Language Tips

Spelling tip of the week – liaise

© 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.

One of the most frequent misspellings in searches of Macmillan Dictionary is *liase instead of liaise (as well as *liason for liaison). This is hardly surprising: while there are several English words that end with the letters -aise, there are to my knowledge no others that end -iaise. And while neither liaise nor liaison is particularly frequent, they are often used in business contexts, which presumably explains why they are frequently looked up: no one wants to make a spelling mistake in a business communication.

Liaise is one of those words that can bring you up short when you type it: even if you are confident of the spelling, it just looks as if it has one too many i’s. The reason for the extra ‘i’ lies, as so often, in the word’s etymology. Liaise is a fairly recent verb. It is a back formation from the noun liaison, which came into English in the 17th century as a cookery term from the French verb ‘lier’ meaning ‘to bind’. It is this French origin that is responsible for the two i’s in the spelling; and since both words would sound the same if they were written with a single ‘i’ it is not surprising that people often omit one of them. As so often with tricky spellings, I think this is one that just has to be learned.

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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