Greyscale or Grayscale: Which Spelling Is Correct? (UK/US)

The words “grayscale” and “greyscale” are both commonly used, and you may have wondered which spelling is correct. This article shows that it’s not just black and white, explains whether one or both are correct, and provides examples of the words used in context.

Greyscale or Grayscale: Which Spelling Is Correct?

Both “greyscale” and “grayscale” are correct, and the difference is simply the geographical difference in the spelling of the word “grey.” In the UK and Australia, “greyscale” is the correct spelling. While in the US and Canada, “grayscale” is the preferred option.

greyscale or grayscale

The word “greyscale” refers to different shades of grey areas on a photograph or digital image, and both versions of the spelling can be found in dictionaries. For example, the Oxford Dictionary and Collins Dictionary say that “greyscale” is the UK version and “grayscale” is the US version.

The difference between “greyscale” and “grayscale” boils down to the fact that the US use “gray” for the colour, whilst in the UK, it is spelt “grey.”

There are some exceptions to this rule, such as the word “greyhound”, which remains “grey” in all countries because, in this instance, the term “grey” doesn’t refer to the colour.

“Greyscale” and “grayscale” are interchangeable, but remember that if you start a piece of writing in either UK or US English, it is best to stick to that version throughout the work.

Here are some examples of “greyscale” in a sentence:

  1. Greyscale cameras are excellent at conserving similarities in a high-definition image
  2. The system only works with greyscale images and does not function with colour images.
  3. Tests were run on both colour and greyscale images to see which offered the best performance.
  4. She printed her project images in greyscale to draw attention to the contrast between objects.
  5. The news often uses greyscale images on their reports to try and make them seem more dramatic.

Greyscale or Grayscale in the UK?

In the UK, using “greyscale” and “grayscale” is acceptable, and there is no variation in meaning. The word “greyscale” appears in dictionaries as the UK spelling, which makes sense considering that in the UK, the colour is spelt “grey.”

However, as the Google Ngram Viewer reveals, the spelling “grayscale” has been more common than “greyscale” in the UK since 2002.

greyscale or grayscale UK

Therefore, it would seem that both are acceptable and frequent in the UK, but remember that if you start writing with “grayscale”, you should use that spelling throughout the text.

Greyscale or Grayscale in the US?

In the US, the correct spelling of the colour is “gray”, so subsequently “, grayscale” is the most frequent version of the spelling.

The fact that it is a relatively new word that was first used in the 1940s means that there was never much opportunity for the UK version of the spelling to gain popularity in the US, and its use has remained pretty much non-existent.

Therefore, as the Google Ngram Viewer indicates, the spelling “grayscale” has always been much more prevalent in the US than “greyscale”, and its commonality grew tremendously from the 1970s onwards following the development of digital imagery and photography.

greyscale or grayscale US

Greyscale or Grayscale in Canada?

Considering that Canada follows the same spelling rules as the US, in Canada, the correct spelling of the word would be “grayscale.”

An internet search for references of Canada and “grayscale” reveals the word is far more common than “greyscale”, a trend that fits with the global trend of the spelling, which shows that “grayscale” is much more frequent than “greyscale.”

Greyscale or Grayscale in Australia

Australia follows the UK spelling rules, so “greyscale” is found more commonly than in the US or Canada. A search for mentions of Australia and “greyscale” show that it is still reasonably common in Australia to spell the word “greyscale”, despite “grayscale” being more popular globally.

Greyscale or Grayscale in Other Countries?

The Google Ngram Viewer for all countries shows that “grayscale” has always been more popular than “greyscale” globally, and that difference has grown the most since the 1990s.

greyscale or grayscale usage

Since 2005, there has been a slight decline in the use of “grayscale” and a slight increase for “greyscale.” However, it is probably a decline in word use rather than people changing which version of the spelling they use.

The US version of the spelling grew so much and became more popular in the 90s, probably because of the growth of the technology industry, which was more concentrated in the US.

Final Thoughts

The words “greyscale” and “grayscale” are both acceptable and which you use depends on where you are. In the UK and Australia, “greyscale” is an accepted version of the spelling, despite “grayscale” being more prevalent. Meanwhile, in the US and Canada, “grayscale” is the official and commonly used spelling.