Humor or Humour – What’s the Difference?

If you want to write about a comedian’s ability to be funny, would you write about his or her sense of humor or humour?

Depending on where you are writing, you could actually use either term. The differences between these terms come down to spelling conventions between two English language communities.

What is the Difference Between Humor and Humour?

In this post, I will compare humour vs. humor. I will outline which language community used each spelling and explain when it would be appropriate for you to use each.

Plus, I will show you a memory tool that will allow you to choose either humour or humor correctly every time.

When to Use Humor

australian spelling of humourWhat does humor mean? Humor can be a noun or a verb.

As a noun, humor means being amusing or comical. Its associated adjective is humorous. A person who has a good sense of humor, for example, is good at making other people laugh.

Here are some more examples:

  • The first few seasons of the tv show succeeded on high drama, but as its cast aged, it began to rely more often on humor.
  • Kelsie will not date anyone who doesn’t have a good sense of humor.
  • For a long time, presidential humor was predictable as a knock-knock joke. –The Washington Post

As a verb, humor means to accommodate or entertain, especially to an unreasonable request. A father might humor his son by making sure none of the food on his dinner plate touches each other, for instance.

Here are a few more examples:

  • “I know you’ve explained it to your mother already, but humor me and tell my why you pulled up all the flowers in the garden,” said Margie’s dad.
  • The hotel humored its guests by bringing fresh towels as often as they requested them.

When to Use Humour

humour spellingWhat does humour mean? Humour is an alternate spelling of the same word. It is the predominant spelling in British English; American writers are more likely to use humor.

  • John Cleese has said that the James Bond film series has dispensed with its humour, in order to pander to Asian audiences. –The Guardian

This distinction follows the American convention of dropping the U from words that end in -our, like colour, labour, and honour. As you can see from the chart below, humour is much more common in British English sources,

how to spell humor

This chart isn’t exhaustive in its scope, since it only looks at books published in English since 1800, but it still allows us to visualize a long-term trend. The same caveats apply to the chart below, which graphs humor vs. humour in American English:

humor versus humour

As you can see, the charts are virtually opposites. Those writers using British English, England, Ireland, Australia, etc., all prefer humour. American writers, we can see, prefer humor by an even larger margin.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Humour and humor are actually the same word spelled two different ways, so which one you use depends on your intended audience.

  • If most of your readers will be British, choose humour.
  • If you are writing for a predominantly American audience, choose humor

Since humour has an extra U, like United Kingdom, it should be simple to save humour for British audiences.

Summary

Is it humor or humour? Humour and humor are spelling variants of the same word, which means the quality of being funny as a noun and to accommodate or entertain as a verb.

  • Humor is the American spelling.
  • Humour is the British spelling.