Licence VS. License: Spelling Rules

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Which one should you use, licence vs. license? Are they even spelled correctly? As it turns out, there is a right way and a wrong way to spell these words, but the pronunciation is the same for both. Let’s take a closer look at the difference between licence and license and when to use each.

Licence vs. License

What is a Licence vs. License?

In the United States, the noun “license” is the preferred spelling, while in the rest of the English-speaking world, “licence” is more common. Both are correct, but there is a distinction between the two words. A license (noun) is a permission to do something, granted by a government or other authority. For example, you need a driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle.

A licence (noun) generally refers to a formal document that gives someone permission to do something. In some cases, it may be physical, like a fishing licence or hunting licence. More often, however, it refers to intangible permission, such as a software licence or a creative commons licence. There is no difference in meaning between the two spellings, but “license” is more common in American English, while “licence” is more common elsewhere.

The Difference between Licence and License

If you’re like me, you’ve probably seen both spellings and wondered if there’s a difference. Well, there is! The word license (noun and verb) is always spelled with a “c,” while the word licence (noun) is always spelled with an “s.” But why? It turns out that these two words have different origins. License comes from the Old French word licencier, which comes from the Latin wordlicentia, meaning “freedom.”

Licence, on the other hand, comes from the Old French word licence, which derives from the Latin wordlicentia, meaning “permission.” As a result of these different origins, the two words have acquired different meanings. License now refers to a legal permission or authority to do something, while licence tends to be used in British English to refer to a diploma or certificate. So next time you see these two spellings, you’ll know which one to use!

When to Use Licence vs. License

If you write about software, get in the habit of using “license” as a verb and “licensing” as a noun. If you use “licence,” people will think you’re Canadian. And if you say “software license,” they’ll think you work at a bank. (I’m not sure why that is, but it’s true). The word “license” comes from the Latin licentia, which means permission. You can see the related word in reluctant, for example.

When we add an -e to the end of a word, we usually do so to make it look more French (compare pair and pere). But the French don’t actually use licence very much–they prefer the version without the -e. If you want to be really consistent, spell it “program” too–and drop the u from colour while you’re at it. As long as we’re being picky, you should also remember that a “license” is a document, but it grants the holder “licence” to do something. For example, if your driver’s license gets revoked, you’ve lost the licence to drive.

But don’t worry too much about it. You’ll be fine if you just stick with one spelling and use it consistently. Just remember that when you’re talking about legal documents, the preferred spelling is “license.” And if you’re writing for an international audience, it’s safer to go with “licence”–just in case.

Grammar Rules for Licence vs. License

If you’re ever unsure whether to use licence or license, just remember this simple rule: licence is a noun, and license is a verb. In other words, you can be licensed to do something (by someone who holds the appropriate licences). The word license comes from the Latin word licentia, which means “freedom.” So when you’re using it as a verb, it literally means “to set free.”

For example, you might say, “I’m going to license my dog.” This means you’re giving your dog the freedom to roam around without being on a leash. Make sense? I hope so. If not, just remember: licence is a noun and license is a verb. And if you can’t remember which is which, just use the verb form. It’s less likely to trip you up.

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Usage Examples of Licence and License

In the U.S., the word license is a verb that means to permit someone to do something, or to certify that someone is qualified to do something. For example, you might need a license to drive a car or to operate a business. The word license can also be used as a noun, referring to the document that gives someone permission to do something.

In the U.K., licence is both a noun and a verb, with the same meaning as in the U.S. For example, you might need a driving licence or a business licence. While the spelling may be different, the pronunciation is the same in both countries.


There are a few key things to remember when spelling licence and license. A licence is a type of license, which is a legal document that gives someone permission to do something. It’s important to note the difference between these two words and to use them correctly in order to avoid confusion.


Why are there two different spellings for these words?

The word licence is the British English spelling of the word, while the word license is the American English spelling. There are a few differences between British and American English, one of which is spelling. In general, words that end with -se in British English are spelled with -ce in American English.

So which spelling should I use?

The spelling you should use depends on your audience. If you are writing for an American audience, use the spelling license. If you are writing for a British audience, use the spelling licence.

Are there any other rules I should know about when it comes to these words?

Yes! The word license can be used as a noun or a verb, but the word licence can only be used as a noun. This means that you can say things like “I have a license to drive” or “I need to license my car,” but you can only say “I have a licence to drive” in British English.

Are there any other words that are spelled differently in British and American English?

Yes, many words are spelled differently in British and American English. Some other examples include:

  • Colour/color
  • tyre/tire
  • travelled/traveled

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