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Gray or Grey: Which is the Right Spelling?

Both grey with an 'e' and gray with an 'a' are correct spellings of the colour/shade, grey/gray.

Shades of grey/gray
Shades of grey/gray.

Gray vs. grey: what’s the difference?

Here’s a riddle to launch today’s lesson: what’s the shade that’s between black and white, but technically has no hue?

If you answered “grey“, you’d be right. You’d also be using the UK English spelling. If your answer is “gray” with an “a”, then this agrees with US spelling preferences. Both are correct spellings; the difference is where either spelling ought to be used:

  • UK English spells grey with an ‘e’.

  • US English spells gray with an ‘a’.

UK EnglishUS English
She was completely grey by the age of thirty.What will you do when you are old and gray?

Which is the correct spelling: gray or grey?‍

Part of speechSentences with “grey”/”gray”
adjectiveI hate these grey/gray days.
verbThe town’s population has greyed/grayed over the last two decades.
nounThe paints include an exquisite range of soft greys/grays.

As an adjective, grey/gray describes having the colour between black and white, or “of smoke or ashes“. Describing someone as having grey hair or eyes is the adjectival use, e.g., ‘his beard was going grey‘.

As a verb, grey/gray describes the actual (or temporal) becoming grey/gray. It’s common to hear this in conversation meaning greying hair. For example: his hair was greying at the sides.

As a noun, grey/gray means the colour between black and white, or “of smoke or ashes”. When we mention or refer to the shade itself, we are often using it as a noun, e.g., ‘the dull grey of the sky‘.‍

Grey (also gray) in sentences as an adjective

Her hair was turning grey/gray.

What will you do when you are old and grey/gray?

It was a grey/gray winter day.

My friends have all gone grey/gray.

Grey (and gray) in sentences as a verb

When the rest of the world is greying/graying, young Africans will form a growing part of the workforce of the future.

—Comfort Ero, Foreign Affairs, 12 Dec. 2023

And what about greying/graying performers who might have happily retired years ago, but still tour out of financial necessity?

—George Varga, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10 Dec. 2023

His hair was greying/graying at the sides.

A tall woman with greying/graying hair was standing over at the bar.

Synonyms of grey

  • steely
  • pewter
  • slate
  • Argentine
  • slaty
  • silver/silvery
  • leaden

Phrases with grey

All cats are grey in the darkMeaning appearances don’t matter at night because it’s too dark to tell the difference anyway…
To get grey hair from someoneA way of saying that someone’s causing you immense stress or irritation.
The men in grey/gray suitsA way to refer to business people, or “people in high places”.
The old grey/gray mare ain’t what she used to beSaid of something that’s obsolete, outdated or less operable than it once was.
Gray/grey divorce Referring to when older couples get divorced.
Gray matter Informally means intelligence, or the “type of tissue in your brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) that plays a crucial role in allowing you to function normally from day to day.” (Cleveland Clinic).
The gray/grey dollar An expression that refers to the purchasing power of older individuals.

Check out other commonly confused words

Commonly misused wordsUK English vs. US English
former vs. latterburned or burnt?
bear with vs. bare withcolor or colour?
breathe or breathfavorite vs. favourite
compliment vs. complementsmelled or smelt?
effect vs. affectspelled or spelt?
elude or alludefavor vs. favour
it’s or itsanalyze or analyse?


  1. Gray or grey, Grammarly, accessed on Oct 10, 2023.
  2. Grey, Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, accessed on Oct 9, 2023.
  3. Origin of grey, etymonline, accessed on Oct 9, 2023.
  4. “Argentine.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Feb. 2024.

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