Labeled vs. Labelled: What’s the Difference?

American and British English have many pesky spelling differences, often between two versions of the same word. These differences can be maddening for beginning writers and for learners of English.

When you mark something with its name or purpose, are you labeling it or labelling it? Has it been labeled or labelled? Americans would say you have labeled it, while the British would say that you have labelled it,.

Since you should always consider your audience when you are writing, it’s important to design your writing to make sense to either American or British readers, as the case may be. It would be inappropriate to use American spellings with a British audience, and vice versa.

What is the Difference Between Labeled and Labelled?

In this article, I will compare labeled vs. labeled. In addition to using each of them in a sentence, I will also discuss a useful trick to help remember whether you should use labelling or labeling in your own writing.

When to Use Labeled

labeled versus labelled What does labeled mean? As discussed above, labeled is the American spelling of this verb. Its other conjugations are labels and labeling. It means marking something with its name or purpose.

For example,

  • The Star Tribune first reported about the mislabeled pills in a story published on its website late Saturday. –LA Times

As mentioned above, this spelling difference also holds true with other conjugations of the verb.

For example,

  • Michael occupies himself during boring conference calls by labeling folders in his file cabinet with stickers from the electronic label maker.

In a more social context, labeling can refer to reducing a person’s identity to one defining characteristic, like in the sentence below:

  • The jocks and skaters at the local high school usually do not get along, but they banded together to protest the labeling of their cliques according to their preferred activities.

Labeling might also mean giving a problem or obstacle a name in order to make it easier to solve it or accept it. See the example below.

  • By labeling his dwarfism as a charming quirk rather than a medical defect, Bryan was able to accept himself as a fully functioning, competent human.

When to Use Labelled

Definition of labelled definition and definition of labeled definitionWhat does labelled mean? Labeled is the British spelling of the same word. It can be used in any of the contexts discussed above, but should be used with British, rather than American, audiences.

For example,

  • Food packaging will be labelled to show how many teaspoons of sugar or salt are being added in a move made possible by leaving European Union, the Department of Health has said. –The Telegraph

The Telegraph is a large British publication, so they use the spelling labelled in the above example.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define labelled and define labeledHere is a helpful trick to remember labelled vs. labeled.

You should use labeled/labeling with American audiences, whereas labelled/labelling should be reserved for British audiences.

You can remember to use labelled with British audiences by considering that labelled has a double l, much like the British towns Cullompton, Ellesmere, and Ferryhill.

Summary

Is it labeled or labelled? Labeling and labelling are alternate spellings of the same verb.

  • Labeled and labeling are the accepted forms in American English.
  • Labelling and labelling are the accepted forms in British English.

You can remember to reserve labelled for writing designed for a predominantly British audience by thinking about the ll. The British towns Collumpton, Ellesmere, and Ferryhill also feature a double l, so it shouldn’t be difficult to remember that labelling, like these three towns, is British.

If you require additional assistance, you can always refer back to this article for a quick refresher on whether to use labeling or labelling in your writing.