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Theatre or Theater? How is “Theatre” Spelled?

Theatre or theater?



If you’re questioning whether “theatre” and “theater” mean the same thing despite being spelled differently, the answer is that they do. Both are correct spellings of the word and noun where people go for entertainment, such as the cinema.



Theatre vs. theater

A theatre is a noun and place that refers to, “a building or an outdoor area where plays and similar types of entertainment are performed”. The difference between them lies in their regional spelling conventions and preferences:


  • US English prefers to spell “theater” with –er at the end.


  • UK English prefers “theatre” with –re.



Other “-er”/”-re” words (like theatre or theater)

Other words that share the “-er” / “-re” suffixes carry the same spelling pattern according to US/UK English rules:


UK EnglishUS English
centrecenter
theatretheater
fibrefiber
metremeter



Other US/UK English spelling differences

There are numerous differences between UK and US English in terms of their spelling. Most commonly, we see the following:


Words with –our/-or (either at the end of interior of a word), as in:


  • US English prefers –or: color, favor, labor, humor.


  • UK English preference is –our: colour, favour, labour, humour.


Note: many countries in Asia conform to UK British English rules; such as, Cambodia, China (mainland), Singapore, Myanmar and Malaysia (this list is non-exhaustive). Australia, Canada and New Zealand mostly conform to UK English rules, albeit with variations and exceptions.


The Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan all use American English, and some countries (such as Indonesia) ostensibly use both.



“Theatre” / “theater”, used in sentences

Examples: “theatre“/”theater“, used in sentences
I haven’t been to the theatre/theater for a long time.

The pier has a unique little puppet theatre/theater.

The theatre/theater was packed for the opening night.

We were at the theatre/theater last night.

There’s a bar in the theatre/theater.



“Theatre”, synonyms

  • amphitheater (or amphitheatre)
  • arena
  • assembly hall
  • auditorium
  • cinema
  • concert hall
  • venue
  • playhouse
  • site



Origin of “theatre”

From Etymonline:


Late 14c., “open air place in ancient times for viewing spectacles and plays,” from Old French theatre, and directly from Latin theatrum “play-house, theater; stage; spectators in a theater”, from Greek theatron “theater; the people in the theater; a show, a spectacle,” literally “place for viewing”. 



Learn more about US English vs. UK English



Sources

  1. Harper, Douglas. “Etymology of theatre.” Online Etymology Dictionary, Accessed 11 February, 2024.
  2. Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, theatre.


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