Speciality vs. Specialty – What’s the Difference? (UK/US)

The words “speciality” and “specialty” look remarkably similar, except for one letter, and people are often unsure if they are the same or different. This page takes a look at both terms and identifies exactly what the difference is between them.

Speciality vs. Specialty – What’s the Difference?

The terms “speciality” and “specialty” are synonyms and are interchangeable. In the US, Canada, and Australia, “specialty” is more common, whereas in the UK “, speciality” is used frequently. However, in medicine, “specialty” or “specialism” are generally preferred in all countries.

speciality vs specialty

The Cambridge Dictionary lists “speciality” as an adjective or noun referring to a product that is extremely good in a particular place, to a subject that someone is an expert in, or to something that someone is an expert at doing or making. It also lists “specialty” as the US alternative.

There is also a separate listing for “specialty” in the Cambridge Dictionary, which has the same definition and is listed as an adjective or noun.

There is some debate that “specialty” is used more commonly as an adjective and “speciality” as a noun, however, the dictionary states that they can both be adjectives or nouns. However, in some places, such as the USA, “speciality” is hardly ever used, which dispels this theory somewhat.

Others suggest that the difference is purely regional and that in the UK, “speciality” is used more, whereas in the US, Canada, and Australia “, specialty” is more frequent.

Furthermore, in the medical community in all English-speaking countries, “speciality” seems to be the preferred spelling to refer to the field of medicine someone specialises in.

This is how they look as adjectives and nouns:

  • The specialty bread in the bakeries here is delicious. (Adj)
  • The speciality of this region is bread. (N)
  • Specialty wine and cheese are on sale at the market.  (Adj)
  • The speciality of northern France is wine and cheese. (N)
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Speciality or Specialty in the UK?

The Google Ngram shows that in the UK, “speciality” was more common than “specialty” from 1900 to 2004 and that now the latter is slightly more frequent, although both are common.

speciality vs specialty UK

The trend in this graph indicates that perhaps British English follows the adjective/noun differentiation more closely than the US, which only uses one version, or it could simply be a variation in the spelling.

Evidence online indicates that for the medical field in the UK, “specialty” or “specialism” are the preferred options when referring to one’s particular area of expertise.

Speciality or Specialty in the US?

The Google Ngram for American English shows that in the US, “specialty” is by far the more common of the two terms, and “speciality” has hardly ever been used in American English.

speciality vs specialty US

This trend indicates that the adjective/noun rule of differentiation in American English is not followed, or “speciality” would likely be more frequent.

Speciality or Specialty in Canada?

In Canadian English, the most common version is “specialty.” You will still find instances of people using “speciality”, but it is less common.

Speciality or Specialty in Australia

In Australian English, the more standard version of the spelling is “specialty”, the same version that is used in the US.

Furthermore, there is evidence that in the Australian medical field, “specialty” is also preferred over “speciality.”

Speciality or Specialty in Other Countries?

The Google Ngram for global use shows that “specialty” has always been far more common than “speciality”, which appears only to have been used with any great frequency in the UK.

speciality vs specialty usage

Final Thoughts

The terms “speciality” and “specialty” can be interchanged without any change in meaning. “Speciality” is used more in British English, whereas “specialty” appears more in American, Canadian, and Australian English. Also, doctors in all countries tend to use “specialty.”