Behaviour or Behavior: What’s The Difference?

Have you ever wondered what the difference between behaviour and behavior is in the English language? You have come to the right place. Many English words are spelled and pronounced in a similar manner. In this case they are the same noun with alternative spellings. 

The preferred spelling is behavior in American English and in British English, behaviour is the preferred standard of spelling.  Making the choice between the American spelling and the British spelling does not have to be a challenge. A great tip would be, to know your audience when you’re considering which spelling to choose. If you are using the word outside of the United States, it may be more appropriate to utilize the British English spelling.

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Meaning of the Word Behavior

According to the Merriam-Webster English dictionary the definition of behavior is:

  1. The particular way in which someone conducts themselves or behaves.
  2.  A. The manner of conducting oneself, demeanour
    B. Anything that an organism does involving action and in response to stimulation.
    C. The response of an individual, group, or species in its environment.”
  3. The way in which something functions or operates.

Although behavior and behaviour are spelled differently they have the exact same meaning. 

Psychological Definition of the Word Behavior

n. an action, activity, or process which can be observed and measured. Often, these actions, activities, and processes are initiated in response to stimuli which are either internal or external. The results of studies on these must be objective, however, in order to be reliable and valid for scientific purposes.

The Origin of the Word Behavior

“manner of behaving (whether good or bad behaviour), conduct, manners,” late 15c., essentially from behave, but with ending from Middle English havour “possession,” a word altered (by influence of have) from aver, noun use of Old French verb aveir “to have.”

25 Example Sentences With the Word Behavior or Behaviour

  1. The scientist is studying how to use behavior to determine personality.
  2. The welder tested the behavior of different metals under pressure and heat.
  3. She will be honored for her good behavior.
  4. The puppy changed his behavior around its new owner. 
  5. The teacher will not allow disruptive behavior. 
  6. “I can’t understand why Gidgets behavior changed so much when her parents left.”
  7. “John’s behavior is unacceptable.”
  8. “The behavior of predatory animals has always fascinated me.”
  9. “Why in the world would you change your behavior based on what others think?”
  10. “ The kitten’s behavior is understandable considering she is just a baby.”
  11. “A change in behavior may be observed if there is damage to the brain.” The doctor said. 
  12. “Your behavior changes depending upon your environment.”
  13. The zookeeper noticed a change in the behavior of the penguin when it lost its partner.
  14. You have been on your best behavior. 
  15. “Your bad behavior will receive a time-out as punishment.”
  16. “Her behavior was appropriate considering the day she has had.”
  17. “ Please do not model poor behavior.”
  18. “The mouse was given a piece of cheese to reinforce positive behavior.
  19. “That dog needs behavior modification immediately.”
  20. “The child was tired and exhibiting changed behavior.”
  21. “The serious nature of the behaviour of the small boy was unexpected given his age.”
  22. “ The freedom children feel when they display silly behaviour is remarkable.”
  23. “ It has been so refreshing to see you on your best behaviour.”
  24. “What strange behaviour Jenny exhibited today.”
  25. “I appreciate your behaviour while the substitute teacher stepped in for Mrs. Jones.” 

Synonyms for the Word Behavior

  • Role
  • Presence
  • Practice
  • Performance
  • Nature
  • Management
  • Demeanor
  • Conduct
  • Attitude
  • Action
  • Act

Human Social Norms as It Pertains to the Word Behavior

Societal norms are often used as a benchmark for abnormal vs. normal behavior. In other words, the behavior of humans is often judged based on the standards set in motion by society. What is acceptable behavior in some cultures is certainly not the case for others. Behavior can also be modified depending on negative or positive factors of the environment a person is in.

Key Points

We have discussed the origin, definition, synonyms and much more regarding the words behavior vs. behaviour.  I hope you have come to the conclusion that there is no right or wrong way to spell behavior. The difference really boils down to audience and geographic preference. 

Key points include:

  1. Behavior and behaviour have the exact same meaning.
  2. The distinction applies to all derivatives of the word behavior. Example: behavioral vs behavioural.
  3. Know your audience. If you are speaking to an audience outside of the United States the spelling is often changed to reflect the preferred standard of British English.


I remember the days in high school when I would agonize over a report that I had to turn in. I remember anxiously waiting for my paper to be returned to me so that I could apply the feedback from my English teacher. I did not have the luxury of easy access to the internet and Google had just launched. 

If you find yourself questioning how to spell a word, in need of reevaluating your grammar, or identifying the number of characters in a sentence, there are many free programs to assist you. With the use of the internet, refining your language skills has never been easier to do. With the click of a few buttons, you are now able to insert your work and have it reviewed. 

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I hope you can rest with ease with the knowledge that there are many reputable programs available to you in refining your writing skills. A writing task that used to be shrouded with a cloud of intimidation can now be easily executed in a very short time. You can now put away any pre-assignment jitters and feel confident in the skills you obtain.