Grammar Is It Gray or Grey? Same Color, Different Spelling |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Is It Gray or Grey? Same Color, Different Spelling

As much as we love the English language, we have to admit it can be a little confusing sometimes. It includes words with nearly identical spellings but entirely different meanings. In other cases, as we’ll see in a moment, a single word can be spelled in more than one way.

Have you ever asked yourself whether gray or grey is the correct spelling? This is a common question, because you will often see this color—which lies between absolutes of white and black—spelled in two different ways. This discussion will help you understand why that is.

So Is It Gray or Grey?

Let’s start by answering the question at hand: both gray and grey are acceptable spellings. The difference is typically regional. In the United States, we normally spell gray with an a. In other countries, such as the United Kingdom, grey is spelled with an e.

This bit of variation is reflected in other small differences. For example:

The color gray is my favorite (US), versus
The colour grey is my favourite (UK).

What makes the gray versus grey debate slightly different is that it’s common to see either one used in places where another spelling is dominant, such as with o or ou in the example above.

The bottom line is that gray and grey mean the same thing, but the a spelling is the more popular and preferred version in the U.S.

One Other Quick Reminder About the Word Gray

Since you’re obviously someone who cares about good grammar, we’ll fill you in on one more gray area (sorry—we couldn’t resist) surrounding this term.

Although most English speakers will know that gray can be used as a noun (the color itself) and an adjective (describing something as the color), some may forget that it can also serve as a verb.

In such a usage, to gray means “to change toward the color gray,” as in the following examples:

My worry is that my hair will continue to gray with age.
The sky tends to gray quickly when a rainstorm approaches.

Although you might not run into these types of statements very often, it’s useful to remember that the word gray can refer to an action and still be grammatically correct.

Ready to Sharpen Your Grammar Even More?

Here at our blog you will find dozens of articles explaining all kinds of grammar details, and we add more every week. We hope you’ll check back soon. If you have further thoughts or questions about the topic being discussed, simply leave us a comment below. Some of our reader correspondence even inspires future blog posts and newsletter articles!


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