Why Is “Airplane” Also Spelled “Aeroplane”?

The spelling difference is more than a matter of personal preference.

Technically, both “airplane” and “aeroplane” are correct, since they’re the same word spelled differently. Why is that, exactly? It has to do with many words in the English language coming from other languages, like Latin, Greek, and French.

Which is correct: Airplane or aeroplane?

Words, a lot of the time, come from other words. Sometimes, the words we use now are shortened versions of the original word, including shortening “airplane” to simply “plane.” But what was the original meaning of the words “airplane” and “aeroplane”?

The history of “airplane” and “aeroplane”

According to Merriam-Webster, the first known use of the word “airplane” was in 1906, about three years after the Wright brothers took to the air on the first successful flight with the “flying machine.”

When was “airplane” first used?

There’s a lot of history that goes beyond words and dives deep into politics, government, and science. “Aeroplane” is no exception. “We’re comfortable with ‘aero’ in scientific jargon, but as planes became more common things to talk about, the ‘aero’ seemed too fancy,” explains Murphy.

Shifting from “aeroplane” to “airplane”

The differences between the words “airplane” and “aeroplane” go beyond the invention of the airplane. When the United States wanted independence from Great Britain, that also included dictionaries full of separate and distinct spelling of words.

Airplane and aeroplane: Byproducts of English words and “fancy” spellings

Spelling variations were more variant during that time than today. “Choosing the less ‘fancy’ spelling was something that Noah Webster, America’s first important lexicographer, did as a patriotic act

However, there’s a good reason why words that mean the same thing are spelled differently, and why that will continue to happen. “Your spelling tells people where you’re from, and people are generally proud of where they’re from, so they continue to spell differently,” says Murphy.