Which is the correct spelling, “grey” or “gray”?

“Grey”, or “gray” — a description of a color somewhere between black and white — is a word seen commonly in everyday writing. It is used as an adjective, a verb, and sometime a noun. But you may have noticed that the spelling of this word sometimes changes between two versions, as written above. So which spelling is correct? Are both versions acceptable? Do they have slightly different meanings, or is it just a simple error when it is written differently? And which should you use in your own writing?

Actually, “grey” and “gray” are both correctly spelled words, and both mean exactly the same thing. The only real difference between them is a dialectical one. That is, when writing in the United States, the word is most commonly spelled “gray”, whereas in the United Kingdom it is usually spelled “grey”. A simple way to remember which country uses which spelling is to think of the “e” in “grey” as standing for “England”, and the “a” in “gray” as representing “America”.

In most cases, such as casual writing, letters, and creative writing, using either “gray” or “grey” is perfectly acceptable. Only in specific situations is only one version correct, such as in proper names, or when in writing in AP Style (only “gray” accepted), and in the case of the scientific measurement of “the gray”, which must always be spelled with an “a”.

Simply speaking, it’s fine to use either form. Just keep in mind the few simple rules above and you’re sure to always get the use of “grey” or “gray” right.


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