Cancelled or Canceled: What's the Correct Spelling?

If you want to write the past tense version of the verb cancel, is cancelled or canceled the correct spelling? In the canceled vs. cancelled debate, there's no clear winner. Let's explore why both spelling variations are technically correct.

word canceled on calendar word canceled on calendar
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British English vs. American English

Similar to the grey vs. gray debate, how many Ls you include in canceled (or cancelled) boils down to which side of the Atlantic you call home. British English prefers the double-L, whereas American English tends to use the single-L. This means countries with close ties to either version of English generally will follow the rule for their dialect of choice.

What Does Canceled/Cancelled Mean?

Canceled and cancelled are the past tense versions of the verb cancel. If something's been canceled, it means it will no longer happen.

Sentence Examples for Canceled vs. Cancelled

Many words that end in "l" gain an extra "l" in British spellings when the word is extended with a suffix. Following this general spelling rule, other words with the base cancel will include the double-L for British English and the single-L for American English.

  • American English: Tomorrow's Black Friday sale has been canceled.
  • British English: Tomorrow's Boxing Day sale has been cancelled.
  • American English: I cried myself to sleep the day ABC canceled my favorite TV show.
  • British English: I cried myself to sleep the day the BBC cancelled my favorite TV programme.
  • American English: I was irritated when they canceled the concert because of an accident.
  • British English: I was irritated when they cancelled the Proms because of an accident.

News Headline Examples Using Canceled and Cancelled

Let's go to the tabloids and other news outlets to explore this double-L difference through examples.

  • A headline from the UK's Daily Mail: "All the shows Netflix cancelled in 2018"
  • A headline from the Belfast Telegraph: "Flights cancelled during another strike by Ryanair's Irish-based pilots"
  • A headline from the US outlet CBR.com: "If Netflix's Daredevil Is So Popular, Then Why Was It Canceled?"
  • The New York Times wrote: "What to Do if Your Flight Is Delayed or Canceled"
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Example Sentences for Cancelling or Canceling

Cancelling or canceling work the same way as canceled and cancelled. The British version has a double-L. See this through examples.

  • American English: Southwest Airlines is canceling my flight to Texas.
  • British English: British Airways is cancelling my flight to Dublin.
  • American English: I'm not canceling my party because of the snow.
  • British English: I'm not cancelling my party because of the rain.
  • American English: They are canceling all trains on the subway for the day.
  • British English: They are cancelling all trains on the metro for the day.

Using Cancelation or Cancellation

There is one area of agreement between the American and British spellings. While canceled and cancelled remain separate, cancellation and cancel remain the same on both continents. For example, both would say:

  • There was a cancellation in the prince's calendar, so he decided to meet her.
  • The president had a cancellation in his calendar.
  • The cancellation worked well for both the prime minister and the president.

However, both cancellation and cancelation are correct spellings, it's just that cancelation is rarely used in both American and British English.

A Brief History of Canceled/Cancelled

In the late 1700s, Noah Webster of the renowned Webster's Dictionary proposed various spelling reforms in the United States. One of his main goals was to shorten needlessly long words. In fact, Webster chopped off a lot of double-Ls.

Let's take a look at other words that got a trim, along with cancelled.

American English

British English

Canceled

Cancelled

Counselor

Counsellor

Equaled

Equalled

Fueling

Fuelling

Jewelry

Jewellery

Marvelous

Marvellous

Modeling

Modelling

Quarreling

Quarrelling

Reveled

Revelled

Traveled

Travelled

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Cancel the L?

Spelling canceled with one "l" or two is completely up to you, as long as you are consistent. If you're a student, ask your teacher which unusual English spellings are acceptable. Check out more American and British spelling of words to see how they are similar and different.