Fifty Shades of Grey, Grey’s Anatomy, … But shouldn’t it be “gray”?
In today’s article, we will have a look at the question of “Grey or Gray?”. Which ones is correct and which one is wrong? Is there a certain context in which I can use one or the other? Questions over questions; we got the answers.
Is it grey or gray?
When it comes to the color, there is a very simply answer to the question of whether it is written with an “a” or an “e”: both is correct.
There simply is no “wrong” way to spell grey – or gray. Both terms are correct and differ in one thing only: the variant in which they are used. Thus, when in doubt, you can go by this very easy to remember rule:
In England it’s spelled grey,
In America it’s spelled gray.
The question of grey vs gray is only one of many that can be answered by a regional difference. British English and American English sometimes use different terms for the same thing, e.g. apartment and flat. In other circumstances, the spelling of words differ. Here are a few, well known other examples:
- color vs colour
- theater vs. theatre
- tire vs tyre
- to apologize vs to apologise
Of course every rule comes with its exceptions. However, in this case they are very easy to define:
The regional difference does not affect proper nouns!
This means that last names and proper names like Meredith Grey from Grey’s Anatomy as well as the tea Earl Grey do not follow the regional difference. Same goes for the popular dog breed the Greyhound (and the bus-line named after it).
Likewise, the quantity of radiation absorbed by food is always measured in Gray.
Interestingly, it seems that there indeed is a difference in color perception when it comes to grey and gray. Findings of a survey had actually showed that people imagine grey as a hue of silver whilst gray is perceived as the scale between black and white.
When it comes to the aforementioned dog breed, however, the “grey” part of the Greyhound does not refer to the dog’s color. According to several etymological findings, grey rather stems from an Old Norse word for a female dog, “bitch”.