Wiktionary:Spelling variants in entry names

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Status of policy[edit]

See the talk page previous discussions and more information

It is now time to set down a draft policy to try to reflect and consolidate the consensus of what is happening in practice, with some desirable changes, for a number of reasons:

  • to give guidance to people who are new to Wiktionary, and simply want to know what the rules are, in order to be able to follow them.
  • to try to reduce the frequent outbreaks of disruptive and time consuming 'debate' which often descends into flame wars.
  • to inform people who come here from Wikipedia about the need for a different policy.

This draft policy is here to be discussed, but is also asserted to be a valid statement of current good practice in Wiktionary.

Policy summary[edit]

  1. Avoid redirects for variants, there are templates designed to deal with this
  2. Spelling variants, even rare ones, can have inflections and use the normal inflections templates
  3. List variant spellings in the article for the most common spelling
  4. Alternative spellings must be attestable, just like the main entry

Types of spelling variants[edit]

The types of spelling variants that are encountered, and covered by this policy, are:

  • Regional variation - different spelling in different regions. Mostly US vs UK/Commonwealth spelling. Eg: color/colour, centre/center
  • Historical variation – different spellings in different eras through the development of language. Eg: anæmia vs anaemia, coördinate vs coordinate
  • style variation – eg: naivety, naivete, naiveté, naïveté
  • hyphenations / compounds – Some compound words are variously spelt with a hyphen, with a space between the words, or just as a single word; there is often regional variance with these terms. Eg: tea cup, tea-cup, teacup
  • 'Common' misspellings – A word may be very commonly misspelt. Although “everyone knows” that one version is a 'misspelling', nevertheless some may look the word up under the “wrong” spelling. In practice, this may just be early evidence for one of the other forms of variance developing. Eg: alot, accomodation
  • uncertain capitalisation - the word is often spelt either with or without capitalisation. eg: Zeppelin, zeppelin; LASER, laser. If the capitalisation is going to be the only difference, then, create just one real entry, and one redirect entry.

Avoid redirects[edit]

On Wiktionary, we try to avoid redirects when possible. A redirect gives no other information about the word - is it an alternative spelling, a misspelling, an archaic spelling? For this reason, all attestable spellings should have their own entries. The commonest of these should have a full entry, while for less common spelling, using the templates {{alternative spelling of}} and {{alternative form of}} (with lang=<lang> for non-English words). It's not usually necessary to repeat the etymology and the other sections from the main article. These articles can have inflections, for example Europæan an an archaic variant of European, but Europæans is listed as the plural of Europæan, and not an alternative spelling of Europeans.

The same is true for alternative spelling with hyphens or made up of multiple words, for example sockpuppet and the more common sock puppet, or cleanup and clean-up.

List valid spelling variants[edit]

If you create a new alternative spelling entry for a spelling variant, then these spelling should be listed under 'Alternative forms' as links ([[Europæan]]) in the main article, to make them easier to find.


Alternative spelling have to meet the same criteria for inclusion as other entries and can be nominated for verification or deletion. As with other entries, providing valid citations from permanently archived souces is the best way to demonstrate that the term is, or has been, in use.

Alternative spelling versus alternative form[edit]

There are no absolute rules for this, but an alternative spelling should have the same pronunciation. An alternative form may have a different pronunciation or add or take away a word. Europæan is an alternative spelling of European, but my God is an alternative form of oh my God; it has the same meaning, but three words instead of two, and is not pronounced the same.

Different policy in Wiktionary and Wikipedia[edit]

We do not capitalize entry names unless they require capitalisation. On Wikipedia, the content of the article is all-important, and the title of the article pales in significance. However on Wiktionary, synonymous terms, even variant spellings should all have their own articles. A good example of this would be Ivory Coast, which is a redirect to Côte d'Ivoire on Wikipedia, but in Wiktionary they have separate articles as a redirect would cause confusion. And of course, Côte d'Ivoire is used in languages other than English.