When choosing between color and colour, keep in mind that both spellings are correct. The shorter one, color, is the preferred spelling in the United States, while the rest of the English-speaking world uses the longer form, colour.

The question of exactly what a color is can be approached from several angles. You can approach it philosophically and ponder the nature of reality and our ability to perceive it. You can use psychology to think about color, and in that case, too, you’ll probably deal with perception and our interpretation of it. If you try to understand color through physics, you will have to think about light and wavelengths.

But if you want a simple explanation of what color is, we’ll offer you this one. Certain objects emit or reflect light. The light that’s emitted or reflected has a certain wavelength. This light is then perceived by the organs we have for visual perception, and depending on its wavelength, it is interpreted by our brains as a certain color. Color is, thus, not in the object that emits or reflects the light, but in the eye and the brain of the observer.

Why Do We Have Different Ways to Spell the Word Color?

When you spell the word color, you can do it in two ways—the one we’ve already used in this sentence, and another one—colour. Neither of the spellings is wrong, and they both mean exactly the same thing. You might have noticed that there are other words that have the same duality of spelling—words like “honor,” the past tense of the verb “spell,” “traveling,” and “favorite.” These variations in spelling exist because of differences between American English and British English. Color is the spelling used in the United States. Colour is used in other English-speaking countries.

The word color has its roots in the Latin word color. It entered Middle English through the Anglo-Norman colur, which was a version of the Old French colour. The current difference in spelling between the American and British variants is credited to the influence of Noah Webster, the American lexicographer. Seeking to establish American independence and identity in language, Webster implemented a number of spelling reformations in A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, which he published in 1806.

Which Spelling Should You Use?

There are a couple of ways you can choose which of the two spellings you should be using. You can, for example, choose the spelling that’s prevalent in the country you’re from—if you’re an American, use color. If you’re from any of the Commonwealth countries, use colour. If English is not your first language, use the spelling you were taught.

You can also choose to conform to the spelling that’s preferred by your audience. If you’re writing something that is supposed to be read by Americans, use the spelling they prefer. If you’re writing something for Brits, Australians, or Canadians, use the spelling they prefer.

If you’re still not sure which to choose, or if you’re writing for an international audience, the best thing to do is choose one of the spellings and stick with it. So choose consistency.

Examples of Color

The choice of Kaine is particularly glaring in light of the fact that people of color, especially African-Americans, hold the key to a Clinton victory.
The New York Times

These two types of pigment are eumelanin, which colors hair black or brown, and pheomelanin, which colors hair blonde or red.
Business Insider

Perhaps the color gray has finally found its match.
The Indianapolis Star

Examples of Colour

Out of 169 productions at this year’s festival, we could only find 14 that feature Indigenous performers and performers of colour.

The colour catches the eye.
The Telegraph

Purple was one of her favourite colours and her coffin was brought to the church in a horse drawn hearse with purple plumes on the horses.
Gloucestershire Live

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