'Smokey' vs 'Smoky': Which is Correct?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on October 27, 2023

If you are wondering which is correct between 'smokey' vs. 'smoky,' you are not alone. But this guide should help.

Here is the short answer:  

  • 'Smokey' is a proper noun name for a person. 
  • 'Smoky' is an adjective that means filled with smoke or the flavor or smell of smoke. 

The answer above will get you by if you just need to verify the correct spelling. However, there is more to learn. So, keep reading.

Which is Correct Between 'Smokey' vs. 'Smoky?'

Technically, both 'smokey' and 'smoky' are correct. The official English spelling is 'smoky,' but several dictionaries list 'smokey' as an acceptable spelling variation.

Nevertheless, if you want to use proper grammar, you should use the latter spelling. The former was used more often in the past, but like many words, it has been shortened over time.

Today, 'smokey' is more commonly used as a name, while 'smoky' is used as an adjective to describe something that is filled with smoke or the odor or taste of smoke.

Definition of 'Smokey': What Does 'Smokey' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 'smokey' does not have an official definition. Instead, it is a spelling variation of 'smoky.'

'Smokey' Names and Phrases

  • Smokey Robinson
  • Smokey Bear
  • Smokey Joe
  • Smokey Wilson
  • Smokey Johnson

Definition of 'Smoky': What Does 'Smoky' Mean?

The same defines 'smoky' as an adjective that means:

  • Emitting smoke or the smell of smoke
  • Resembling or having characteristics of smoke
  • A smell suggesting the presence of smoke
  • Made to look black or dark as if by smoke
  • Having a low throaty sound of voice

Dictionary.com does not list 'smokey' as a spelling variation and defines 'smoky' as an adjective that means:

  • Billowing or emitting smoke
  • Begrimed, darkened, or hazy with smoke
  • Pertaining to or suggesting the presence of smoke
  • Cloudy or grayish in color

And according to the Cambridge Dictionary, 'smokey' is a variation of 'smoky,' an adjective that means:

  • Similar in appearance, flavor, or smell to smoke
  • Filled with smoke

'Smoky' Phrases

  • Smoky eye
  • Smoky mirrors
  • Smoky room
  • Smoky flavor
  • Smoky taste
  • Smoky meat
  • Smoky smell
  • Smoky dish
  • Smoky whisky

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Smokey' vs. 'Smoky'

Now, let's look at how you pronounce these terms. Despite their variations in spelling, both terms have exactly the same pronunciation.

So, here is a guide to help you pronounce 'smoky' vs. 'smokey': 

  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'smoky':


  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'smokey':


When and How to Use 'Smokey' vs. 'Smoky'

Here are some tips to help you decide when and how to use 'smokey' vs. 'smoky.' 

  • Use 'Smokey' for someone named 'Smokey.'

For example, I might say:

Have you ever heard the music of Smokey Robinson and The Temptations

  • Use 'Smokey' when you are referring to 'Smokey Bear.'

As an example, you could say:

Smokey Bear is a beloved character that teaches children ways to prevent forest fires. 

  • Use 'smoky' as an adjective to describe something as having the taste of smoke.

So, you can say:

I love a good smoky barbecue brisket sandwich. 

  • Use 'smoky' to refer to something as being filled with smoke.

For example, you might say:

The cigar bar was barely tolerable when it was busy because it was so smoky. 

  • Use 'smoky' to describe something as smelling like smoke.

As an example, you could say:

I wanted to go out after the barbecue, but my clothes smelled so smoky. 

Sample Sentences Using 'Smokey' vs. 'Smoky'

Now that you know that 'smoky' is the correct spelling but that 'smokey' is still an acceptable spelling variation, read these sample sentences to help you remember how to use these terms accurately.


  • Do you remember seeing Smokey Bear on TV when you were a child?
  • Smokey Robinson was a songwriter for The Temptations for several years before releasing his debut album, Going to a Go-Go. 
  • I couldn't think of a name for the gray puppy, so we are calling him Smokey.
  • Watch out, Smokey, you are filling the whole house up with smoke.
  • If you like barbecue, you should try Smokey's Pit Stop. They have the best-smoked ribs in town.


  • I prefer liquor that has less of a smoky flavor. But don't worry about me. I will bring a bottle of wine.
  • If it is too smoky in here for you, you can open the windows and turn on the fans.
  • If you want to create the perfect smoky eye, watch her tutorial on YouTube.
  • We have been making these smoky cheeses right here at our little farm for the past 35 years.
  • You cannot smoke in the car with the windows up. It is too smoky.


  • Did you see the smoky boots Smokey was wearing on the red carpet?
  • You have it so smoky in here that I am going to start calling you Smokey.
  • There are several famous musicians and actors named Smoky and Smokey.
  • While smoky is the official English spelling, you can use Smokey too.

Recap: 'Smokey' vs. 'Smoky'

You made it to the end. So, let's quickly recap what you learned about which is correct between 'smokey' vs. 'smoky':

  • 'Smokey' is a spelling variation of 'smoky' and a proper name. 
  • 'Smoky' is an adjective that means that something is filled with smoke or the taste or smell of smoke. 
  • 'Smoky' can also be used as a proper name.

Terms like these are confusing whether you are learning English as a second language or a native speaker. Even after learning the 'correct' spelling, it may be challenging to remember to spell 'smoky' without an 'e.'

So, if you find yourself wondering which of these terms to use, just come back to this page to review this lesson. And if you want to learn about other terms like these, visit the confusing words section here, where you will find hundreds of guides like this one.

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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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