Language Tips

Spelling tip of the week – arbitrary

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 in Macmillan Dictionary for the adjective arbitrary often miss out the middle ‘r’, spelling it *arbitary.

People often have difficulty spelling words that seem to have too many of a particular letter, such as arbitrary with its three ‘r’s. An additional problem is that in many British pronunciations, though not American, the second ‘r’ is not fully sounded.

A few English words start with the combination arbitr-, including arbitration and arbitrage. They all come from the same Latin roots, the noun ‘arbiter’ meaning ‘judge’ and the related verb and adjective, ‘arbitrari’ and ‘arbitrarius’. There are no English words that start with the combination arbita-. So remembering that there is always an ‘r’ after the ‘t’ will help you spell these words correctly.

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’.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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