Drier vs. dryer?

The noun dryer references something (esp. a machine) that dries things. The word drier is the comparative of the adjective dry, meaning “more dry.

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What is the difference between drier and dryer?

When something is more dry than another, it’s “drier.” Anything that is the most dry is the “driest.” But if you need an appliance to “dry” something (such as your clothes), you’ll need to use a “dryer.” 

Key lesson points:

  • Drier” is a comparative adjective that describes things that are “more dry” than another.
  • Dryer” is a noun that references a machine or device we use to dry things. 
  • Dictionaries list “dryer” as a spelling variant of “drier,” although “dryer” is the dominant spelling.

As you can imagine, these terms are easily confused because they involve similar contexts and spellings while sharing the same pronunciation: “dry-er.” We spell the noun dryer using a -y- because it derives from the verb dry, meaning “to become dry” or “to remove moisture.” A dryer appliance does exactly that. 

What does drier mean?

The word drier is the comparative form of the adjective dry (the superlative being “driest”). As an adjective, the word dry has many connotations, but the essence of the word either means “completely free of moisture or liquid” or “lacking adornment.” 

For example,

  • “An umbrella will keep you dry in the rain.”
  • “If you don’t have butter or jam, the toast will taste dry.”

Thus, if something is “drier,” it is more dry than something else, and the “driest” is the most dry of all objects compared. 

For example,

  • “This sock is not dry, but it’s drier than the other clothes that came from the laundromat.” 
  • “The cookies are drier than normal, but not like the first batch you made. Those were the driest of them all.”

Published examples:

  • “That’s what Tucsonans will be doing if the drier, warmer-than-normal forecast put out by the National Weather Service on Monday comes to fruition.” — Arizona Daily Star
  • “In addition, drier soil contributes to malnutrition, and warming temperatures have contributed to higher numbers of dengue- and malaria-carrying mosquitoes, studies have found.” — The New York Times
  • “Many experts also find that OTC treatments that are typically used to treat teenage acne are too harsh on drier, thinner skin.” — Good Housekeeping
  • “A personal sommelier will consider your preferences, such as drier wines, and create a selection of wine just for you.” — Food & Wine Magazine

What does dryer mean?

The word dryer is a noun that commonly references a machine or device that dries something (e.g., clothes dryer, hairdryer, hand dryer, etc.). Otherwise, we use the term for anything that absorbs moisture or a substance that allows paint or ink to dry faster.

Published examples:

  • “In the near future, people will stop talking about eating Tide pods and start talking about whether we can cook full meals in the dryer.” — The New Yorker
  • “After years of building vacuums, hand dryers, fans, and air purifiers, the company has decided to make a hairdryer.” — WIRED
  • “This barrel evenly distributes heat from a blow dryer, which means your hair will dry quicker and more evenly than before.” — Elle
  • “Yes, there would be product recalls: smartkale that spontaneously explodes, smartschnapps that drains down to empty too quickly, smartpajamas that suddenly stop working after five or six cycles in the washer-dryer.” — The Wall Street Journal

Speaking of household appliances: The noun dryer makes several appearances within technical terms like air dryer, gas dryer, electric dryer, desiccant dryer, vented dryer, condenser dryer, heat pump condenser dryer–– the list goes on and on. 

These phrases are all specific to the function of a dryer apparatus, and they’re not necessarily pivotal for one’s understanding of the word. Nonetheless, it’s good to be aware of how you might encounter the noun in the real world. 

Published examples:

  • “Each dryer would include a wet scrubber, a filtration method to control or reduce particulate emissions.” — Detroit Free Press
  • “Using a refrigerant in condenser coils makes heat-pump dryers at least 28 percent more energy-efficient than standard dryers, according to the federal Energy Star program.” — The Washington Post
  • “Though there are small, 120-volt automatic dryers, most of them require a vent, which is a dealbreaker in most apartments…” — Wirecutter
  • “Desiccant dryers are designed with two possible paths for the compressed air through two identical desiccant beds that are located inside two pressure vessels, or the dryer towers.” — Plant Services

Additional reading

Drier vs. dryer is just one example of variant English spellings out there. If you’d like to learn more about tricky spelling differences, be sure to check out the following lessons on The Word Counter:

Test Yourself!

