'Orthopedic' vs 'Orthopaedic': What's the Difference?

By Katie Moore, updated on July 7, 2023

‘Orthopedic’ vs ‘Orthopaedic’: What’s the Difference? At first glance, the difference is obvious — the words are spelled differently, so one of them must be wrong. However, that is not entirely the case. One major aspect of language is how it changes over time, which you’ll read more about below. 

In a hurry? Here’s a short preview of what you’ll learn: 

  • 'Orthopedic' is an adjective relating to the medical field, specifically bones. 
  • 'Orthopaedic' is another possible spelling commonly used in British English. 

What’s the Difference Between ‘Orthopedic’ vs ‘Orthopaedic’? 

As mentioned, the easy and obvious difference here is the edition of that mysterious “a” in the middle of ‘Orthopaedic.’

But why is it there? Is it just a typo, or is it purposeful? 

The truth is, ‘Orthopaedic’ is, in fact, correct and is the spelling most commonly used in British English. 

  • ‘Orthopedic’ without the “a” is the Americanized version of the word. This is likely due to a change in pronunciation over time where the “a” lost its sound and purpose in the word.

Interestingly, the British ‘Orthopaedic’ spelling still appears in many formal settings, even in America. For example, the American Academy for Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American Association of Orthopaedic Medicine still use the “ae” spelling. 

Before we take a closer look at the term ‘Orthopedic’ itself, let’s get an understanding of British English and its spelling differences.

British English and Its Effect on Spelling

According to Oxford Languages, the primary reason for British English's spelling differences is its history. 

  • British English spelling pulls directly from other languages, such as German and French, while American spelling relies more on the sounds in a word, hence the loss of “a.”

The various spellings of words evolved over time as specifically American dictionaries were published that cemented words to be written as they sounded in an American accent. A variety of changes were made and can now be seen as recurring differences between countries.

Let’s look at some examples and note that British English spellings will be on the left and on the right; you’ll see their transformed American English versions: 

  • Colour - Color
  • Neighbour - Neighbor
  • Humour - Humor
  • Organise - Organize
  • Analyse - Analyze
  • Traveller - Traveler
  • Offence - Offense
  • Shoppe - Shop
  • Leukaemia - Leukemia
  • Paediatric - Pediatric
  • Manoeuvre - Maneuver
  • Analogue - Analog

Now that you’ve seen how British English spelling affects various words, let’s dive into our new vocabulary word: ‘Orthopedic.'

Definition of ‘Orthopedic’: What Does it Mean?

According to Merriam-Webster, ‘Orthopedic’/’Orthopaedic’ is an adjective that means: 

  • Related to the branch of medicine concerned with the correction or prevention of deformities, disorders, or injuries of the skeleton and associated structures (such as tendons or ligaments)

In essence, doctors working in orthopedics help keep an eye on bones and muscles as well as the tissue that holds them all together. Due to the nature of many of these injuries, orthopedic surgeons often have younger children as patients, which connects to the origin of the word.

  • Orthopedic is derived from the Greek “orthos,” which means correct or straight, and “paidion” which means child. 

Phrases with ‘Orthopedic’

  • Orthopedic surgeon
  • Orthopedic association
  • Orthopedic shoes
  • Orthopedic specialist

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce ‘Orthopedic’ vs ‘Orthopaedic’

Given that the key reason for the spelling change in American English is due to phonetic pronunciation, it’s very important to hear that difference as well as read it. Below you’ll find the phonetic spelling for both versions of the word and the pronunciation. 

Use this phonetic spelling as a guide to pronounce ‘Orthopedic’ in an American accent:

  • ‘Or-thoh-pee-dik’ (with a non-vocalized “th” as in ‘oath’)

Use this phonetic spelling as a guide to pronounce ‘Orthopaedic’ in a British accent: 

  • ‘Aw-thuh-pee-dik’ (with a longer “o” and a less exaggerated “r”)

Using ‘Orthopedic’ vs ‘Orthopaedic’ in a Sentence

Because the words have identical meanings, the example sentences will be nearly the same. However, pay attention to the context to see when you might more commonly see each version of the spelling.


  • While attending medical school, I felt most drawn to the field of orthopedics
  • Most orthopedic surgeons treat kids more often than adults because they break more bones.
  • Doctors recommend orthopedic shoe inserts to help prevent joint and tendon pain. 
  • The orthopedic surgeon has a full day of splinting and applying casts to broken arms. 


  • The American Association for Orthopaedic Medicine just came up with a new type of cast that is designed to heal quicker. 
  • While using a British keyboard, the author noticed her program defaulted to using ‘Orthopaedic’ as its primary spelling. 
  • While reading an Orthopaedics article in a newspaper in the UK, the American thought a typo had been made. 
  • The Academy for Orthopaedic Surgeons is one of the most prestigious in the world. 

Final Advice on ‘Orthopedic’ vs ‘Orthopaedic’

The beauty of the English language is its diversity in terms of pronunciation and history, but that can also be the ugly part. You’ve learned today that linguistic history is a great way to study social changes, and it can be interesting to see how words we use today can vary across the globe. Remember though, don’t let new spellings trip up your pronunciations, but also keep an open mind so as to not write things off immediately as typos. 

Want a recap of what you learned today? 

  • ‘Orthopedic’ and ‘Orthopaedic’ both relate to the field of medicine dedicated to fixing and taking care of bones and muscles. 
  • Both spellings are correct. ‘Orthopaedic’ is the more antiquated British English spelling, 
  • Meanwhile, ‘Orthopedic’ is the Americanized spelling that follows a more phonetic-sounding approach. 

As you saw in the examples above, there are all manner of words that changed when they came across the pond, so be sure to read up on those in other confusing word articles. Finally, as always, don’t get discouraged by unfamiliar words and spellings. Instead use them as an opportunity to expand your vocabulary and worldly knowledge — and as a chance to practice your British accent.

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Written By:
Katie Moore
Katie is a recent graduate of Occidental College where she worked as a writer and editor for the school paper while studying linguistics and journalism. She loves helping others find their voice in writing and making their work the strongest it can be. Katie also loves learning and speaking other languages and wants to help make writing accessible for everyone.

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