’ Firstly, I’ll be using the spelling ‘center’ from now in this article on but know these two words both mean the same thing.

‘Center’ can be both a noun and a verb.

The noun ‘center’ refers to something placed in the middle. It can also refer to a building or set of buildings that serve a particular purpose.

The verb ‘to center’ means to place something in the middle.

The words come from the Latin centrum in the 14th century, which was initially used to refer to “the fixed point of the two points of a drafting compass.”

Why Are There Different Spellings?

Our English words came to us from both Latin and French, so from the get-go, there were always varied spellings for the same word, both in the U.S. and the U.K.

It wasn’t until dictionaries were produced, popularizing a particular spelling before another, that we started to see American spellings vs. British spellings.

Noah Webster was the most significant influencer of American English spelling, with his “An American Dictionary of the English Language.”

And Samuel Johnson popularized British spellings of words with his “A Dictionary of the English Language.”

Just like ‘organization’ vs. ‘organisation’ or ‘auntie’ vs. ‘aunty,’ ‘center’ and ‘centre’ ended up with two different spellings being used on one side and the other of the pond.

Examples Of ‘Center’ and ‘Centre’ Being Used in a Sentence

Now that we’ve defined the word ‘center’ or ‘centre’ and you know which spelling to use in which country, let’s take a look at some examples of the word being used in a sentence.

Let’s have the bride and groom in the center of the photo.

The Rockefeller Center is a must-see landmark as well as a fun-filled day out.

I’m pretty uncomfortable with being the center of attention.

The new medical center is conveniently located in the middle of the city.

Of course, with any of these examples, you could use the spelling ‘centre’ instead of ‘center’ if you were writing for a British publication or corresponding with a British person.

The one exception is the Rockefeller Center. Since this is a proper noun, it is not changeable. As it’s in the U.S., it was spelled ‘center’ and must remain that way no matter which context you’re using the word in.

To illustrate this, we’ll now see some examples of ‘centre’ in a sentence.

Do you think we’ll ever be able to travel to the Earth’s centre?

The learning centre offers excellent private tuition packages.

Canary Wharf is the business centre of London.

Let's paddle to the island in the centre of the lake.

As with the previous examples, the spelling is interchangeable here and could be spelled ‘centre’ using British English or ‘center’ using American English.

Concluding Thoughts on ‘Center’ or ‘Centre’

As you can see, the dilemma is resolved relatively quickly in this case. ‘Center’ and ‘centre’ are two different spellings for the same word. Both are correct, but you’re best off reserving the ‘center’ spelling for American English and ‘centre’ for British English contexts.

Visit our blog to learn more spelling differences or 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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