Spelt or Spelled?
  • 3-minute read
  • 31st August 2023

Spelt or Spelled?

English spellings are nearly always the same wherever English is the first language, but there are exceptions.

Spelt and spelled can both be the past tense of the verb spell. Generally, both endings are used in British English, but the ed ending is much more common in American English.

In the history of the written word, spellings have been standardized only relatively recently. Before Victorian times, words were often written down as they sounded, rather than following fixed spelling rules. Even now, we find both the ed and the t ending used for the past tense of verbs such as dream. Shakespeare, for example, used both. In British English, we still see dreamed and dreamt, but again, the ed ending is more commonly used in American English. If you’re writing British English, make your choice and use it consistently.

The Past Tense

Verbs take different endings depending on whether they’re indicating something that happened in the past, is happening now, or will happen in the future. We can see these variations in the preceding sentence, with happen.

Verbs can be regular or irregular, and that status determines which ending they take for the past tense. Sometimes, you’ll see regular verbs referred to as “weak” (because they follow the crowd) and irregular verbs referred to as “strong” (because they go their own way).

If you’d like to read more about the past tense and regular and irregular verbs, take a look at our blog post on past participles.

Examples of Spelled in Sentences

English words can be spelled differently in non-UK countries.

In America, words are sometimes spelled more simply than they are in the UK.

In school today, my daughter spelled all the words in her test correctly.

Spelt as a Noun

Oh, yes, we’re not just talking about verbs in this post!

Spelt can also be a noun (the name for a thing), and we’re including a little about that here because we don’t want you to confuse spelt as a verb with spelt as a noun.

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Any keen bakers out there? We’ve discussed how spelt can be the past tense of the verb spell. But spelt is also a noun meaning an ancient grain closely related to emmer wheat. Spelt flour can be used to bake bread and other goodies. Other ancient grains still in use are emmer, farro and einkorn. Happy baking!


Spelt and spelled are both past participles of the verb spell.

In American English, spelled is the more common form.

In British English, spelt and spelled are equally acceptable. Just choose one and be consistent.

Don’t forget, spelt can also be a noun. It’s the name of an ancient grain.

We can’t help you with your baking, but we can help with your writing! If you’d like one of our experts to check your use of spelt and spelled, simply get in touch!

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