'Travelling' or 'Traveling': What's the Difference Between the Two?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on December 6, 2022

'Travelling' or 'Traveling': two different ways to spell the same word. But which one is correct? The answer is actually pretty simple. Read on to find out.

In short, 'travelling' is the British English spelling, and 'traveling' is the American English spelling.

The Difference Between 'Travelling' or 'Traveling'

Firstly, let's define 'traveling'. Although I'm sure you're familiar with this word, I want to make sure we've covered all our bases. 'Traveling' is the participle tense of the verb 'to travel.' To travel is to take a journey somewhere, sometimes for the purposes of a holiday, other times it might be for a work trip or to visit family.

Back in 1828, Noah Webster, an American lexicographer, published his famous dictionary, "An American Dictionary of the English Language," hoping to standardize American speech. The man was famous for preferring words to be written the way they sounded. That makes sense, right?

So he spent many years editing the spellings of words that came from British English in order to make them look more like they sound. One of the many changes he made was to remove extra letters where he deemed them to be unnecessary. 'Traveling,' 'traveler,' and 'traveled' were among those. Some other words where the spelling was cut short include:

These words all have alternative spellings in British English that are either longer or don't look exactly as the word is pronounced. Take 'mom,' for instance. The Brits spell it 'mum,' which is pretty close to how you pronounce the word, but the spelling with the 'o' is closer to the American accent.

Remember the Difference - 'Traveling' or 'Travelling'?

As a result of his editing, Mr. Webster cut out a lot of unnecessary 'l's. But not all of them. In words where the pronunciation emphasis is on the syllable with the 'l,' two 'l's remain. For example:

  • repelling
  • controlling
  • patrolling

But do you want to know the simplest way to know which spelling the American one is? When looking at the two same words with different spellings, the American one is usually the shorter one. It's true! Let's look at earlier examples as evidence of this:

  • American spelling: color
    British spelling: colour
  • American spelling: canceled
    British spelling: cancelled
  • American spelling: totaled
    British spelling: totalled

And while this logic doesn't apply to the examples 'center' and 'mom', the logic of spelling the word as it's pronounced does.

Therefore, whether to use 'traveling' or 'travelling' depends on your audience. Are you writing for an American audience? Then use 'traveling.' Are you writing for a British or other Commonwealth audience (Canada, Australia...)? Use 'travelling.'

'Traveling' and 'Travelling': Examples

Now that we're clear on the meaning of the word and which spelling to use when it's time to look at some examples of the word used in a sentence. I'll only use the spelling 'traveling,' but bear in mind that both spellings are interchangeable. I'll also cite some examples that use 'traveled' and 'traveler.'

I haven't seen him in ages; he's been traveling since last year.

Last year we traveled to Costa Rica for our honeymoon.

A true traveler never arrives.

Traveling is one of my favorite pastimes.

Have you ever traveled solo?

I met a bunch of travelers last night; they're touring Central America.

Concluding Thoughts on 'Traveling'

So there you have it. The difference between 'traveling' and 'travelling' is simply based on where you are based or where your audience is based. Other than that, they mean the exact same thing. So don't sweat it if you're unsure which to use; in any case, both are acceptable. But a good way to remember is that the American spelling is usually the shorter one.

To learn about more confusing words, including American vs. British words, visit our blog. We've covered many commonly misspelled and misunderstood words and will continue to cover many more!

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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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