It is sometimes said that the United States and the United Kingdom are two countries separated by a common language. Despite the fact that English is the most widely used language in both countries, a distinction is often made between the English used in the United States—American English—and the English used in the United Kingdom—British English. The differences between the two varieties of English are usually subtle, but they exist nonetheless, particularly around spelling.
Favorite and favourite are both correct spellings, depending on whether you use American or British spelling standards. Favorite is preferred in American English, while favourite is preferred in British English. Sometimes, favorite or favourite can be used and the correct form depends on which style guide you follow.
Learn more details about these spelling differences below.
The correct way to spell favorite
The answer to that question might depend on where you are. If you’re in the United States, you would hear that “favorite” is the correct spelling. If you were pretty much anywhere else in the world where English is spoken, you would hear that “favourite” is the spelling you should use. “Favourite” and “favorite” mean the same thing, are pronounced the same way (FAY-vuh-rit or FAY-vrit), and are both correct spellings.
Definition of favorite
“Favorite” (or “favourite,” if that’s the spelling you favour) is a word that can be used both as a noun and as an adjective.
When used as a noun, “favorite” can have two meanings. When we like someone or something more than other people or things, we can use the word favorite to let the world know:
Favorite is also a word that pops up frequently in relation to competitions. We call the person most likely to win the competition “the favorite”:
We mentioned that favorite can also be used as an adjective. When we use it like that, favorite has only one meaning—“most liked” or “preferred”:
The origins of the two spellings of favorite
“Favorite” and “favourite” share a common backstory with other words in the English language. The word “color,” for example, is spelled with an “-or” ending in American English, while in British English it’s spelled “colour.” There are plenty of other examples: “flavor” and “flavour,” “honor” and “honour,” “rumor” and “rumour.” The list could go on and on.
For a long time, there was no consensus on how words ending with -or or -our should be spelled in Britain. We know that Samuel Johnson, the famous British lexicographer, had a strong preference for the -our versions of words, as is evident from his 1755 dictionary. On the other side of the pond, an equally famous American lexicographer, Noah Webster, wanted to make the English language used in America truly American. So, his 1828 dictionary recommended the -or spellings of the disputed words. To this day, Webster gets a lot of credit for influencing the way Americans write English.
Favorite vs. favourite examples
The easiest way to notice the difference in spelling and its national character is by looking through different national publications or international editions of media outlets.
The Huffington Post, US edition
The Huffington Post, Australian edition
The Huffington Post, Canadian edition
The Huffington Post, UK edition