User:JackLumber/-ise / -ize

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American spelling accepts only -ize endings in most cases, such as organize, recognize, and realize. British usage accepts both -ize and the more French-looking -ise (organise, recognise, realise). However, the -ize spelling is now rarely used in the UK in the mass media and newspapers, and is hence often incorrectly regarded as an Americanism,[1] despite being preferred by some authoritative British sources, including Fowler's Modern English Usage and the Oxford English Dictionary, which until recently did not list the -ise form of many individual words, even as an alternative. Indeed, it firmly deprecates this usage, stating, "[T]he suffix…, whatever the element to which it is added, is in its origin the Gr[eek] -ιζειν, L[atin] -izāre; and, as the pronunciation is also with z, there is no reason why in English the special French spelling in -iser should be followed, in opposition to that which is at once etymological and phonetic."[2] Noah Webster rejected -ise for the same reasons.[3]

But the OED might be fighting a losing battle. The -ise form is used by the British government and is more prevalent in common usage within the UK today; the ratio between -ise and -ize stands at 3:2 in the British National Corpus.[4] The OED spelling (which can be indicated by the registered IANA language tag en-GB-oed), and thus -ize, is used in many British-based academic publications, such as Nature, the Biochemical Journal and The Times Literary Supplement.

The same pattern applies to derivatives and inflections such as colonisation/colonization.

Canada and Australia[edit]

In Australia and New Zealand -ise spellings strongly prevail; the Australian Macquarie Dictionary, among other sources, gives the -ise spelling first. Conversely, Canadian usage is essentially like American, although -ise is occasionally found in Canada. Worldwide, -ize endings prevail in scientific writing and are commonly used by many international organizations.

-yse / -yze[edit]

The distribution of -yse and -yze endings, as in analyse/analyze, is different: the former is British, the latter American. Thus, UK analyse, catalyse, hydrolyse, paralyse; U.S. analyze, catalyze, hydrolyze, paralyze. However, analyse was commonly spelled analyze from the first — a spelling also accepted by Samuel Johnson; the word, which came probably from French analyser, on Greek analogy would have been analysize, from French analysiser, from which analyser was formed by haplology.[5] In Canada, -yze prevails; in Australia, -yse stands alone.


Note that not all spellings are interchangeable; some verbs take the -z- form exclusively, for instance capsize, seize (except in the legal phrase to be seised of/to stand seised to), size and prize (only in the "appraise" sense), whereas others take only -s-: advertise, advise, apprise, arise, chastise, circumcise, incise, excise, comprise, compromise, demise, despise, devise, disguise, exercise, franchise, improvise, merchandise, revise, supervise, surmise, surprise, and televise. Finally, the verb prise (meaning to force or lever) is spelled prize in the U.S. and prise everywhere else, including Canada,[6] although in North American English pry (a back-formation from or alteration of prise) is often used in its place.[7]


  1. ^ "Are spellings like 'privatize' and 'organize' Americanisms?", 2006.
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, -ize.
  3. ^ Hargraves, p. 22.
  4. ^ Peters, p. 298
  5. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, analyse, analyze
  6. ^ Peters, p. 441
  7. ^ Peters, p. 446.