Grammar 4 min read

Is it Cancelled or Canceled? Why They're Both Correct

Main Cancelled or Canceled Takeaways:

  • Canceled and cancelled are both correct spellings.
  • The only difference is regional. American English prefers the single-L spelling while British English prefers the two Ls.
  • Cancelling and canceling follow the same regional preferences as cancelled and canceled.
  • Always spell cancellation with two Ls.
  • The single-L variation originates from an American trend to simplify spellings.
Our friends from Houston confirmed that the concert was canceled.
Our team at the London office called to say that the quarterly planning tomorrow is cancelled.

Which is Correct: Cancelled or Canceled?

Cancelled or canceled are both correct spellings for the past tense of the verb to cancel.The only difference between them is regional. For example, canceled (one L) is more common in American English. On the other hand, cancelled (two Ls) is more common in British English and other dialects. Similarly, cancelling with two Ls is more popular in British English while canceling with one L is the preferred spelling in the United States. However, there is only one correct way to spell cancellation. It’s important to note that the correct way to spell cancellation is always with two Ls, no matter your location.

The word cancelled, spelled with two letter Ls, beside a British flag. The word canceled, spelled with one L, beside an American flag. A British man holding a tea cup and an American man doing a thumb's up.
Is it cancelled or canceled? The answer is: both words are correct. British English speakers prefer to spell it “cancelled,” while Americans spell it “canceled.”
(American English):He canceled the show a few minutes before it starts due to an emergency.
(American English):Hes upset to hear them talking about canceling the trip.
(British English):The school principal cancelled all classes when some pipes in the cafeteria burst suddenly.
(British English):After dozens of complaints, he finally considered cancelling the controversial interview.

Is it Cancelled or Canceled in Canada?

Canadians spell cancelled the British way with two Ls. While Canada is located in North America, the country is still part of the British Commonwealth. Therefore, Canadians tend to speak and write British English. Similarly, cancelled has two Ls in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and other Commonwealth countries.

Canceledand cancelled are both correct ways to write the past tense of cancel. It’s a verb that means, among other things, to call off something planned.

When Did Cancelled Become Canceled?

Cancelled became canceled most likely between 1806 and 1828. For instance, in the 1806 version of Webster’s Dictionary, the word two L-spelling of the past tense verb appears. However, in the 1828 edition, the one L-version canceled appeared. As a result, some grammar history buffs credit Noah Webster of Webster’s Dictionaries with the American English spelling of canceled. He believed that many British English spellings were unnecessarily complex. For this reason, he aimed to simply many British spellings into their modern American equivalents.

In addition to cancelled becoming canceled, the 1828 Edition featured other American “improvements” like:

  • waggon to wagon
  • centre to center
  • apologise to apologize
A young lady who looks frustrated while talking to someone on her mobile device. She's saying that she's canceled her date for that night.
The second L was dropped by the Americans in the British word “cancelled” to shorten the said word’s spelling.

It’s not certain if these 19th-century dictionaries created the spelling difference. However, Webster’s newest volumes often included the most common variation at the time.

If you look at U.S. versus U.K. spellings, you’ll notice plenty of spelling differences. For example, U.S. versions are often shorter and simpler. They usually also follow the pronunciation more closely.

Other examples of British/American spelling differences include:

  • Colour/color
  • Traveller/traveler
  • Manoeuvre/maneuver

Cancellation: The Exception to The Rule

There are two acceptable past tense spellings of the verb to cancel.

However, there is only one acceptable spelling for the noun cancellation. Always spell cancellation with two Ls, whether speak British or American English.

Recap: Canceled vs. Cancelled

It’s every traveler’s nightmare. Snow is falling. Ice covers roads and runways. All flights are canceled

…or are they cancelled?

If you’re wondering whether to use cancelled or canceled, well, it might depend on where you’re from.

It’s easy to forget an L when there should be two or to add an L when there should only be one. Here’s the bottom line. Whether you spell it cancelled or canceled, it doesn’t really matter.

Despite each country’s spelling preferences, they’re just that—preferences. Neither way is actually wrong.

If you’re in the United States and want to add that extra L, go ahead. Be bold! Be a rebel!

If you’re in Great Britain and want to leave off that second L, go for it. No matter how you spell it, you won’t be wrong.

Is it Cancelled or Canceled? See how you Score

Cancelled or Canceled Question #1

Canceled and cancelled mean the same thing in the English Language.
Correct! Wrong!

The answer is TRUE. Both words refer to the past tense of cancel.

Canceled Question #2

Which statement is true?
Correct! Wrong!

The answer is D. There's a single 'l' in the American spelling.

Cancelled Question #3

Which version of Webster's Dictionary first dropped the second l in cancelled?
Correct! Wrong!

The answer is B. The second 'l' was dropped from cancelled in the 1828 edition of Webster's Dictionary.

Cancelled vs Canceled Question #4

Like cancelled, which word is NOT an American spelling?
Correct! Wrong!

The answer is D. The American spelling of the word colour is color.

Cancellation Question #5

Which spelling is correct according to American English?
Correct! Wrong!

The answer is A. The spelling for cancellation remains the same, whether it’s American or British English.

Read More: Among Vs. Amongst: Their Differences And Proper Usage

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Pam Weber

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, Writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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