Have you ever wondered why the British and Americans spell some words differently?

You can blame it on Noah Webster (1758-1843).

When Noah Webster started putting his dictionary together, he thought it would be a good idea to simplify some English spelling and that -our was one ending he thought we could do without. Standard American spelling, ever since then, has sometimes been different from British. Webster was a nationalist and his campaign for spelling reform was driven as much by his belief that America needed to develop its own culture as his belief in simplified spelling. Webster published his American Dictionary of the English Language in 1828.

When discussing Webster’s influence, Christopher Dobbs, former Executive Director of the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society, wrote:

In 1783, Webster published Volume 1 of A Grammatical Institute of the English Language (a.k.a., The American Spelling Book but best known for the color of its binding as the Blue-Backed Speller). Webster believed that the fledgling country needed its own textbooks and a codified language around which to unite. He wrote, “Now is the time and this the country in which we may expect success in attempting changes to language, science, and government. Let us then seize the present moment and establish a national language as well as a national government.” His speller, later reader, and grammar all incorporated American heroes and authors with the goal of creating national symbols to galvanize the country. Between 1783 and the early 1900s it is estimated that Webster’s spelling book sold nearly 100 million copies. Over 30 influential textbooks followed, including History of the United States, the nation’s first full-length history.- See more at

Here is a list of common words that are spelled differently by the British and Americans:

canceled cancelled
center centre
check cheque
color colour
criticize criticise
gray grey
humor humour
judgment judgement
labor labour
license licence
realize realise
theater theatre
tire tyre
valor valour

Looking for more information? According to Grammar Girl, The Economist, a British publication, has an interesting page about Americanisms in their online style guide. I went looking for it and it is everything you thought it would be. I made it into a pdf for easy reading and you can find it here.