Grammar Gage vs. Gauge: Is There a Difference? |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Gage vs. Gauge: Is There a Difference?

Do you know the difference between the words gauge and gage? Is there a difference at all? Is one just a misspelling of the other?

If you’ve ever wondered, this discussion will help to clear things up.

The Meaning of Gauge

To establish the difference between gage and gauge, we should note that, at least in American English, gauge is used far more often. It’s a word that has a couple of meanings.

As a noun, it refers to an object that measures things or is the unit of measurement itself. For example, you might come across:

a gauge in the cockpit of an airplane

a shotgun shell that is measured in a specific gauge to denote its size or weight

something being used as a tool of measurement (e.g., the stock market as a gauge for the health of the American economy)

These are all examples of gauge being used as a noun. You can see how each refers to measurement.

As a verb, gauge means something similar. It is the act of measuring something.

Examples

You should never jump off a cliff if you can’t gauge the depth of the water below.

The firm conducted a poll to gauge interest in their newest product.

It takes a lot of math to gauge the distance between two comets.

You can see how the word gauge is used for the action of measurement.

The Meaning of Gage

In most contexts, gage is simply a misspelling of the more popular gauge. With its unusual “u,” the generally correct version is easy to get wrong.

However, it’s also worth noting that you could come across the word gage in older English texts. Although it has fallen out of favor, it used to describe collateral that would be given as part of a loan or a pledge. For instance, your home could serve as a gage for a lender.

This usage is rare in the U.S., however, so it’s unlikely you’ll encounter it in your daily reading. If you do, it will usually be a mistake as opposed to this uncommon application.

The Bottom Line on Gauge vs. Gage

The words gage and gauge have very similar spellings and pronunciations, but they don’t mean the same thing. For that reason, you should take care to note the correct spelling and proper usage of each.

In general, that will mean spelling the word you want as gauge and being on the lookout for any typos or mistakes.

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