Language Tips

Spelling tip of the week – business

© Macmillan
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.

People searching for the word business in Macmillan Dictionary often mistakenly search for *buisness or *bussiness. Let’s look at them in turn.

The spelling *buisness is presumably the result of an awareness that there is an ‘i’ in there somewhere, combined with uncertainty about where to put it. But ‘buis-‘ is not a combination that ever occurs in English, as far as I’m aware. *Bussiness, meanwhile, is an example of the widespread confusion about the placement of double consonants, a topic covered in several posts in this series. Business does indeed contain a double ‘s’, but only one, and it comes at the end.

The word’s origin lies in the Old English ‘bisig’ meaning ‘careful or anxious’ plus the suffix ‘ness’; the shift in the spelling to ‘u’ occurred in the 15th century. This is not much help when trying to remember the current spelling though. It’s probably more useful to associate the word with the modern adjective busy and its related adverb busily, which will remind you both of the ‘u’ pronounced as /ɪ/ and of the single ‘s’.

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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