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“Gray Or Grey” – When To Use These Two Words?

by Mashum Mollah

One of the biggest confusions of the English dictionary is the spelling of gray or grey. While people use both these spellings, and it necessarily means the same, there is still a lot of confusion surrounding the topic.

People often get confused if they should use grey or gray when they write an article.

So, do you think this confusion should persist? Well, not because we have got you covered. Just keep reading this article, and we promise you will resolve the dilemma between grey vs. gray.

Gray Or Grey-Which Is Correct?

Gray Or Grey-Which Is Correct?

If you want to know between grey or gray which is correct, you have come to the right place. The color that falls between black and white is called grey.

Now, the word’s spelling can either be gray or grey, but both are right. While the Americans prefer using ‘gray,’ British English is more concentrated on ‘grey.’  

As long as you use the word to refer to a color, you can use either gray or grey. Mostly, for the American audience, you will have to write gray while referring to the color gray or grey.

However, for the British audience, you must write grey while referring to the color grey or gray.

Grey or Gray – Where did the word come from?

Both the spellings – Grey and Gray originated from the old English word ‘Grǽg.’The word ‘Grǽg’ closely resembles the German word ‘grau’ and the Dutch word ‘grauw.’ Over time, several versions of the old English word ‘Grǽg’ surfaced. One of the earliest versions of the spelling “greie” can be seen in a Middle English poem called “The Owl and the Nightingale” which was written in the 13th century.

The English translation of the French Poem from the 14th century titled “Roman de la Rose” uses the spelling “greye”. In another Middle English poem called “Piers Plowman” by William Langland, the spelling “Graye” can be seen.

While the spelling ‘grey’ began to gain popularity around the 18th century, Samuel Jackson, the renowned lexicographer was of the view that the spelling “grey” was comparatively better. Following Samuel Jackson’s suggestion, English Dictionaries in the 19th century included “Gray” as the correct version. 

It did not make any difference as by the twentieth century, the spelling “grey” became the more commonly accepted version. However, in the United States, “gray” was the more popular spelling.

How To Use Gray Or Grey?

How To Use Gray Or Grey?

Are you still wondering is it grey or gray? Then, you have come to the right place. If you know the meaning of the word, you must also learn how to use it.

Apart from the difference between the American and the British audiences, there’s also a difference between the noun and adjective forms.

When you use the word as a noun, it does not matter whether you use gray or grey, but both mean the shade of color. However, when you use the word as an adjective, it will mean a lack of interest.

Apart from these, people also use the word as a verb to refer to the aging process. Now, the spelling difference does not bother any of these instances. But, there are some exceptions to this case. Let’s take a look.

What Are The Exceptions?

Some words have the word gray or grey transfixed in them, so you cannot change them as per their previous flexibility in these cases. 

Proper Name

If someone’s proper name has the word gray or grey, you cannot change the spelling then. For example, the famous earl grey tea was derived from the name of Charles Grey. Now, when someone’s character has the spelling ‘grey’ in it, you can’t change it to gray.

Dog Breed

There’s a famous greyhound dog breed, so you can’t spell it like a greyhound. That will be a spelling mistake, and if you write it, your marks will get deducted.

Energy Measuring Indicator

There’s a scientific indicator for measuring energy which is called ‘gray’. So, you can’t write it as ‘grey’ now because that will be wrong. One gray is equivalent to a hundred rads, so you can’t spell it as ‘grey’. 

Grey or Gray: Examples

We have provided a list of sentences below which will help you to understand how to use the word grey/gray in different situations: 

  • It was a grey/gray, wet Sunday in the month of June.
  • I rode a beautiful grey/gray horse at the farm I visited with my family last weekend.
  • A large grey/gray cat was asleep on a rocking chair.
  • I noticed my father going grey/gray and realised suddenly that he is getting on in years.
  • The law needs to be changed as there are grey/gray areas.
  • My sister’s hair is starting to show tinges of grey/gray.
  • Sam’s face was grey with fatigue.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]

Here we have a few more handpicked questions for you to clarify your confusion of gray or grey. So let’s take a look?

1: Is The Word Gray A Homophone?

Ans: If a word has the same pronunciation but different spelling and meaning in the English language, it is a homophone. Now, the word gray or grey has the same meaning mostly, but their spellings are different. Even the words also mean different sometimes when they are spelled differently, so they are homophones.

2: Why Is Grey Spelled Two Ways?

Ans: The old English form of the word grey was ‘grǽg’. So, there’s no difference in their meaning. However, they are spelled in two ways because the gray spelling is more prevalent in America. But, the grey spelling is more commonplace in the U.K.

3: Is The Hair Gray Or Grey?

Ans: When you talk about grey hair, you can use grey or gray; it doesn’t matter. Both will be right depending upon the origin of the audience you write for. ,


If you think you have to write either gray or grey in writing, you are right. Just get an idea of the audience you are writing for, and then decide. But, you better be consistent with your spelling throughout an article.

If you write grey sometimes and write gray some other times, your teacher may deduce your marks. If you have any further questions, please post them in the comment box.

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