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nadir or zenith?

In the non-astronomical sense, zenith is used to mean high point or top, and nadir is used to mean low point or bottom.

named after or named for?

In British English the only choice is named after (named for is unheard of in the UK) and in US English both are common, though named for is probably more popular.

Native American or native American?

This is a proper noun, make it Native Indian. A synoynm is American Indian.

naturalist, naturist or nudist?

First, in Britain and the US a naturalist is someone who studies nature. In the UK, a naturist is what someone who prefers to engage in their favourite recreation unclothed will call themselves – British outsiders will usually call them nudists. In the US, the preferred term is nudist, which is used by both insiders and outsiders.

naught or nought?

The standard spelling is naught, meaning 'zero', and the latter is a variant spelling.

nauseated or nauseous?

depends: 'Nauseated' in Britain means 'disgusted' whereas 'nauseous' is to suffer from nausea. The use of 'nauseated' by Americans means to suffer from nausea, while 'nauseous' for them means 'likely to cause nausea'. There is some usage of nauseous in the British way, but American purists will likely be disgusted (rather than nauseated) by that particular form.

Neanderthal or Neandertal?

The preferred spelling in both British and US spelling is Neanderthal. Some US authorities accept Neandertal as an alternative spelling, but not in the UK.

neighbour/neighbourhood or neighbor/neighborhood?

neighbour and neighbourhood in British English and neighbor and neighborhood in US English.

neither is or neither are?

neither is the correct form in all forms of English.

Netherlands or Holland?

The nation is the Netherlands and Holland refers strictly to the western coastal regions or provinces. The people of both are Dutch. By anology, it is similar to Britain and England.

New Year's Eve

Don't forget the apostrophe.

nickle, nickel, nickelled or nickeled?

The spelling nickel is the US coin and nickle is the type metal. In US English, the correct derivative spelling is nickeled and (though rarely used) in British English the correct spelling is nickelled.

nitre or niter?

Not that you'd use this word very often, but if you do, the British spelling is nitre and the US spelling niter.

Nobel Prize or Nobel prize?

Nobel prize: It's a prize named after Nobel. Note also that it is the Nobel prize in Physics etc, not for.

nobody or no one?

These two words mean the same thing and have the same usage. The difference is simply choice. The Cambridge Guide to English Usage states that no one outnumbers nobody by 3:2 in both American and British usage.

no doubt that or no question that?

Take a sentence such as "There is no question of harmful chemicals being released into the air". Does no question mean that dangerous chemicals were indeed released into the air? It depends, because in the UK the statement will mean that there were no such chemicals (there is no possibility); and in the US it means that chemicals were indeed released (no doubt).

The use of 'no question that' is quite new to the UK, where 'no doubt that' is the more natural expression. For British English just stick to no doubt to avoid any ambiguity, or doubts. The use of 'no question that' is considered by many to be an Americanism, so use it there.

nonplussed or nonplused?

The standard, preferred spelling in both the UK and the US is nonplussed, while nonplused remains a minority variant in the US.

no one or nobody?

These two words mean the same thing and have the same usage. The difference is simply choice. The Cambridge Guide to English Usage states that no one outnumbers nobody by 3:2 in both American and British usage.

no-one or no one?

The modern-day spelling is no one, which is favoured by the OED, Fowler and American dictionaries, such as Webster's Third (1986).

There was a time when it used to be no-one in British English, but times have changed. Although a few dictionaries – such as Chambers – still list no-one as the first recommendation, no one is more common. No-one is not 'wrong', just increasingly old fashion, like 'to-day' or 'teen-ager', for example.

normalcy or normality?

The correct word in British English is normality ('back to normality') and standard in the US, although normalcy is a common variant.

nosey or nosy?

The British spelling is nosey and the American spelling is nosy.

notable or noteable?

The standard spelling in all forms of English is notable.


This page last updated: 15 November 2014

Jesse Karjalainen is the author of The Joy of English: 100 conversations about the English Language, Cannibal – the language and history of the discovery of the New World, and Roanoke – the language and history of Early Colonial America.