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Axe vs. Ax

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Sometimes, words are spelled differently in British and American English, even if the words’ meanings don’t change. This can be confusing, but there is usually an easy way to remember.

Ax and axe are a good illustration of this principle. The two words mean the same thing and can be used in the same situations, but one is preferred in American English and the other is primarily used in British English. Read on to find out whether you should choose ax or axe in your writing.

In this article, we will compare ax and axe. We’ll go over their uses, provide a sentence example of each, and we’ll also reveal a helpful trick for keeping these terms straight.

Origin:

The word axe originated from Old English æx, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch aaks and German Axt.

Axe as noun:

Axe is a tool used for chopping wood, typically of iron with a steel edge and wooden handle.

I started swinging the axe at the lumps of driftwood.

Axe as verb:

Axe is also used as a verb which means to end, cancel, or dismiss suddenly and ruthlessly.

The company is axing 125 jobs.

To cut or strike with an axe, especially violently or destructively is also called axe.

The mahogany panelling had been axed.

Use of ax:

Ax without e are the spellings used in American English. Axe also appears in American English, but the newer spelling, ax, has gained ground over the last half century and is now more common.

Examples:

Legislature: Youth receiving centers face budget ax [Salt Lake Tribune]

Police say a call about Santa Claus running around a Buffalo Grove, Ill., neighborhood brandishing an ax turned out to be a student film project. [UPI.com]

But Ryan’s budget axe comes down hardest on Medicaid — not Medicare. [Washington Post Wonkbook blog]

Use of Axe:

Axe is standard in varieties of English from outside the U.S. and is common in British, Ireland, Australia and Canada. These are the original spellings and should be used according to the audiences’ preference.

Examples:

Redditch United axe playing budget as manager leaves [BBC News]

Winnipeg Police are looking for suspects after three men were allegedly attacked with an axe late Friday night. [CBC]

Last month, the district council put forward proposals to axe travel tokens for its residents to save £88,000 a year … [Herald Series]

Woodchipper Gunns may be running out of time to stop an axe from falling on its head. [Sydney Morning Herald]

Axe or ax:

Ax and axe are variant spellings of the same word. Ax/Axe can be a noun or a verb, and both spellings can be used in all the same contexts. Axe has been the more common spelling for several centuries in British and American English, but in America ax has gained in popularity in recent times. To summarize, Ax and Axe can be used in American English. Axe is the correct British English spelling. Axe should be used if your writing will have a primarily British audience. You can remember to use this spelling by thinking of the extra “E” on the end as standing for England.

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"Axe vs. Ax." Grammar.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2017. Web. 19 Nov. 2017. <http://www.grammar.com/axe_vs._ax>.

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