Ageing vs. aging?

The words ageing and aging are alternate spellings of the same word, but “ageing” is more common outside of the United States and Canada. 

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What is the difference between ageing and aging?

If you’re discussing someone that’s getting older, are they ageing or aging? As it turns out, both words are simply alternate spellings of the same word. 

The main difference between aging and ageing is simple: 

  • Ageing” is preferred for British English or English dialects outside of North America. 
  • Canadian and American English prefers the shortened form of “aging.” 

However, there are several other reasons why grammar students struggle to understand “aging” or “ageing.” 

The word aging is the present participle of the verb “age,” which means ‘to grow older,’ ‘mature,’ or ‘develop over time.’ But outside of its verb form, we can also use “aging” or “ageing” as a noun or adjective. 

The non-exclusive word use of “aging” or “ageing” is confusing at first, but with a little practice, The Word Counter will have your writing style back to A+ material in no time. 

What is the definition of aging or ageing?

The word “aging” or “ageing” is the present participle (gerund) of the verb “age,” while “aged” is the past participle (preterite) form. The term age is a noun, verb, or adjective, but English speakers use “aging” or “ageing” as a verb or an adjective. 

Aging or ageing as a verb

As a verb, the word aging (or ageing) means:

1. To become older or to show the effects of maturity or old age. For example, 

Aging can cause gray hair, wrinkles, and increased frailty.”
“Young people can expect to feel the effects of aging by their mid to late 20s’.” 

2. The process of developing a desirable characteristic over time (especially for certain foods and wine). For example,

“The gruyere cheese is aging in the cellar.” 
“Let the wine age before calling it ‘vintage.’” 

Verb synonyms

Age [1]: Advancing, developing, graying, growing up, maturing, progressing. 

Age [2]: Blooming, blossoming, developing, flourishing, maturing, opening, ripening.

Aging or ageing as an adjective

The Cambridge Dictionary defines “aging” as an adjective that describes: 

1. The process of getting older. For example,

Cellular senescence is a part of the aging process.” 

2. Someone or something that is becoming old.

“A healthy lifestyle can increase the life expectancy of aging populations.”

3. Appearing old (also as “aged”). 

“The aging building continues to crumble over time.”
“The cheese is aged.” 

4. For business terminology: something that is outdated or less powerful than before. For example, 

“We doubt the long term value of aging baseball cards.” 

Adjective synonyms

Adult, aged, ancient, elderly, geriatric, long-lived, mature, old, older, over-the-hell, retired, senescent, senior, unyoung. 

Aging or ageing as a noun

The word ageing or aging is a noncount noun that defines “the process of being old,” according to the MacMillan Dictionary. For example, 

“Skincare products can reduce the appearance of aging.” 

Noun synonyms

Advancement, age, maturity, maturation, old age, time. 

The etymology of “age

The word “age” traditionally indicates a length of time that something existed or a stage of life. The noun form originates from Latin “aetas” for ‘period of life’ and “aevum” for ‘lifetime’ or ‘eternity.’ 

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, Old French adapted the Latin terms around the late 13th century as “aage” or “eage” to mean ‘age,’ ‘life,’ or ‘maturity.’ But sometime during Middle English (c. 1150-1470), the modern use of “age” replaced Old English ‘eld’ for ‘old age’ or ‘period of life.’ 

English speakers did not use “age” as a verb to mean ‘grow old’ until the 14th century, while the adjective “aging” entered the scene around the mid-15th century. Even more surprising is that the noun “age” did not infer “a century” (as in ‘Middle Ages’) until the 19th century. 

How to use aging vs. ageing in a sentence?

Using the verb aging (or ageing) is tricky because it can infer different meanings for certain qualities. For instance, the verb “aging” may convey how someone is growing older, showing signs of maturity and old age, or developing an acquired quality over time. 

Alternatively, English speakers use the word “aging” or “ageing” to describe the act of declining, crumbling, or weakening. But since the verb can describe something through action or a state of being, we can also use “aging” or “ageing” as an adjective or noun. 

How to use aging or ageing as a verb

To use the verb form of aging or ageing correctly, the word must have the ability to transfer its definition to other tense forms without losing its intended meaning. “Age” tense forms include: 

Present tense: “I age” (or “she ages”). 

Present continuous: “I am aging.” 

Present perfect: “I have aged.”

Simple past tense:I aged.”

Past continuous: “I was aging.”

Past perfect: “I had aged.”

Future tense: “I will age.”

Future continuous: “I will be aging.” 

Future perfect: “I will have aged.”

How to use aging or ageing as an adjective

To use “aging” or “ageing” as an adjective, make sure it describes a noun. For example, 

“Health care professionals regularly warn aging populations about the risk factors associated with COVID-19.”

As shown above, the adjective “aging” describes nouns similarly to phrases like “older people,” “older adults,” or “age group.”

How to use aging or ageing as a noun

We can use aging or ageing as a noun to describe maturity or the process of getting older. Because the word aging is a noncount noun (i.e., it’s singular or plural without adding an “s”), it can represent one process of maturity or several. 

For example, 

“He will do anything to limit the signs of aging.” 
“Everyone experiences aging, whether you’re a teenager, adult, or entering the autumn of one’s life.” 

Aging vs. ageing in the press

When it comes to regional spelling differences, “aging” is the preferred spelling for American English, while “ageing” is more common in the United Kingdom (or outside North America). 

Let’s take a quick look at how “aging” and “ageing” exist within newspapers and websites around the world: 

The United States & Canada:

“Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to fight inflammation and maintain brain structure in aging brains.” –– CNN 
“… scientists aren’t sure what occurs in the brain with aging that contributes to Alzheimer’s.” –– Science Daily 
“A four-year-old dog is similar to a 52-year-old human. Then by seven years old, dog aging slows.” –– Today 
“… breathe new life into aging structures like the CIBC building.” –– Calgary Herald

The United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia:

“Does the key to anti-ageing lie in our bones?” –– The Guardian
“As a doctor and healthy ageing expert, I am also very conscious that my food choices can have a big impact on my health …” –– The Sydney Morning Herald
Ageing is often thought of as a gradual process that happens to the body…” –– BBC News
“The Italians have always enjoyed more neutral wines, light in aroma, alcohol and fruit, with no oak ageing.” –– The Irish Times

How to remember aging vs. ageing?

To remember the difference between aging and ageing, remember that “ageing” is the standard spelling for British English. Therefore, associate the extra letter E with “England.” 

Ageing” = “Ag-E-ing” = E = England 

FAQ: Related to ageing vs. aging?

Is there a difference between “agism vs. ageism” or “agist vs. ageist”?

The spelling differences for aging vs. ageing also extends to agism or ageism, which is the “prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age,” according to Lexico. American English uses “agism,” while British English prefers to use “ageism.” 

The same spelling variation applies to agist vs. ageist, which are adjectives that describe something as prejudiced or discriminatory against another person’s age. Again, “agist” is the preferred spelling for the US while “ageist” is typical for the UK. 

Test Yourself!

Do your grammar skills withstand the test of time? See how much you’ve learned about ageing vs. aging with the following multiple-choice questions.

  1. True or false: The correct spelling for American or Canadian English is “aging”? 
    a. True
    b. False
  2. The correct form of the verb “age” in the past tense is _____________.
    a. Aging
    b. Aged
    c. Ageing
    d. A and C
  3. For the following sentence, choose the word form of ‘aging:’ “The aging population is concerned about their well-being.”
    a. Noun
    b. Verb
    c. Adjective
    d. Adverb
  4. Which of the following phrases does not include the preferred spelling for British English?
    a. Ageing population
    b. Aging process
    c. Population ageing
    d. Ageing process 
  5. For the following sentence, choose the correct word for the verb ‘to age’: “The performer’s tweets did not ___________ well.” 
    a. Aging
    b. Ages
    c. Aged
    d. Age

Answers

  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. B
  5. D

Sources

  1. Age.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
  2. Age.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  3. Ageism.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  4. Ageing.” Macmillan Dictionary, Macmillan Education Limited, 2020. 
  5. Aging.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2020.
  6. Garmeson, Tom. “Why your organs might reach 100 even if you don’t.” BBC News, 25 June 2020. 
  7. Gregorevic, Kate. “Exactly what a doctor eats to promote healthy ageing.” The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 July 2020. 
  8. Harper, Douglas. “Age (n.).Online Etymology Dictionary, 2020. 
  9. To age.” Reverso Conjugation, Reverso-Softissimo, 2020. 
  10. Hudes, Sammy. “Inglewood residents push back against proposed 12-storey development.” Calgary Herald, 12 July 2020. 
  11. Kent, Lauren. “Eating fish could help protect aging brains from air pollution, study finds.” CNN, 15 July 2020. 
  12. Salk Institute. “Alzheimer’s drug candidates reverse broader aging, study shows.” ScienceDaily, 10 December 2019.
  13. Weisholtz, Drew. “Forget ‘dog years’: Scientists say we’ve been calculating our pups’ ages wrong.” Today, 7 July 2020. 
  14. Wilson, John. “Four well-priced alternatives to Pinot Grigio.” The Irish Times, 4 July 2020.