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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Is the spelling adaptor or adapter?

If we check the online British Oxford Dictionary, we’ll see the spelling as adapter, with adaptor listed as a secondary spelling. Because there’s no free online Australian dictionary complete with descriptions, Australians often refer to overseas dictionaries such as the British Oxford Dictionary, Wikitionary, Collins, or the Merriam Webster. Unfortunately, the overseas English dictionaries can lead Australians to use the wrong spelling, or a secondary spelling of a word. Using word-processing software such as Microsoft Office also doesn’t help the writer, as Microsoft Office includes thousands of secondary spelling variations, leaving it up to the writer to decide their primary spelling.

If we check the Macquarie Dictionary and the Australian Oxford dictionary, adaptor is the primary spelling and adapter is listed as a secondary spelling.

Even though both Australian authoritative references agree on the primary spelling, actual usage as shown by searching Google for sites ending in .au shows a fairly close usage of both spelling variations. For “double adaptor” versus “double adapter”, the search results are 15,000 and 11,800 respectively. Certainly not as clear a margin as you’d expect. For other searches the results can flip.

The US dictionary the Merriam Webster, states for the adapter entry, “less commonly adaptor”. It is possible, with so much American technology influencing our lives, the American spelling may be having a significant impact on Australian spelling.

For the moment, adaptor can be considered the primary spelling based on the Australian authoritative references, however, don’t be surprised if this changes in the future.

Kelvin Eldridge
The preferred Australian English Spelling.

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