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

  1. True or false?: “Dryer” as a noun is a variant spelling of “drier.”
    a. True
    b. False
  2. True or false? When describing an appliance that dries something, “dryer” is the most common spelling to use.
    a. True
    b. False
  3. If something is drier than something else, the “most dry” is ____________.
    a. Dry
    b. Drier
    c. Driest
    d. B and C
  4. Which of the following sentences is incorrect?
    a. “Heat of compression dryers use heat from an air compressor for desiccant regeneration.”
    b. “Firefighters reminded residents to clean their dryer’s lint filters to avoid house fires.”
    c. “Most dryers have moisture sensors to detect the dampness of clothes.” 
    d. “Your cactus would thrive in much dryer conditions.”
  5. Which of the following sentences is incorrect?
    a. “Potential headaches and general irritability are potential disadvantages of traveling to a much drier climate.”
    b. “This heater is making the air feel dryer in the house.”
    c. “Gas dryers are expensive, but they are more cost-effective in the long run.”
    d. “I can assure you that a leaf blower is no substitute for a hairdryer.”

Select the correct missing word from the following sentences:

6. “Heat of compression _____________ use heat from an air compressor for desiccant regeneration.”
a. Dry
b. Drier
c. Driest
d. Dryer

7. “The new blow _____________ guarantees to keep those tresses untangled.” 
a. Dryer
b. Dried
c. Dry
d. Driest

8. “A condenser _____________ pushes air through a condenser to be warmed before sending it to the dryer drum.”
a. Drier
b. Dryed
c. Dryer
d. Dry

9. “Your laundry room should give the _____________ enough space for optimal air circulation.”
a. Dry
b. Dryer
c. Driest
d. Dryed

10. “If the _____________ drum is too full, your clothes will be less _____________ and smelly.”
a. Dry, dier
b. Drier, dry
c. Dryer, dier
d. Dryer, dry

Quiz Answers

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


  1. Celaya, E. “La Niña could bring Tucson a warmer, drier winter.” Arizona Daily Star, tucson.com, 1 Nov 2021.
  2. Dry.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2021.
  3. Dryer.” Lexico, Oxford University Press, 2021.
  4. Dryer.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., 2021.
  5. Freund, T. “The 13 Best Round Brushes For Salon-Worthy Blowouts.” Elle, elle.com, 25 Oct 2021.
  6. Gross, J. “‘Justice for my daughter’: Parents issue a plea on air pollution.” The New York Times, nytimes.com, 5 Nov 2021.
  7. Huber, J. “Are you ready for a heat-pump dryer?The Washington Post, washingtonpost.com, 21 Jun 2021.
  8. Jackson-Gibson, A. “How Menopause Changes Your Skin as You Age, According to Dermatologists.” Good Housekeeping, goodhousekeeping.com, 8 Nov 2021.
  9. Marshall, R. “Is your desiccant dryer running efficiently?Plant Services, plantservices.com, 8 Dec 2015. 
  10. Matheny, K. “Potash mine nears full approval in Osceola County, but concerns linger.” Detroit Free Press, freep.com, 5 Sept 2021.
  11. McCabe, L. “The Best Compact Washer and Dryer.” Wirecutter, nytimes.com, 28 Apr 2021.
  12. Mercado, M. “What will food be like in the future?The New Yorker, newyorker.com, 5 Feb 2018.
  13. Rhodes, M. “Dyson’s First-Ever Hair Dryer Will Make All Others Look Weak.” WIRED, wired.com, 27 Apr 2016.
  14. Queenan, J. “If We Upgrade Our Smartphones, Why Not Our Bread?The Wall Street Journal, wsj.com, 4 Nov 2021.
  15. Yauger, M. “The Best Wine Subscription Boxes for Every Palate.” Food & Wine Magazine, foodandwine.com, 11 Aug 2021.

Photos by Nicolas HIPPERT and Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash.