Apologize vs. apologise?

Feeling sorry? You might want to apologize or apologise. Both words are the same, we just use “apologize” in North America and “apologise” everywhere else.

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What is the difference between apologize and apologise?

English “apologize” and “apologise” are different spellings of the same word (depending on where you live, that is). Writers in the United States and Canada use “apologize” with the letter z, while writers outside of North America are more likely to use “apologise” with the letter s. 

If you’ve been following The Word Counter for a while, the topic of American English vs. British English is nothing new to you. There are literally hundreds of English spelling variations worldwide, and the correctness of one particular word tends to depend on geography, culture, and formality. 

We’ve even covered similar topics in lessons like “my apologies vs. my apology,” where we learnedmy apologies” is correct for making an apology in the present tense, while “my apology” cites an apology from the past. Clearly, this term is the source of lots of unnecessary confusion, so let’s try to put an end to the confusion once and for all. 

What does apologize or apologise mean?

As we now know, the words apologize and apologise are the same word and, thus, share the same meaning. If we confer with the New Oxford American Dictionary and Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, we’ll find that apologize is a verb we use intransitively to ‘express regret for something that one has done wrong or said’ (“Apologize” 73). 

In other words, American apologize and British apologise are actionable versions of the noun apology: a “regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure.” 

Sentence examples: 

  • “I need to apologize for discussing politics during Thanksgiving.”
  • “The athlete plans to apologize next Wednesday during the national tv broadcast.” 
  • “Editors of the Arizona newspaper apologized for their reporter’s poor attitude on social media.” 
  • “Politicians are apologizing on Facebook and Twitter for inadvertently suppressing free press.” 
  • “We apologize for intentionally excluding your business from our list of favorite websites.” 

Collins English Dictionary also defines apologize as meaning “to make an apology,” although the dictionary also states how the verb means “to make a formal defense in speech or writing.” In this case, the word apologize is directly related to nouns like apologia, apologetics, and apologist, which all involve the concept of a formal statement that provides an argument or justification for a behavior, theory, or belief (see FAQ for definitions). 

Synonyms

Ask/beg forgiveness, ask/bed for pardon, atone, confess, excuse, explain away, express regret, gloss over, justify, minimalize, palliate, rationalize, say sorry, soft-pedal, sugarcoat, varnish, whitewash.

Etymology of apologize

The word apologize derives from Greek apologizesthai (via apologos) to mean ‘give an account,’ although English adopted the verb in the 16th century to mean ‘make a defensive argument’ (73).  

Suffix breakdown: -ize vs. -ise

“Apologize” and “apologise” each derive from the word apology; their only difference is that one word ends with -ize and the other with -ise. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, English traditionally leans on Greek verb-forming elements, making -ize the standard suffix for verbs. However, varieties of English spellings became more common during Old French and Middle English when authorities of the French language standardized -s- spellings, influencing English speakers to do the same. 

Examples of apologize and apologise in print

  • “Two weeks later, a judge in Ecuador handed down the verdict against Chevron, then doubled the damages to $19 billion after Chevron refused an order to apologize.” — Wall Street Journal 
  • “In Brazil, the best way to apologize is by giving a small gift accompanied by a note of apology.” — Business News Daily
  • “Landlords apologize for ‘extremely insensitive’ video mocking displaced tenants forced out by massive rent hikes.” — Winnipeg Free Press 
  • “There are growing calls for the British government to apologise to the families of 10 people killed in Ballymurphy during a British army operation in 1971…” — The Guardian
  • “Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam have apologized to the team’s season-ticket holders following a 1-15 season.” — US News & World Report
  • “Nearly a third spontaneously apologized for their crimes and showed signs of true repentance, such as taking responsibility for their actions and expressions of empathy.” — Toronto Star
  • “The Board of Deputies of British Jews said while the costume was in bad taste members were pleased the prince had apologised, and Rabbi Jonathan Romain of the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain said it should be accepted.” — The Irish Times

FAQ: Related to apologize vs. apologise

What’s the difference between apologetic and apologetics?

According to Lexico, the word apologetic is an adjective that describes someone as “expressing or showing regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure” or “constituting a formal defense or justification of a theory or doctrine.”

 For example,

  • “The student was apologetic about their misspellings and punctuation mistakes.”
  • “The teacher responded with an apologetic critique of standardized English and how using a spell checker corrupts the creative writing process.” 

Plural apologetics is a noun that references “reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something,” which often involves a “theory or religious doctrine.” For example, 

  • “The poetry professor is known for his apologetics on writing issues caused by elitist varieties of English.” 

What about apologetics vs. apologia vs. apologist?

As shown above, “apologetics” is a plural noun that references a series of reasonable justifications for something (usually for a theory or religious doctrine). Singular apologia is very similar, except it’s a “formal written defense of one’s opinions or conduct.” For example, 

  • “You can read our teacher’s apologia for destandardizing grammar on the class  syllabus.”

In contrast, the noun apologist references a person who defends something an “unpopular” controversial belief. For example, 

  • “Members of the school board are apologists for standardized testing.”

Additional reading

For more lessons on the preferred spelling for American, British, or Canadian English, check out the following topics on The Word Counter

Test Yourself!

Test how well you understand the difference between apologize and apologise with the following multiple-choice questions. 

1. Apologize/apologise is a direct derivative of apology.
a. True
b. False

2. To apologize is to ______________. 
a. Express regret
b. Express sympathy
c. Express remorse
d. A and C 

3. The word ___________ is an American English variant.
a. Apologist
b. Apologise
c. Apologies
d. Apologize

4. The verb ___________ is a British variant. 
a. Apologize
b. Apologist
c. Apologetics
d. None of the above

5. Which of the following is a synonym for apologize or apologise? 
a. Vindication
b. Apostle
c. Atone
d. Wrongdoing

Choose the correct word for the following sentences: 

6. “The editors of HarperCollins Publishers expect a full ___________ from the defendant for their blatant copyright infringements.” 
a. Apologise
b. Apologies
c. Apology
d. Apologize


7. “The lead singer of the rock band plans to ___________ for trashing the original walkman, a Japanese Sony music unit released in 1979.” 
a. Apologise
b. Apologetic
c. Apologize
d. A or C


8. “The judge listened to the apologies of the guilty parties but felt they didn’t sound very ___________.”
a. Apologies
b. Apologetic
c. Apologia
d. B and C

Answers

  1. A
  2. D
  3. D
  4. D
  5. C
  6. C
  7. D
  8. B

Sources

  1. Apologetic.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2021.
  2. Apologetics.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2021.
  3. Apologia.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2021.
  4. Apologist.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2021.
  5. Apologize.” Collins English Dictionary, colinsdictionary.com, 2021. 
  6. Apologize.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2021.
  7. “Apologize.” The New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 73. 
  8. Apology.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2021.
  9. Carroll, R. “Pressure grows on UK to apologise over 1971 Belfast killings.” The Guardian, theguardian.com, 12 May 2021.
  10. Harper, D. “-ize.Online Etymology Dictionary, etymonline.com, 2021.
  11. Miller, F. “Apology for Harry’s Nazi outfit falls on deaf ears.” The Irish Times, irishtimes.com, 14 Jan 2005. 
  12. Randazzo, S. “Litigation Without End: Chevron Battles On in 28-Year-old Ecuador Lawsuit.” The Wall Street Journal, wsj.com, 2 May 2021.
  13. Schooley, S. “Apologies From Around the World.” Business News Daily, businessnewsdaily.com, 9 Apr 2019.
  14. Tyler, T. “Many death row prisoners want to apologize, Canadian study finds.” Toronto Star, thestar.com, 3 May 2021.
  15. Waldman, B. “Renovictions during a pandemic.” Winnipeg Free Press, winnipegfreepress.com, 22 Feb 2021.
  16. Withers, T. “Browns owners send letter of apology to ticket holders.” US News & World Report, usnews.com, 3 Jan 2017.