• 3-minute read
  • 6th December 2020

Spelling Tips: Vice or Vise?

The words “vice” and “vise” sound the same, which makes it easy to mix them up in writing. But these terms have different meanings. As such, this post will explain how to use them correctly in American English.

Vice (A Bad Habit or Illegal Activity)

“Vice”, spelled with a “c,” is typically a noun that refers to a bad habit, moral fault, or certain illegal activities, particularly those involving drugs or sex:

Chocolate is my only vice.

His worst vice was his greed.

The mayor wanted to wipe out vice in the city.

In addition, we can use “vice” as a prefix to show that someone is second in command or deputy leader of a group or team. For instance:

He hoped to be elected vice president.

They have made me vice-captain of the baseball team.

These senses of “vice” have different origins, but both are spelled with a “c.”

Vise (A Tool for Gripping)

“Vise” with an “s,” meanwhile, is a noun that refers to a tool used to hold something in place so you can work on it. For example, we could say:

He put the frame in the vise so he could sand it.

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He tightened the vise and began sanding.

His grip was as tight as a vise.

This is the only meaning of the “s” spelling of this word.

Vice in British English

British English, and other English-speaking countries outside of the US, make things a bit simpler by using the spelling “vice” in all situations.

This includes bad habits, the prefix sense of “deputy,” and the tool for gripping. The “s” spelling, though, is never used.

If you are writing for a British or Australian audience, keep this in mind!

Summary: Vice or Vise?

In American English, there are two different spellings to remember:

  • Vice is typically a noun that refers to a bad habit or certain illegal activities. It can also be a prefix meaning “second in command.”
  • Vise is always a noun and refers to a tool for holding an object in place.

The only time you will need to use the “s” spelling, then, is to write about the gripping tool. This means you can use the “c” spelling in all other situations. And outside the US, all senses of “vice” are spelled with a “c.”

Hopefully, this has answered your spelling queries! For more help with your writing, though, give our proofreading services a try for free today.

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