Initialed or Initialled? Correct Spelling (UK vs. US)

Some English verbs are hard to conjugate in the past tense. This is the case of the verb “initial”. So, shall we say “initialed” or “initialled”? Read on. This article will provide a simple spelling rule, examples, and some exceptions that will help you decide which one to use.

Initialed or Initialled?

In British English, the correct past tense of the verb “initial” is “initialled”. Therefore, the UK, Canada, and Australia spell it that way. On the other hand, the US spells the past tense of “initial” as “initialed”. So, both terms are acceptable depending on what kind of English you speak.

initialed or initialled

“Initialed” is an alternative form for “initialled”. Therefore, these terms can be interchangeable. Anyway, we should use one of these two terms, depending on the country where we are or the speaker’s country of origin.

As for its meaning, to “initial” is to sign something with the initials of one’s name as a token of approval.

The Cambridge Dictionary only recognizes “initialled”, which is the spelling used in the UK, Canada, and Australia. It says that is the past tense simple of “initial”. There is no mention of the alternative form used in the US.

In the same vein, the Macmillan Dictionary only accepts initialled as the correct term.

We also submitted both terms in the Collins Dictionary and discovered that the term “initialed” is accepted for American English. And it also confirms “initialled” as the correct term.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary accepts both versions of the word too. We found an entry confirming that “initialed” is the American alternative form for “initialled”.

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Initialed or Initialled in the UK?

The past tense of the word “initial” in British English is written “initialled”.

Therefore, if you speak British English, reside in the UK, or want to communicate with a UK audience, the correct spelling to write “initialled” is with a double-l.

The most accurate tool to analyze popularity levels is the Google Ngram Viewer. Let’s see how these terms are used in the UK.

initialed or initialled usage UK

From the early 20th century to 1950, the “initialed” curve shows erratic behavior and the term’s popularity level is low. From the second half of that century, the expression seems to fall into disuse, showing a curve that slowly declines to the present day.

On the other hand, “Initialled” also shows a curve with ups and downs, but with a higher level of use. It reaches its peak in 1980 and then falls sharply for three decades.

Today, both terms have a low level of popularity. It seems that both words have lost their acceptance and are infrequently used.

Initialed or Initialled in the US?

The past tense of the verb “initial” in American English is spelled “initialed”.

This is not the same spelling as found in British English, which is “initialled”. Therefore, when “initialed” is spelled with a single “l” should be directed to the USA or countries that utilize American English.

When submitting “initialed” and “initialled” to check the usage levels in the US, the Google Ngram Viewer shows the same trends as in the UK but inverted.

initialed or initialled usage US

Indeed, “initialed” is the most commonly used term, showing a growing curve till the 50s, to then fall to very low usage levels these days.

On the other hand, “initialled” shows a steady curve close to zero, reaching its lowest level of use nowadays.

Initialed or Initialled in Australia?

Since Australia has been most influenced by the UK, when signing with initials as a token of consent, the term accepted is “initialled” instead of “initialed”. Moreover, Australians will take “initialed” as a spelling mistake. So, whenever talking or writing to Australians, the term “initialed” should be avoided.

Initialed or Initialled in Canada?

As it happens in the UK and Australia, when signing with initials as a token of consent, we will use the term “initialled” instead of “initialed”. This preference can be traced to the use of British English instead of its American variant. Furthermore, Canadians will take “initialed” as a mistake.

Final Thoughts

The past simple of the verb initial can be spelled “initialled” or “initialed”, depending on the speaker’s country of origin. In the UK, Canada, and Australia, “initialled” is the correct one; while in the US “initialed” is the accepted term.