Incase or Encase – Which is Correct?

If you have done any significant amount of reading in English, you will notice that some verbs involving placing things inside other things begin with the prefix en-, while others begin with in-.

There is no single rule for deciding which word gets which prefix. English borrowed the en- prefix from French, while in- comes from Old English, where it was originally borrowed from Latin.

Some writers would consider tracing every word back to its origins a fascinating enterprise, while others would consider it a tedious chore.

If you belong in the second category, you probably don’t have time to go digging though etymology to find out whether incase or encase is the correct spelling of that particular verb. Lucky for you, all you have to do is read this post.

What is the Difference Between Incase and Encase?

In this article, I will compare incase vs. encase. I will use each of these words in example sentences, so you can see how they appear in context.

Plus, I will use a mnemonic device that will also help you remember which of these words is correct.

When to Use Encase

Definition of encase definition of incase definitionWhat does encase mean? The word encase is a verb. Encase means to protect something within a covering. One might encase a valued instrument in a protective box, for instance, or an insect larva might encase itself in a chrysalis while it undergoes metamorphosis.

Encase follows the conjugation rules of regular English verbs. Here are some common conjugations of encase in the present tense,

  • First person: I/we encase
  • Second person: You encase
  • Third person singular: He/she/it encases
  • Third person plural: They encase

Next, here are some examples of this verb in sentences,

  • The crew of the space expedition brought back an alien life form encased in a block of blue ice.
  • To preserve your ancestors, mummify their bodies and encase them in an ornate sarcophagus for thousands of years.
  • Because your iPhone is so visible, whatever you use to encase it becomes a defining personal statement. –The Wall Street Journal

When to Use Incase

how do you spell incaseWhat does incase mean? Incase is an outdated spelling of encase. Although it was more common in years past, it has fallen out of favor precipitously in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The chart below shows the relative usage of encase vs. incase in English over the past two centuries,

incase versus encase

While this chart measures only books, it is a helpful guide for long-term trends.

There is also a company that bears the name Incase. This, of course, is a proper noun and should always be spelled Incase.

  • That’s why the Andy Warhol Foundation agreed to lend his work to a new series of iPhone and iPad cases, sleeves and bags from Incase. –The New York Times

Trick to Know the Difference

Define encase and define incaseEncase and incase are two ways to spell the same word, one of which is standard and one of which is nonstandard and outdated.

  • Today, only encase is standard.
  • Incase would be considered a spelling error in most formal writing contexts.

If you were writing in centuries past, you might have chosen incase, but today, encase is the proper form. Since encase and verb both contain the letter E, it should be little trouble remembering that this version is correct.

Summary

Is it encase or incase? Encase is a verb that means to place in a protective shell or box. Incase is a spelling variant that has been outplaced by encase for almost 200 years.

To summarize,

  • Encase is the standard form of this word.
  • Incase is an outdated, historical spelling.
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