Friday, October 30, 2009

–ise vs –ize

Are criticize, analyze and televize American spellings?

Some quick answers: criticize is also possible in British English (BrE); analyze is found only in American English (AmE); and televize is possible in neither.

There is a widespread misconception that –ize is AmE and –ise, BrE.  It is worth remembering, however, that –ize has been in the English language since the 16th century — long before the founding of the United States of America as we know it.

While –ize is standard in AmE, it is also used by many BrE writers.  Reputable British publishers such as the Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, Longman and Macmillan, and newspapers such The Times, prefer –ize on the grounds that it is closer to the Greek root –izo (whereas –ise is French).

There are many words, however, which cannot, for etymological reasons, be spelt with –ize: advertise, advise, arise, circumcise, compromise, excise, exercise, improvise, incise, merchandise, premise, promise, revise, supervise, surmise, surprise and televise, to name a few.

Another point to note is that words ending in –yse cannot be spelt –yze in BrE, even by writers who prefer –ize: for example, analyse, catalyse, and paralyse.  (These spellings retain the s from the noun forms analysis, catalysis, and paralysis.)  In AmE, however, only –yze is used: analyze, catalyze, paralyze.

Hence, –yze is the only true AmE-only spelling, whereas –ize, though used chiefly in AmE, is hardly an American spelling since it has been in continuous use in BrE for the past five centuries.

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