'Whiskey' vs 'Whisky': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on August 8, 2023

Are you curious about the difference between 'whiskey' vs. 'whisky?'

This is the short answer: 

  • 'Whiskey' is the spelling most people in the United States and Ireland use. 
  • 'Whisky' is a variation of 'whiskey' used in Japan, Canada, and Scotland.
  • 'Whiskey' and 'whisky' are liquor distilled from corn, rye, or barley mash-derived fermented wort. 

Keep reading to learn the full story behind the variation in spelling, when to use each, and other interesting facts that should help you remember what you learn in this post.

What is the Difference Between 'Whiskey' vs. 'Whisky?'

'Whiskey' and 'whisky' are just two different ways of spelling the same word. Like U.S. English and British English, the best option depends on your audience or the content you are creating.

For example, if you were writing an ad for a liquor company, you would need to know which version is preferred.

  • Generally speaking, Irish and U.S. companies use the 'whiskey' spelling with the e. Canadian, Japanese, and Scottish distillers do not.  

'Whiskey' refers to a group of liquors that includes bourbon, scotch, Scottish whisky, Canadian whisky, Japanese whisky, and Irish whiskey.

Why are There Two Spellings of 'Whiskey?'

Many English words have alternate spellings depending on whether you use U.S. or British English. However, that is not the case with 'whiskey.' Irish distilleries started adding an e to 'whisky' to differentiate themselves from distillers in other countries who are often considered inferior.

  • Only 'whiskey' makers from Ireland or the United States use the term.
  • All other countries producing the liquor use 'whisky.'

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

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 'whiskey' is a noun that means:

  • Liquor distilled from fermented wort derived from corn, rye, or barley.

It can also mean:

  • A drink made from 'whiskey.'
  • Whiskey made in the United States or Ireland
  • An abbreviation of W

Synonyms of 'Whiskey'

  • Gin
  • Tequila
  • Schnapps
  • Mead
  • Sake
  • Scotch
  • Ale
  • Mescal
  • Brandy
  • Wine
  • Brew
  • Liquor
  • Spirits
  • Shooter
  • Moonshine
  • Bourbon
  • Alcohol
  • Nightcap

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

The same dictionary defines 'whisky' as a variation of 'whiskey.'

It can also mean:

  • whiskey from Canada, Japan, or Scotland
  • A spirit distilled from malted barley or rye

Synonyms of 'Whisky'

No specific synonyms are listed for 'whisky'; however, they are the same as those for the alternate spelling.

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Whiskey' vs. 'Whisky'

Next, let's learn how to pronounce 'whiskey' vs. 'whisky.'

Here is a pronunciation guide to follow. 

  • To pronounce 'whiskey,' use this phonetic spelling:


  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'whisky':


When and How to Use 'Whiskey' vs. 'Whisky'

You know the difference between these terms, but let's look at when and how to use 'whisket' vs. 'whisky.'

  • Use 'whiskey' when referring to spirits distilled from malted grain in the United States or Ireland.

For example, you could say:

On my way home, I will stop by the liquor store to get a bottle of Irish Whiskey.

  • Use 'whisky' when discussing whiskey made in all other countries, especially Japan, Canada, and Scotland.

For example, you could say:

We always get Irish whiskey. Let's get a bottle of Scotch whisky this time.

  • Use 'whiskey' when you are referring to bourbon.

So, I might say:

The United States is the only country allowed to sell Bourbon whiskey. 

  • Use both when you are talking about bourbons from different regions.

For example, you can say:

I have an extensive whiskey collection with everything from straight Kentucky bourbon whiskey to Japanese whisky. 

  • Use the spelling that matches the brand you are writing about.

As an example, I might say:

Do you like Buffalo Trace Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey?

Sample Sentences Using 'Whiskey' vs. 'Whisky'

Now, look at these sample sentences using 'whiskey' vs. 'whisky.' They will help you remember the difference between the two spellings.


  • Do you enjoy whiskey, or do you prefer vodka or rum?
  • If you buy whiskey often, you should look for allocated bottles at your local liquor store.
  • I have several friends who only like Jameson Irish whiskey. That is all they order when we go out.
  • Would you like a whiskey and coke? Or would you rather have a bourbon on the rocks?


  • Yamazaki 55-year-old single malt whisky costs more than $650,000 per bottle.
  • Orphan Barrel Scotch whisky bottles have fascinating artwork on their labels.
  • You can purchase some of the rarest whisky bottles in the world on the Sotheby's auction site.
  • If you do not like whisky at first, try whisky from a different region.


  • Have you ever been to a whiskey tasting? It is an excellent opportunity to try bourbon whiskey, Irish whiskey, Scotch whisky, and Japanese whisky.
  • I prefer Irish whiskey or bourbon whiskey. Japanese whisky is too smokey for me.
  • How do you want me to organize your whiskies? Do you want the bourbon and Irish whiskey on the top shelf and the Scotch whisky on the bottom?

Recap of the Difference Between 'Whiskey' vs. 'Whisky'

We covered a ton of information. So, let's do a quick review of what you learned about 'whiskey' vs. 'whisky':

  • 'Whiskey' is a noun for liquor distilled in the United States or Ireland from fermented wort derived from corn, barley, or rye.
  • 'Whisky' is a variation of the word whiskey used when the liquor is from a distiller in Japan, Canada, Scotland, or any country other than Ireland or the United States. 
  • 'Whisky' is part of the family of liquors called whiskies.

These terms are so similar that it can be challenging to remember the difference. So, you can always return to this guide to verify the meanings of these words in the future.

In the confusing words section here, you can also learn about other words that people often misuse, misspell, and mispronounce. Each guide contains a brief and detailed explanation of the terms it covers and definitions, pronunciations, examples, and usage tips.

So, whether you are learning English as a second language or trying to improve your writing skills, they are an excellent way to learn new words and essential grammar rules.

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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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