Is It Gray or Grey (Color)? | Spelling & Examples

UK vs US updated on  January 10, 2024 4 min read
Gray and grey are two ways of spelling the same word, used to describe the shade between black and white. It’s used as an adjective to describe something of that color, as a noun to refer to the color itself, or as a verb to describe the act of becoming that color.

The spelling depends on whether you use British English or American English:

  • In American English, “gray” is correct.
  • In British English, “grey” is the usual spelling.
It’s important to choose one spelling and use it consistently. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you with this.

Examples: Gray or grey in a sentence
The gray/grey skies forebode an impending rainstorm.
The artist mixed various shades of gray/grey to create a monochromatic painting.
Paul’s hair started to gray/grey when he was only 21.


In some cases, the spelling of gray or grey is fixed, no matter the version of English. This is true for proper nouns such as the tea blend Earl Grey (never “Earl Gray”) and for the name of the dog breed the greyhound (never “grayhound”).

Grays or greys

The plural noun form of gray or grey is grays or greys, which refers to multiple gray hairs or multiple shades of gray. This is also the third person singular verb form (e.g., “he grays/greys”). The same spelling difference applies:

  • In American English, “grays” is correct for both the noun and verb.
  • In British English, “greys” is correct for both the noun and verb.
It’s important to choose one spelling and use it consistently. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you with this.

Examples: Grays or greys in a sentence
My grays/greys are starting to show so I want to start dyeing my hair.
His hair grays/greys very slowly, just like his father’s.
Which of the grays/greys is your favorite?

Graying or greying

The spelling difference also applies to the present participle forms of the verb, which is also used as an adjective literally to mean becoming gray or euphemistically to mean “ageing.”

  • In American English, “graying” is correct.
  • In British English, “greying” is most common.
Examples: Graying or greying in a sentence
Your dad didn’t start graying/greying until his late fifties!
The graying/greying population is a significant demographic trend in many countries.
I don’t mind the graying/greying, but I dislike my wrinkles.

Grayed or greyed

The spelling difference is also true for the past tense or past participle forms of the verb.

  • In American English, “grayed” is correct.
  • In British English, “greyed” is the usual spelling.
Examples: Grayed or greyed in a sentence
The dog’s face grayed/greyed slightly as he grew older.
The sky grayed/greyed as the storm clouds rolled in, obscuring the sun.
The old white walls of the house had grayed/greyed with time and weathering.

Main differences between American and British English

American and British English are very similar, but there are a few main differences in spelling. Five important differences are:

Difference

Rule

Examples

-or vs -our

In American English, many Latin-derived words end in -or.

In British English, these same words end in -our.

Behavior or behaviour
Labor or labour
Favor or favour
Favorite or favourite
Color or colour
Honor or honour

-er vs -re

In American English, some French, Latin, or Greek words end in -er.

In British English, these same words end in -re.

Theater or theatre
Center or centre
Meter or metre
Liter or litre
Saber or sabre
Fiber or fibre

-ize vs -ise

In American English, many Greek-derived words end in -yze or -ize.

In British English, these words end in -yse or -ise.

Realize or realise
Recognize or recognise
Analyze or analyse
Organisation or organization
Minimize or minimise
Finalize or finalise

-ed vs -t

In American English, most verbs are regular and form their past tense with the suffix -ed.

In British English, some of these verbs are irregular and form their past tense with the suffix -t.

Learned or learnt
Burned or burnt
Kneeled or knelt
Dreamed or dreamt
Smelled or smelt
Spelled or spelt

Single vs double consonant

In American English, many words are spelled with a single consonant.

In British English, these same words are spelled with a double consonant.

Modeling or modelling
Traveling or travelling
Canceled or cancelled
Labeled or labelled
Buses or busses
Focused or focussed

Do you want to know more about commas, parts of speech, email, or other language topics? Check out some of our other language articles full of examples and quizzes.


US vs UK

Commas

Commonly confused words

Modelling vs modeling

Comma before or after so

Into vs in to

Defence vs defense

Comma before or

Awhile vs a while

Favourite vs favorite

Comma before while

A vs an

Theatre vs theater

Comma before which

Its vs it’s

Organisation vs organization

Comma splice

Use to or used to


Frequently asked questions about gray or grey

Is it grayed out or greyed out?

Gray and grey are two spellings of the same noun, adjective, or verb. The spelling depends on the type of English:

  • In American English, you use “gray,” so grayed out is correct.
  • In British English, you use “grey,” so greyed out is correct.

The adjective grayed out or grayed out refers to something like a menu item or button on a computer screen that’s not highlighted, indicating that it’s inactive.

It's important to choose one spelling and use it consistently. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you with this.

Is it gray area or grey area?

Gray and grey are two spellings of the same noun, adjective, or verb. The spelling depends on the type of English.

  • In American English, you use “gray,” so gray area is correct.
  • In British English, you use “grey,” so grey area is correct.

Gray area or grey area refers to a difficult (moral) dilemma or a situation with unknown rules.

It's important to choose one spelling and use it consistently. The QuillBot Grammar Checker can help you with this.

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Julia Merkus

Julia has master's degrees in Linguistics and Language and speech pathology. Her expertise lies in grammar, language and speech disorders, foreign language learning, and child language acquisition.

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