Center vs. centre
There is no difference in meaning between center and centre .Center is the preferred spelling in American English, and centre is preferred in varieties of English from outside the U.S.
Some people do make distinctions between the words. For instance, some prefer to treat center as the word for a place or institution and centre as the word for the middle point of something. But while these preferences may be taught in some schools and are perhaps common among careful English speakers in Canada, the U.K. and elsewhere, they are not broadly borne out in 21st-century usage.
The following ngram graphs the use of center and centre in American books published from 1800 to 2008. It shows that center has been preferred for a century.
And this ngram showing the use of the words in British books during the same period suggests that center might be gaining ground in British publications.
American publications use center for example:
The University of Southern Mississippi will announce plans Tuesday for a men s and women s golf training center. [USA Today ]
He said his remark about his willingness to move the center, which was in answer to a question, was consistent with his previous statements. [New York Times ]
Israeli and French filmmakers are making a comedy centered on the assassination of a Hamas operative in Dubai. [AP (dead link)]
James Billson says:
If you look at the second graph the adoption of center in the UK I suggest the shape the graph is heavily influenced by the adoption of spell check on computers, particularly MS Word. You see the steep increase in occurrence up to 2000 this mirrors word processing adoption. The sudden decline is when Windows shipped with regional dictionaries that worked. Regional language settings were available since Win95 but resisted the users attempts to actually apply them in a sensible way until WinXP.
I live in the US and my language is set to English (U.S.) so I just typed centre into MS Word no error. However, Firefox does show it as an error.
Yes! Even now MS Word will suddenly change your regional settings to English (US) if you copy and paste text in from a website. No, MS Word, I don t want English (US), I want the English (UK) that I ve had set as default ever since I installed you! But it s rather better than it used to be, and I think the brief spike in the adoption of Americanised spellings is probably down to MS Word and other software programs that arrogantly presumed that everyone wanted American spellings.
Brian Lynch says:
What i have learnt from this post
Centre is the correct English spelling for the word and at some point in the early 1800 s or earlier, an American misspelled it, and published said mistake. as more and more people saw these mistakes, they thought they were correct and hence the word Center was born.
since English is older than American-English, we can consider the original spelling to be correct .
which then leads to the confusion today with people everywhere spelling it however and obviously MS auto-spell correcting people has given birth to this word.
1. Center is several centuries older than the United States. It was a common variant as long ago as the 16th century.
2. Yes, English is older than American English, but it is also older than modern British English. British English didn t look much like the form it takes today until the late 18th century or so, around the same time that American English was beginning to be established, and even then it looked much different from 21st-century British English in countless ways. In any case, the view that older forms are always the correct ones doesn t stand up; most English words older than a couple of centuries were originally spelled differently from how we spell them now. Would you have us go back to Old English spellings?
François Paganel says:
I live in the Greater Toronto Area, have lived here my whole life, nearly 33 years. I have NEVER seen it done the way you describe. I was never taught a difference when I was in school. The word in Canada is spelled centre PERIOD, END OF STORY. Center is the American spelling, and that s the way it s viewed. However I have seen a proliferation of the American spelling all over the place as more and more immigrants come to Canada and they learned English at an international English school that teaches the American spelling, as well at younger people being apathetic. Even English teachers in higher learning institutions have stopped caring. It s VERY frustrating. It s also colour with a U here, but even that s changing for the worse, same with the name of the letter Z. To quote a very famous patriotic commercial for a patriotic beer brand it s ZED, not ZEE, ZED.
Those DAMNED Americans ..thinking they know everything and always driving around in their Camaro ZED-28 s!
HaHaHa! Guess what, folks. It really doesn t matter how center/centre is spelled. Someone will misspell it .regardless!
The reality is that this thread has gone on entirely too long about something so inconsequential! I promise that Americans (myself included) did NOT set out to piss off the entire world by intentionally misspelling this word .and theater ..and meter ..and liter .and Hitlre (oh, wait .we spell that one correctly!).
Do we really not have anything better to do than argue over the spelling of a word and sling mud at we damned Americans?
I hope you all have a beautiful day with your friends and loved ones and just enjoy being human beings. o)
Ryan McCann says:
Centre PERIOD. ? Uhhhh, actually that would be FULL STOP my friend. See, you guys don t even know proper British English either. Canada is a very small country population wise with a limited footprint on the English language. Just remember, in linguistics it is called the Canadian raising, not the American not raising because it is considered non-standard and normative only in one region.
Steve Abel says:
Why not go pre-English to work out the best spelling and meaning? Etymology suggests centre comes from old french for middle centre which is also the current French meaning and spelling. And prior to that Latin centrum for middle. I think that should give centre the meaning of middle over center. It also explains the tre spelling versus phonetic ter . I accept that both are used interchangeably and am not an advocate of sticking to historical spellings for the sake of it but I disagree that using center makes overall usage simpler when words like centrifuge and central retain that tr ordering even in US. This means you now have two divergent rules for the word and its extensions. You get the same problem with other ter words such as theater becoming theatrical. At first it seems simpler to phoneticise but it may just create a different complexity.
Mariano Paniello says:
But that capacity already exists in English with words like remembrance and monstrous (off the top of my head). You make it sound like it introduces some contradiction into English orthography that would make the entire language implode. It s really not that big of a deal.
Wilford Warfstache says: