Mighty Red Pen

January 16, 2008

Glamor vs glamour

Filed under: Word wars — mighty red pen @ 8:29 pm

Overseen in D’s new book, Rocky Dog. Is it me or does this just look weird?


Okay, here’s the deal: you can spell it glamor, this is totally a-okay. But unlike words such as honor or labor, which are commonly spelled -our in British English and -or in American English, glamor just doesn’t seem right.

American Heritage explains:

USAGE NOTE: Many words, such as honor, vapor, and labor, are usually spelled with an –or ending in American English but with an –our ending in British English. The preferred spelling of glamour, however, is –our, making it an exception to the usual American practice. The adjective is more often spelled glamorous in both American and British usage.

The Columbia Guide to Standard English chimes in, “Both glamour and glamor are Standard spellings, although glamour is more frequent.”

Alrighty then.


  1. It just looks American to me! But then I am British.

    Interesting etymology to ‘glamo(u)r’ by the way, if anyone feels inclined to look it up.

    Comment by JD — January 18, 2008 @ 4:24 am | Reply

  2. Hmmm…

    Humor, rumor, glamor.

    Doesn’t work for me I’m afraid. Then again, I’m British so what do I know?

    Comment by Gez — January 18, 2008 @ 7:25 am | Reply

  3. I think the reason the American spelling “glamor” is less preferred is because that spelling is less glamorous than the British spelling “glamour”. One thing that shouldn’t be toned down in practice or language is glamour.

    Comment by Krodamai — January 23, 2008 @ 10:21 am | Reply

  4. Krodamai, You’re absolutely right. Word nerds are nothing if not all about glamour.

    And JD, You’re going to make us look it up?!

    Comment by mightyredpen — January 23, 2008 @ 8:44 pm | Reply

  5. yes, because nothing is more “all about glamour” than the word “holocaust”

    Comment by bear — March 4, 2009 @ 1:06 am | Reply

  6. Well, my American spell checker informs me that “glamour” is incorrect, and that it should, in fact, be “glamor”. Since Microsoft is all powerful, I will go with that. But I still think “glamour” is more glamorous.

    Comment by Butt-head — August 1, 2010 @ 10:47 am | Reply

  7. I enjoy pronouncing words like glamour and harbour as glamoor and harboor to emphasize the put-on anglophilia. They’re right in there with “towne” and “shoppe” as far as I’m concerned. Spelling reform on to victory!

    I think Glamour magazine’s ubiquity is partly responsible for the confusion in the U.S.

    Comment by vlerb — May 11, 2011 @ 9:39 pm | Reply

    • We can all blame that Webster character, whose attempt to regularise the language was on a par with the US attempt to legislate Pi=3 .

      Comment by Tony Graham — May 15, 2011 @ 10:21 pm | Reply

  8. This was actually helpful, thanks for the reference! I just “Added the word” to my dictionary for Firefox and Chrome too… silly American dictionaries!

    As for the word origin, from dictionary.reference.com:

    “Word Origin & History

    1720, “magic, enchantment” (especially in phrase to cast the glamour ), a variant of Scot. gramarye “magic, enchantment, spell,” alt. of Eng. grammar (q.v.) with a medieval sense of “any sort of scholarship, especially occult learning.” Popularized by the writings of Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832). Sense of “magical beauty, alluring charm” first recorded 1840. Glamorous is 1882 (slang shortening glam first attested 1936); glamorize is 1936.

    Comment by Brian — June 5, 2011 @ 5:04 pm | Reply

  9. I’m American but My family almost always used the Brittish spellings of words, so My correcting my grade school teachers “English” calling it “American” once got a great comment back that said it is not American as more Americans speack Spanish then English and that seems to be less then true but it is a valid point still English is not the only thing spoken, I can walk to Canada *(I would take the local metro then walk its far but you get the idea I can walk to French speaking land and hear Spanish here, we act like we have one over powering established mastered “English” and we teach it like scripture here I mean I can’t find a child in the 3rd grade who doesn’t know the “RULES” of American Grammer, but almost no one who knows what the dictonary says about those “rules” they are not rules, more like guideline.

    So I tossed my “out of date MLA books” and gave up on this United States Slang, realizing that we’re so misguided in school here that at a point where this no child left behind BS is going to make us even more socially retarted then we already are and started learning more about what we the people are missing. I assume my spelling and grammar will be forgiven with the understanding that I went to a Centeral American Univ.

    Comment by Esther — September 18, 2011 @ 1:46 pm | Reply

  10. I find these comments funny as an american since for some reason i tend to want to spell things in the British spelling. All besides Vapor. Humour, honour and labour just naturally feel right to me. It makes the american setting in my microsoft word correct me constantly.

    Comment by antigone — October 14, 2011 @ 2:54 pm | Reply

  11. Why is “famous” never spelled “famos”?

    Comment by Mr Snargs — November 26, 2011 @ 5:07 pm | Reply

    • Stupid! Famous doesn’t end in r like glamor/glamour does!

      Comment by Roberta — March 3, 2012 @ 3:52 pm | Reply

  12. Because famous is an adjective. We also have “humorous” (not “humoros” or “humourous”) and lots of others – “-ous” is a pretty productive adjectivalizing suffix. http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20061102162242AAvNmZ6

    As for “glamor”, I’m perfectly fine with it, because I don’t read Cosmo or other women’s magazines.

    Comment by Eyedunno — November 30, 2011 @ 7:09 pm | Reply

  13. Most English spellings derive from the French – who took the country over in 1066! I prefer the English spelling but can understand the American “tidying up” – After watching programmes (!) such as “24” though I find ambiguity of pronunciation more of a problem: “Hostile Missile” becomes “Hostel missal” – surely a precursor to the Gideon’s Bible found in Hotel rooms? By the way if you ever want to prove this point (Brits take note!) just ask any American to say “Merry,Marry,Mary” and get someone else to write down what they have just said!

    Comment by Colin — January 11, 2012 @ 2:06 pm | Reply

    • American spellings are dependent upon the origin of the word. So words like honor, harbor, labor, are in fact LATIN words, not French… And words that take on the spelling with the U, in American English, are of French origin. And the use of Z’s instead of S’s is not an Americanization, but rather, the Brits made this change along with many other spelling changes just before and after the revolutionary time period to differentiate themselves from the ‘colonists.’ But even Oxford agrees that spelling words with a -Z is more true than using the French -S. And people along the east coast of the U.S. make the ‘merry, Mary, marry’ difference. But honestly, do you really get confused when used in the proper context? “I met a girl named Marry, and we had a mary time, because we are going to merry soon.” hahaha… I don’t see that happening 😀

      Comment by Ken — December 9, 2012 @ 3:26 pm | Reply

      • this was Websters rational when he chose the -or spelling over the -our spelling that Johnson favored, hence creating the this anbiguity to begin with

        Comment by snark43 — April 16, 2013 @ 9:44 pm

  14. Interestingly, when spell checking my document, MS Word kept flagging my spelling of “glamor” as incorrect and suggested “glamour” instead (Firefox’s spell checker is just the opposite!). For once I wondered if MS Word is choosing UK dictionary as the spell checker, but upon verification, I found my language setting is correctly set to US dictionary, so I turned to Google and found this article, LOL! I thought “glamor” was correct as much as “harbor” and “honor” are but obviously there are exceptions to the rule! 😀

    Comment by Arindam — February 11, 2012 @ 9:01 pm | Reply

  15. I believe the correct spelling is glamor. Though I am American, I am reading comments from british and they are saying they like glamour, but then later on in their paragraph they are saying glamorous. If you add ous to a word, the spelling shouldn’t change (of the original word). Glamor is in glamorous. Glamour isn’t. I rest my case.

    Comment by Roberta — March 3, 2012 @ 3:55 pm | Reply

    • Sorry, but if you rest your case on that, I’m going to have to throw this case out of court. Unless you think 40 should be written “fourty” since the “u” is in the shorter version.

      Comment by steven — September 25, 2013 @ 3:42 pm | Reply

  16. So why isn’t it spelled “glamourous” then?

    Comment by testing2 — March 7, 2012 @ 6:58 am | Reply

  17. “By the way if you ever want to prove this point (Brits take note!) just ask any American to say ‘Merry,Marry,Mary’ and get someone else to write down what they have just said!”

    Language changes over time, and that’s something we just have to deal with. Certain varieties of British English are as bad. Take “fin/thin” from certain Cockney speakers who have lost the ‘th’, or ‘r’s being inserted before vowels by speakers of non-rhotic English dialects where any American (or Irishman, or Scot) knows there is no ‘r’, for example in “This tuna is good” vs. “This tuner is good.”

    Comment by Eyedunno — March 7, 2012 @ 1:50 pm | Reply

  18. The only reason why glamour retains its u in America is because the magazine stares us in the face every week in the supermarket checkout line. There is no similar display for any of the other words that have lost the superfluous u.

    Comment by Joe Flynn — March 16, 2012 @ 1:39 pm | Reply

    • Superfluous isn’t the correct term to use when describing that extra U. I agree that the ‘glamour’ spelling is used in the US because it is tied to fashion, and fashion tends to trend earlier in Europe than in North America. Perhaps Americans can coax their government to make the magazine change its name to the standardized US spelling. Either that, or you could get them to switch to metric… I’d take either or.

      Comment by Snare — April 11, 2012 @ 12:32 pm | Reply

  19. I love this argument. The thing about ‘British English’ is there are rules, and exceptions to rules. English has many influences, not just French, but Greek, Norse, Latin, Hebrew, Indian. It has developed over thousands of years – that’s why there is no one rule or set of rules.

    Comment by domesticbubblewriter — March 30, 2012 @ 3:51 pm | Reply

  20. I like the all caps: GLAMOR/glamour; PROGRAM/programme; GRAY/grey; ORGANIZATION/organisation; CENTER/centre. From Edgardo Valentino D. Olaes

    Comment by Edgardo Olaes — August 27, 2012 @ 12:47 pm | Reply

  21. Oh well, I’m South African, lived in England and the US, but like everything I like giving words a bit a zing … I would prefer glamor, simply because of the amor ending, glamor, love and beauty go hand in hand, but with that said … does anyone think that glamor would be seen as glamour ?? LOL … 🙂

    Comment by Basil — January 15, 2013 @ 1:55 pm | Reply

  22. It’s because of the magazine. You see and subconsciously read it on the cover everyday in the grocery store and it creeps its way into your mental dictionary telling you to spell it that way.

    Comment by Jeff — March 17, 2013 @ 10:03 pm | Reply

  23. American is the awkward child of English, and to force a child into the mould of the parent is unfair and ultimately futile. Glamour rules.

    Comment by Tony Graham — August 12, 2013 @ 6:49 pm | Reply

  24. Read all the movie theaters in the U.S.A., the percentage is:
    theater = 33%
    THEATRE = 67%.
    Get a souvenir program in each graduation, convocation, convention, the result is:
    program =. 1%
    PROGRAMME = 99%.
    See the gallerias, superstores, malls, the ads are:
    center = 51%
    CENTRE = 49%
    Yes, we’re aware.
    By Edgardo Valentino D. Olaes

    Comment by Edgardo V. Olaes — November 10, 2013 @ 1:17 am | Reply

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