Focusses or Focuses? Correct Spelling (UK vs. US)

You will have seen the words “focusses” and “focuses” before and thought, what is the correct version of the spelling, “focusses” or “focuses?” This article investigates the differences in meaning and use between the two terms and explains how and when to use each.

Focusses or Focuses – Which Spelling Is Correct?

“Focusses” is listed in some dictionaries as the UK and Australian spelling of the word. However, the version “focuses” has always been more frequent in the UK and worldwide. Therefore, both versions are acceptable, but “focuses” is more widely used, especially in the US and Canada.

focusses or focuses

“Focusses” and “focuses” have the same meaning, which is either the 3rd person form of the verb “focus” or the plural version of the noun “focus.”

The Collins Dictionary lists “focusses” as a UK variant of the word “focuses”. However, the usage frequency graph shows that this spelling reached peak usage in 1986 and has since declined in popularity, so much so that the Cambridge Dictionary cites “focuses” as the primary spelling.

Therefore, whilst “focusses” is used and accepted, it is less common than “focuses”, which has long been the preferred spelling version.

Here are some examples of how to use “focuses” in a sentence:

  1. One of our main focuses for this year is reducing costs.
  2. She focuses a lot on her children and not enough on herself.
  3. He focuses on all the wrong things in life, which is why he never achieves anything.
  4. We need to examine the merits of each of the company focuses for the coming year.
  5. He focuses hard on his career at the expense of his family life.

Focusses or Focuses in the UK?

The Collins Dictionary states that “focusses” is a UK spelling for the 3rd person verb “focus.” However, the Cambridge Dictionary lists “focuses” as the correct version.

The Cambridge Corpus shows that there are some entries in formal texts for the spelling “focusses”, so it is acceptable. However, the same search for “focuses” reveals that it is the far more common version of the spelling in British English.

The Google Ngram Viewer also shows that “focusses” had a brief stint of popularity in the 1980s, but “focuses” has always been more frequent.

focusses or focuses UK

Focusses or Focuses in the US?

Dictionaries like the American Heritage Dictionary list “focuses” as the US spelling of the word, and there seems to be little reference to using “focusses” in the US or Canada.

The Google Ngram Viewer shows that in the 1950s, neither “focusses” nor “focuses” were very common, but since then, the spelling “focuses” has grown sharply and is now far more frequent in the US than “focusses”, which was used even less than it was used in the UK.

focusses or focuses US

The sharp growth in the use of the word “focuses” could be related to the development of photography and also the changes to the work/life dynamic that has taken place since the 1950s. A person in modern-day society has far more necessity and opportunity to use the word “focuses” than someone in the 1950s.

Focusses or Focuses in Canada?

Bearing in mind that Canadian English follows the same spelling rules as American English, the correct spelling in Canada is “focuses” rather than “focusses”, which is the UK spelling.

The word “focusses” has never been common in the US, so it is unlikely that it has been common in Canada. Therefore, if you are writing in Canadian English, it is best to stick with the spelling “focuses.”

Focusses or Focuses in Australia

Australian English follows the same rules as British English, so if “focusses” is listed as a British variant, it is acceptable in Australia.

However, since “focusses” is rarely used in the UK or anywhere else, it makes sense to stick with the more frequent version of the spelling “focuses” when writing in Australian English.

Focusses or Focuses in Other Countries?

The Google Ngram Viewer reveals that “focusses” has never really been very popular globally, except for a brief period in the 1980s, and that “focuses” has always been the more common.

focusses or focuses usage

Therefore, although “focusses” would be accepted, especially in the UK and Australia, “focuses” is the more familiar and accepted spelling variant.

Final Thoughts

The words “focusses” and “focuses” are both acceptable spelling variants. “Focusses” is listed as a UK spelling variant and is therefore also likely to be found more in Australia than in North American English. However, “focuses” is by far the more frequent spelling in the UK, US, Canada, and Australia.