Posted by: Jack Henry | June 16, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Aluminum vs Aluminium

Dear Editrix,

Why do Americans and Canadians say aluminum, while the British and other English speakers outside of North America say aluminium?

Meddling with Metal in Monett

Dear Mr. Metal,

I found all sorts of interesting information on this topic! Superficially, this is just another pair of words we spell differently from each other, such as dialog/dialogue, or color/colour. In this case, there is an extra “i” in the British spelling, so they say al-u-min-i-um.

What is interesting is that in 1812, the discoverer, Sir. H. Davy, named it alumium—a third and different spelling. Here is a brief article about it from The Grammarist:

Aluminum is the American and Canadian spelling for the silver-white metallic element (number 13 on the periodic table) abundant in the earth’s crust. Aluminium is the preferred spelling outside North America. Neither term is superior to the other, and both are etymologically and logically justifiable. Aluminum is older, while aluminium is more consistent with other element names such as helium, lithium, magnesium, and so on (though let’s not forget there are other -um elements—molybdenum, tantalum, and platinum).

Aluminium has the edge in scientific writing even in North America. This is primarily because several influential scientific organizations and publications prefer the spelling.


Nonscientific American and Canadian publications prefer aluminum in all contexts—for example:

· Aluminum has replaced steel in roof panels, saving another 15 pounds. [New
York Times

· The exterior is covered entirely in aluminum foil. [USA

And outside North America, aluminium is preferred—for example:

· This sleek duo are both constructed from aluminium. [Financial
Times (U.K.)

· Mr Howes said the contract was for 80 tonnes of aluminium extrusions. [Sydney
Morning Herald

· The Airport police on Tuesday arrested three people for stealing aluminium parts worth Rs 3.60 lakh. [Times
of India

And from my buddy Phil, something funny to start your weekend with:

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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