Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

Humour, humor, and humorous

with 10 comments

Falstaff by Eduard von Grützner
Image via Wikipedia

Here’s a tricky spelling conundrum that trips up quite a few people:

‘Humour’ is the UK spelling.

‘Humor’ is the American spelling.

So far so good. However, ‘humorous’ is the correct spelling in both countries. (Not ‘humourous’ in the UK, which would seem to be a logical extension of ‘humour’.)

With apologies to American Wordwatchers, one way for Brits to remember how to spell ‘humorous’ is to think of the ‘humorous’ way that Americans spell ‘humor’. (Geddit?)

Another similar word is ‘glamour’:

‘Glamour’: UK spelling.

‘Glamor’: an alternative US spelling (‘glamour’ is more usual).

‘Glamorous’: UK and US spelling. (It may help if you think of the ‘glamorous’ way that Americans sometimes spell ‘glamor’?)

See also ‘vigour, vigor and vigorous’

Find more spelling tips

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10 Responses

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  1. logical extension of ‘humour’ is what I thought was the correct ‘humorous’! I am glad I have not used this word in my blog (or at least that is what a search result showed).

    • Hi, Vikas — it’s a really easy mistake to make. When I’m writing quickly I sometimes spell ‘humorous’ incorrectly and have to go back to correct it. I find ‘glamorous’ easier to remember for some reason.


      04/02/2010 at 5:33 pm

  2. hahaha. I choose to think of the glamorous British. So bizarre that the spelling changes in the adj. form.

    Michael Farrell

    04/02/2010 at 6:56 pm

    • Silver tongued flatterer.

      Even the ‘quality’ newspapers get it wrong. Look at this example written by the site editor of Guardian Careers:

      “…it’s probably not as glamourous as it sounds to me, who has no knowledge of working in this sector…”


      04/02/2010 at 7:43 pm

      • OK, I’m at my work station (read, food trough) so I can’t check this. But I think Amurkins still use “glamour” for one thing: to describe a seductively curvaceous woman, on the Jayne Mansfield or Anna Nicole Smith model. I think the added U distinguishes it from ordinary glamor and makes it sound exotically foreign. I could be off-base, howevs.

        Michael Farrell

        04/02/2010 at 7:57 pm

        • Hi, Michael — I’ve just been trying to find some reference to this, but no luck. I’ll be interested to hear if you find out anything more.


          04/02/2010 at 8:45 pm

          • Michael — thanks for letting me know that ‘glamor’ is an alternative spelling in the US and not the usual spelling of the word. I’ve corrected the post to reflect this. Thanks again.


            05/02/2010 at 9:22 am

  3. I don’t use it but I will soon. Will update you here if I find a way to do that.

    • Thanks very much, Vikas. I’ll be interested to hear what you think.


      05/02/2010 at 8:58 am

  4. Welcome! It was edumacational for me, too. I saw that “glamour” and “grammar” share a common origin, although, as the Concise OED dryly puts it, “the two concepts are [now] rarely associated with each other.” Both come from the Latin “grammatica,” meaning “learning.” In the Middle Ages, people associated scholarship with magic, so “grammar” came to mean “enchantment” or “magic.” The Scots changed the spelling to “glamour,” which shifted in meaning from “magic” to “an attractive and exciting quality.”

    Michael Farrell

    05/02/2010 at 3:40 pm

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