Canceled vs. cancelled?

Canceled is the American spelling of the British English verb, cancelled. Either spelling is correct, and they each represent the past tense and perfect participles of the verb cancel.

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What is the difference between canceled vs. cancelled?

We’re all familiar with the word canceled. Homebodies love it, and type-A’s hates it. But for everyone else, it’s just another excuse to debate over English grammar. 

The difference between canceled and cancelled is simple because they’re two spellings of the same word. Standard American English uses canceled with one l, while British, Canadian, and Australian English uses cancelled with two l’s. 

Who canceled the word cancelled?

If you can believe it, the cancelation of “cancelled” didn’t occur on Twitter. The spelling change allegedly occurred with the 1898 edition of Webster’s English Dictionary. But before the 20th century, it was common for English speakers of all nationalities to use either canceled or cancelled

At this point in history, American lexicographer Noah Webster made great strides to separate American English from British English. In addition to changing the word “cancelled” to “canceled,” Webster removed the letter u from “colour,” changed the suffix of -ise to -ize, and readjusted the final consonant of words like “theatre” to “theater.” 

Additional spelling discrepancies for American English include: 

So, which is correct: cancelled or canceled?

At the end of the day, both the American and British spellings are correct. But if you’re writing for an American audience, it’s best to use canceled instead of cancelled. The tricky part is remembering how to spell the verb’s related terms: cancellation, canceler, and cancelable

Cancellation

The word cancellation is a mass noun that’s spelled with double-l’s for American and British English. This is true across the board whether you ask GrammarlyMerriam-Webster’s Dictionary, Collins English Dictionary, or The Associated Press Stylebook. The only source that provides “cancelation” as an American alternative is Lexico (aka the Oxford Dictionary). 

Canceler or canceller

The noun canceler represents a device that’s capable of voiding something (e.g., a stamp). Apparently, you can spell the noun as canceler or canceller. Both are correct wherever you go. 

Cancelable or cancellable

The word cancelable (or cancellable) is the adjective form of cancel. As you might guess, “cancelable” is the preferred spelling in America because it was one l, while “cancellable” is preferred outside of the U.S. 

What is the definition of canceled?

The word canceled is the past tense form of the verb cancel. Other verb tenses of cancel include canceled/cancelled (past participle) and canceling/cancelling (present participle). 

We can use the verb cancel for many specific actions, such as:

  • To remove an event from a schedule.
  • To revoke a prior arrangement. 
  • To void a financial duty.
  • To invalidate something such as a check, ticket, stamp, etc. 

Example sentences include:

“I canceled my appointment.”
“The client contract is canceled.”
“My boss canceled the payment.”
“We canceled the cashier’s check.”

Another definition for the verb cancel involves the neutralization of two or more factors. For example, 

“If we mix one liquid with a high and a liquid with a low pH, the solution’s overall pH cancels out, and becomes neutral.”
“Algebraic expressions that are equal on both sides of an equation cancel each other out.”

*Usage note: It’s worth noting that if you describe something as “canceled” (e.g. “canceled check”), you’re using the verb as an adjective. 

Synonyms

Abandon, abort, delete, nullify, repeal, rescind, retract, revoke, terminate, void.

Antonyms

Begin, continue, enact, establish, formalize, keep, preserve, ratify, save, stet.

How to use canceled vs. cancelled in a sentence?

Canceled or cancelled represent the simple past tense and perfect participle (i.e., for a completed action) of the verb cancel. American English uses the single l while British English retains the double-l. 

British vs. American spelling examples:

Simple past tense: 

He canceled his subscription to the New York Times.” (U.S.)
“Google cancelled the recent web update for news sites.” (U.K.)

Present perfect tense: 

“We have canceled the tv show.” (U.S.)
“The tv show has cancelled all live participation.” (U.K.)

Future perfect tense: 

“They will have canceled the Olympics by then.” (U.S.)
“She will have cancelled the running event by then.” (U.K.)

Past perfect tense: 

“The freediving champion had canceled the trip because of COVID-19.” (U.S.)
“We had cancelled the competition before anyone could join.” (U.K.)

FAQ: Related to canceled vs. cancelled

If someone is “canceled” on Twitter, is it a verb or an adjective?

Since we use “canceled” as an adjective to describe a “canceled check,” it’s logical to assume that the slanderous term is an adjective as well. But while the term implies the state of someone’s social status, Twitter’s version of “canceled” is still a verb. 

Along with the Cambridge English Dictionary, we can define the informal canceled as the complete rejection of someone who committed a personal offense or broke cultural norms.

Example sentences for this context might include: 

That celebrity is canceled.”
“#celebrityiscanceledparty” (Twitter hashtag, not a formal sentence). 
“Twitter canceled me.”
“I canceled myself.”

Test Yourself!

Think you’ve mastered the English Language? Challenge your grammar know-how with the following questions on canceled vs. cancelled

  1. ____________ is the simple past tense of cancel. 
    a. Canceling
    b. Cancelled
    c. Canceled
    d. A and B
  2. ____________ is a preferred spelling for American publications.
    a. Cancellable 
    b. Cancelation
    c. Canceling
    d. Cancelled
  3. Which of the following is not a misspelling in the United Kingdom?
    a. Cancelation 
    b. Cancelable
    c. Canceller
    d. A and C
  4. Choose the correct spelling for English outside of the United States.
    a. Cancelar
    b. Cancellation
    c. Cancellar
    d. B and C
  5. Choose the correct verb tense for American audiences: “Death ____________ every single breath.”
    a. Cancels
    b. Cancelled
    c. Canceled
    d. B and C

Answers

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

Sources

  1. Abadi, M. “Americans and British people spell things differently largely thanks to one man with an opinion.” Business Insider, 26 Mar 2018. 
  2. AP Stylebook (2015). “AP Style Tip.” Facebook, 2020. 
  3. Cancel.” Cambridge Dictionary, Cambridge University Press, 2020.
  4. Cancel.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.
  5. Cancel.” Reverso Conjugator, Reverso-Softissimo, 2020. 
  6. Canceler or canceller.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2020.
  7. Cancellation.” Collins Online English Dictionary, 2020. 
  8. Cancellation.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2020.