If you make a spelling mistake, did you “misspell” or “mispell” the word? Only one of these spellings is correct. Let’s take a look at what this word means and how to spell it correctly so you can make sure your writing is error free.
What Does Misspell Mean?
“Misspell” is a verb that means “spell a word incorrectly”:
It is important not misspell words.
It’s embarrassing when you misspell someone’s name.
He often misspells words in his writing.
The word “misspell” is made up of the prefix “mis-” and the base word “spell.” The prefix “mis-” means “badly” or “wrongly,” so together they mean “spell badly.”
We also see this prefix in words like “misbehave,” “mistake,” and “mishear,” all of which also relate to getting something wrong or doing something badly.
The Error: Mispell
As shown in the examples above, the correct spelling of this word is “misspell.” However, many people misspell it as “mispell”:
It is easy to mispell a word if you have only heard it spoken. ✗
It is easy to misspell a word if you have only heard it spoken.✓
This may be because the “s” sounds at the end of “mis-” and the start of “spell” often overlap when we say this word out loud, making it easy to miss the second “s.”
However, as long as you remember that this word is a combination of “mis-” and “-spell,” each with its own “s,” it should be easy to avoid errors.
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Misspelled or Misspelt?
The double “s” in “misspell” also applies to related words, such as “misspelling”. But should the past tense of this word be “misspelled” or “misspelt”?
The answer to this may depend on where you’re from. In American English, for instance, the standard spelling is always “mispelled”:
I misspelled several words in this essay.✓
I misspelt several words in this essay.✗
There are several misspelled words in this essay.✓
There are several misspelt words in this essay.✗
The UK, Australia, and other English-speaking countries are a bit more flexible, though! British English, for instance, accepts both “spelled” and “spelt” as past tense forms of “spell.” The same applies to “misspelt,” which is a variant spelling of “misspelled” (although it is more common as an adjective than a verb).
However, “misspelled” is the most common spelling of this term in all dialects, especially for the verb form. You can therefore use this spelling with confidence.
Summary: Misspell or Mispell?
To “misspell” a word is to spell it incorrectly. Some people make the mistake of spelling this word with a single “s” instead, but “mispell” is always an error!
You can avoid this mistake by breaking “misspell” down into a prefix (i.e., mis-) and the main term (i.e., -spell). This makes it easy to see why you need the double “s.” The same applies for related words, including “misspelling” and “misspelled.”