Language Tips

Spelling tip of the week – barbecue

© Springer Nature
Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

In this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. In this series of spelling tips we will be looking at some of the most commonly misspelled words in English and suggesting ways to improve your spelling.

Those searching for the word barbecue in Macmillan Dictionary often type in barbeque, at which point they are directed to the entry for barbecue, where the alternative spelling is not currently given.

Most people would probably still say that barbecue is the correct spelling and barbeque is incorrect, but you will notice that I haven’t marked barbeque with the * to indicate a misspelling. This is because, while barbecue remains the most common form of the word in the corpus with 69,000 citations, barbeque is catching up fast with 24,000. The abbreviation BBQ is very common, as are respellings such as bar-b-que and bar-b-q, especially in commercial use.

The ‘q’ in the abbreviation may make it more likely that people will spell the full form with a ‘q’ as well. If we look again at corpus frequencies,  BBQ actually outstrips both of the full forms, with well over 90,000 citations. The respellings are less frequent, and mostly used in names of businesses, although people do also use them as substitutes for barbecue (or barbeque).

Etymologically barbecue comes from the Spanish ‘barbacoa’, which may itself come from an Arawak (a South American language) word for a wooden frame. Given the corpus frequencies we should and will modify the dictionary entry to give the common variant spelling barbeque.  Meanwhile, if you want a tip to remember the correct spelling, how about: ‘Summer weather is often the cue for a barbecue‘.

You can find some information on why English spelling is so difficult, as well as helpful tips on mastering it here. You can search for other posts in this series using the tag ‘spelling tips’.

More language tips

Browse the list under the ‘language tips‘ tag here on the blog for more useful language tips.

Would you like to improve your vocabulary? Follow our daily tweets @MacDictionary or visit our Facebook Page.

Email this Post Email this Post

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

Leave a Comment