Word of the Day

judgment or judgement

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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


1. an opinion that you have after thinking carefully about something

2. a decision that is made by a judge in a court of law

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun judgement or judgment was borrowed from the French ‘judgement’. It was first used in English in the mid 13th century. Originally spelled with two ‘e’s’, the word was being spelled without the central vowel by the 16th century, after which both spellings were used.


There are two ways of spelling the noun that is the topic of this post: judgment and judgement. But which should you use, or doesn’t it matter? Macmillan Dictionary gives the main form as judgment, with judgement as a variant spelling in both the British and American versions. This reflects the data, both in a large corpus of contemporary English, and in the huge real-world corpus that is the World Wide Web. In both, judgment outnumbers judgement: by more than two to one in the real world and by almost four to one in the corpus. (The proportions are similar for the much less frequent adjective judg(e)mental). American English generally prefers the spelling judgment. In British English the picture is more complicated, with some authorities advising the use of judgement for the general meanings and judgment for the judicial one (number 2 above). This distinction does not seem to be holding firm though, if it ever did. While the British courts themselves, along with Parliament, use the spelling judgment on their official websites, both the corpus and the real world show a less clear-cut division. For example, the BBC spells the legal meaning both judgment and judgement on different websites; some sites go even further, using both spellings in the same story. Given the numerical superiority of the form without the middle ‘e’ you are probably OK using the spelling judgment in all contexts, though if you prefer to preserve the distinction and use judgement when not talking about judicial matters, or even use judgement in all cases, then that’s fine too.


“A Daniel come to judgment, yea, a Daniel!—
O wise young judge, how I do honour thee!”
(William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice)

Related words

court order, directive, injunction, verdict

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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