‘Color' versus 'Colour': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on November 30, 2022

Many people, especially those learning English as a second language, wonder about the difference between ‘color’ versus ‘colour?’ Both are correct spellings. However, ‘color’ is the most widely used spelling in the United States, while ‘colour’ is the common spelling in British-English-speaking countries. 

Read this guide to learn more about the difference between these two words and which you should use. It contains origin information, definitions, and usage examples. 

What is the Difference Between ‘Color’ versus ‘Colour?’

‘Color’ and ‘colour’ are the same word with the same meaning, spelled two different ways. Both spellings are technically correct. However, some people may think you misspelled ‘color’ if you spell it ‘colour’ because most people use the shorter spelling in America. 

Definition: ‘Color’ versus ‘Colour’

In most online dictionaries, when you look up the definition of ‘colour’ they refer you to ‘color.’ ‘Color’ can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, the definition of ‘color’ is a property of an object that creates a visual sensation caused by the refraction of light. 

When used as a verb, ‘color’ means to change the ‘color’ of something by ‘coloring,’ painting, or altering it in another way, either physically or digitally, so that the ‘color’ changes. 

Origin: ‘Color’ vs. ‘Colour’

Interestingly, the Germanic and French languages come from Latin and Greek words, and the English language borrows words from all of them. In many cases, words collected from French or German are reverted to the Latin root. 

‘Colour’ is a French adaptation of the Latin form of the word. However, when translated into Middle English, the Latin version ‘color’ reemerged, which is what we use in the United States today. 

Usage Examples of ‘Color’ and ‘Colour’

You use ‘color’ and ‘colour’ in the same way. However, your location and audience impact which version you should use. In the U.S., words like ‘favor,’ ‘color,’ and ‘honor’ end in ‘or.’ In Canada and Britain, the same words end in ‘our,’ like ‘colour.’

‘Color’ Examples

In the United States, ‘color’ is preferred. For example: 

  • What is your favorite color?
  • The blue ‘color’ on the memorial honors our father. 

‘Colour’ Examples

If you are writing for a Canadian or British company, you will use ‘colour.’

For example: 

  • What is your favourite ‘colour?’
  • The blue ‘colour’ on the memorial honours our father. 

Final Advice on the Difference Between ‘Color’ versus ‘Colour’

When trying to decide between ‘color’ vs ‘colour,’ you need to consider your and your reader’s location. If you are writing for an audience in the United States, you should use ‘color.’ 

However, if you are trying to mimic a British author's style, writing a research paper for an audience in a British-English-speaking country, or sending a postcard to a friend in the UK, you should use ‘colour.’

If you need help with other confusing words, look at the other guides on writingtips.org. You can also bookmark writingtips.org to use a quick reference guide for verifying spelling, grammar rules, definitions, and the meaning of numerous idioms. 

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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