Grammar 5 min read

⛏️ Is Ax or Axe Correct? How to Quickly Tell the Difference

Main Ax or Axe Takeaways:

  • Ax and axe are both correct spellings. In fact, they are just different ways to spell the same word.
  • The only difference between these words is regional. Ax (no ‘e’) is more common in the U.S., while British English-speaking countries prefer axe (with the ‘e’).
  • The plural of both ax and axe is the same (axes).
  • Ax or axe refers to a tool used for chopping or a musician’s instrument.
  • Several popular idioms contain the word axe, including “get the axe and axe to grind.”
She used an ax to chop some wood for the fire.
She used an axe to chop some wood for the fire.
Our grandfather collected antique swords and axes.
Our grandfather collected antique swords and axs.

Could you say we’re cutting to the chase? Chopping down the myths? Helping you keep your mind sharp? Beyond a few ax puns, this article will give you a clear cut way to tell the difference between these two words and when you should use ax or axe.

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A boy holding two dictionaries. On his left hand is an American English dictionary and on his right hand is a British English dictionary. He's confused on whether to spell ax with or without e at the end.
Confused on whether to use ax or axe in your writing? Both spellings are correct and refer to the same thing – a tool used for cutting wood.

Is Ax or Axe Correct?

Both ax and axe and correct. They are just different versions of the same word. As a result, ax and axe are pronounced the same way and mean the same thing. The only difference between them is regional. For example, ax (without the ‘e’) is more common in American publications and other works by American writers. Conversely, axe (with the ‘e’) is popular where British English is spoken. However, both spellings are accepted universally. It’s important to note that the plural forms of both words look the sam (axes).

Choosing ax or axe depends on where you live and who you’re writing for.

How do you Spell Ax the Tool?

There are two valid and accepted ways to spell ax the tool. On one hand, ax (without the ‘e’) is more common in the U.S. On the other hand, axe (with an ‘e’) is more common in British English. You can spell the tool ax or axe.

Theresa used the ax to break down the wood into smaller pieces that would fit in the fireplace.
Before he left for work, he sharpened the blade on his axe.

The first example features the spelling more commonly used in the United States. The second example uses the axe spelling more frequently found in British English.

What is the Plural Form of Axe?

The plural form of the word axe is axes. You can also spell axe without the ‘e’ (ax), but the plural is still axes.

The store specializes in pocketknife and axe sharpening.
The store specializes in sharpening pocketknives and axes.
The roadie was in charge of all the musicians’ axs.
The roadie was in charge of all the musicians’ axes.
Image of two men. Man on the left is a lumberjack holding an ax. His helmet has an American and Canadian flag. On top of his head is the word AX, spelled without letter e at the end. To the right is a medieval English knight. He's wearing tunic and a helm while holding a poleax/pollaxe - a European polearm. On top of his head is the word axe, spelled with letter e at the end.
Ax is more often seen in American publications and other works by American writers. Axe is popular in Great Britain and some other English-speaking locales.

Ax or Ax Idioms

You can find ax or axe used quite frequently in idioms. Here are a fe common ones:

Ax Idiom # 1: Get the Axe

If someone or something is getting the ax, they’re getting fired or otherwise ended.

Once the second round of layoffs was announced, it was obvious the entire marketing team was getting the axe.

The same phrase could be used to indicate something that’s abruptly stopped, such as a performance.

The audience’s boos got louder and louder until the MC finally gave the suffering comedian the axe.

Axe Idiom #2: Have an Axe to Grind

Having an axe to grind means having a strong personal opinion and/or ulterior motive. The person in question is likely doing something for an underlying reason.

The school board members didn’t have an axe to grind; they just wanted the very best for the students.

It could also mean having a complaint that you want to discuss with the offender.

After the fifth time his wife left her dirty clothes on the bedroom floor, Bob had an axe to grind.

Ax or Axe Idiom #3: An Axe Hanging Over Something/Something

If something has an axe hanging over their head, they’re likely in danger of being fired.

Given his recent lackluster performance, Gabe could practically feel the axe hanging over his head.

The same phrase can be used to refer to something inanimate, such as a project.

We’re running out of money, and I can tell there’s an axe hanging over our home renovation plans.

The bottom line? The axe vs. ax debate isn’t that serious. Feel free to use either version. If you’re particularly concerned about aligning with local dialect, go with the spelling that’s more popular in your area.

So, is it axe or ax? Test Your Skills With This Quick Quiz

Ax vs. Axe Question #1

“Ax” and “axe” have the same meaning.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is True. They're pronounced the same, and they have the same meaning.

Ax or Axe Question #2

Which of these spellings is popular in American publications?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is AX. “Ax” is more common in American publications and other works by American writers.

Ax Question #3

Which of these is the plural form for “Ax”?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is B. “Ax” and “Axe” have the same plural form: “Axes.”

Axe Question #4

Which statement is correct?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is C. “Axe” refers to a long-handled chopping tool. It can also describe the action of cutting something or using the tool called an ax.

Ax Question #5

What does this sentence mean? Jane has an ax to grind.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is A. The sentence suggests that Jane is likely doing something for an underlying reason.

Ax or Axe
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Krista Grace Morris

Krista heads up Marketing and Content Creation here at INK. From Linguistics and History to puns and memes, she's interested in the systems we create to share our ideas with each other.

Comments (4)
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    Ryan Pietrzak July 03 at 11:52 pm GMT

    Cool stuff! Great article!

    • Profile Image
      Ryan Pietrzak July 03 at 11:58 pm GMT

      I personally always used to say axe and I’m from USA haha. I guess I was doing it UK style haha. Must be the small percentage of english in me haha

      • Profile Image
        Krista Grace Morris Author July 04 at 2:57 pm GMT

        What a difference one letter makes, right?! At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal style. Language is fluid. Just because a word is traditionally used in one way doesn’t mean that’s set in stone. I think the overall point of language is to express yourself. So if you’re an “axe” kind of guy, go for it! 😀 Thanks again for stopping by.

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      Krista Grace Morris Author July 04 at 2:54 pm GMT

      Thanks for reading, Ryan!

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