Color or Colour: What’s the Difference?

Americans have standardized around different spelling conventions from other parts of the world. There is a multiplicity of spelling differences between British and American English.

Like many such dilemmas, deciding whether to use color or colour depends on the added U in colour. This feature is common to the spellings of many words which differ between American and British English. The American effort to standardize around simpler spellings, where these existed, brought about such differences.

What is the Difference Between Color and Colour?

In this article, I will compare color vs. colour. I will also use both of these words in sentences, as well as reveal a useful trick to help decide whether colour or color is the more appropriate variant for your writing.

When to Use Color

Define colour and define color What does color mean? Color can be a noun or a verb.

As a noun, color is defined as a characteristic appearance achieved by reflecting certain frequencies of visible light while absorbing others. A blue surface, for instance, reflects blue frequencies of light, making the object in question appear blue.

As a verb, color is defined as to give something a shade or a hue. Coloring can be achieved with paints, pencils, or through use of digital software.

Below are examples of color in both its noun and verb forms.

  • Red is not the warmest color. (Noun)
  • “Oh Rachel, that color looks so good on you!” Bryan exclaimed. (Noun)
  • The water in the diving well turned a dark shade of green on Tuesday, and the larger pool began to turn the same color the following day. –New York Post (Noun)
  • “My children want you to color a picture with them,” the woman said to her realtor. (Verb)

The below graph that charts color vs. color in American English, and, as you can see, color is clearly the dominant spelling.


When to Use Colour

What does colour mean? Colour is the British English spelling of this word. It is applicable to all the same contexts as color.

  • The colour catches the eye. Polychromatic stone sculpture is not something we are quite used to. –The Telegraph

The below graph charts colour vs. color in British English, and, as you can see, colour has been vastly preferred since at least 1800. It does appear, however, that color is gaining ground, but colour is still the dominant spelling.

Definition of color definition of colour definition

Even though these charts aren’t exhaustive or scientific, they are useful for identifying long term trends.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Color and colour difference Here is a helpful trick to remember colour vs. color.

Color is preferred in American English. Colour is preferred in British English.

You can remember to use colour with primarily British audiences by noticing the U that colour has in common with United Kingdom. Since there is no U in the word America, you will know not to use colour when writing for American audiences.


Is it color or colour? Color and colour are alternate spellings of the same word. As a noun, the word refers to the various shades of visible light reflected back to the eye from a surface. As a verb, it refers to the action of imparting color to an object.

  • Color is the preferred spelling in American English.
  • In British English, colour is preferred.

You can remember to use colour with British audiences by noticing the U that colour has in common with United Kingdom.

Color and colour are a good example of spelling differences between American and British English. Be sure to check this website next time you have questions about the meanings of similar words, or about spelling differences between these two varieties of written English.