Mom or Mum – What’s the Difference?

Our mothers have made many sacrifices for us, so it is important that we always speak to them with respect. The words you use to do so might be different in American and British English, though.

Depending on where you live in the world, you might call your mother mom or mum for short. Continue reading to learn more about the differences between these words.

What is the Difference Between Mom and Mum?

In this post, I will compare mom vs. mum and outline which language community uses which word. These examples will allow you to see each word in context. Plus, I will show you a helpful memory tool that you can use to choose either mum or mom next time you need one of these words.

When to Use Mom

mum mom mamWhat does mom mean? Mom is a noun. It is a shortened form of mother, which means a female parent or matriarch. Mom is very common in spoken American English, but in most written contexts, mother is more likely to appear.

For example,

  • “Mom, can I go to the mall with Jamie?” asked Caroline.
  • I play many roles every day; I am a business owner, a fitness coach, a wife, and a mom.
  • When Brad Richards learned Thursday that the mother of Martin St. Louis, his Rangers teammate and longtime friend, had unexpectedly died, his instincts were not about hockey. –The New York Times

When to Use Mum

define mom define mumWhat does mum mean? Mum can be a noun or an adjective.

As an adjective, mum is a synonym of silent, like in the phrase mum’s the word.

As a noun, mum has two meanings. A mum is a type of flower often grown for decorative purposes. It is also an alternate spelling of mom, where it means mother.

Mom is more common in American English, while mum is more common in British English. The charts below show the relative usage of mum vs. mom in both language communities. I have isolated the mother sense of mum by charting the phrases my mom and my mum.

American English:

mom versus mum

British English:

mom mum mommy

These charts aren’t scientifically accurate or completely exhaustive, however, since they only graph these words in books published in English since 1800, to the exclusion of spoken English and even other print sources. Still, they are a useful proxy for long-term usage trends that involve these words.

Here are some example sentences for mum.

  • My mum made biscuits; they’re not very good, but you can have some if you come to my house.
  • Torquil’s mum is going to be our chaperone on the museum field trip.
  • But the bank of Mum and Dad’s ascent is not a story to be applauded: it testifies to the UK’s failures. Parents are expected to lend more than £6.5bn to help their children buy a first property this year, a 30% increase on 2016, according to new research. –The Guardian

Trick to Remember the Difference

Since these words have the same meanings, it can be difficult to remember when to use mum or mom. Only mum is an adjective, so that is an easy choice.

  • For the word that means mother, your choice will depend upon your intended audience. American audiences almost never use mum in this context.
  • British audiences use both terms, but prefer mum.

Since mum and United Kingdom both contain the letter U, you can use that letter as a reminder the mum is the British version of this word.

Summary

Is it mom or mum? Mom and mum are two spelling variants of a noun that means a female parent.

  • Mum also has a few other meanings.
  • Mom is the American English version.
  • Mum is the British English version.