Difference Between Offence and Offense

English is such a language where spellings undergo evolution. In both Britain and America, the same word can have two different spellings. One such word is offence/offense. Though both are correct when spelling and pronunciation are concerned, they have a few differences regarding their origin. British English, which is rather widely used, spells this word as ‘o-f-f-e-n-c-e.’ However, it is spelled as ‘o-f-f-e-n-s-e’ in American English. It must be remembered that both can be used, and it would still be correct.

Offence vs Offense

The main difference between offence and offense is that the word offence with a c originated in Britain; it is a British English word. On the other hand, the word offense that has an s has its roots in America. Though old English used different spellings, a predefined framework was set up after dictionaries were invented. There are also specific other parameters where differentiation is possible.

Offence vs Offense

The word offence was used during the nineteenth century; this spelling was widely used in narratives, periodicals, and books. The dictionary spelling of this word is also the same, which still makes it the most commonly accepted. During the 1540s, this word was invented. It was mainly used to criticize the works of several poets and authors. At present, this word means something criminal. An action that hurts the sentiments of people in some way uses the adjective form of this word, that is – offensive.

The word offense is just another variation of o-f-f-e-n-c-e’. It is the spelling in ‘American English.’ This spelling came much later after America won its independence. It was primarily used in various publications of the nineteenth century. Its adjective form is offensive. People are often confused and take this spelling as wrong. However, this spelling too is correct and means the same as an offence.

Comparison Table Between Offence and Offense

Parameters of comparison OffenceOffense
SpellingA ‘c’ is used after nAn ‘s’ is used after n
OriginThis spelling originated in Britain as a part of British EnglishThis spelling has its origin in America
First used inThis was first used in the sixteenth centuryThis was used in the eighteenth century
Frequency of usageThis spelling is more frequently used in English speaking countriesIts usage is limited to the American states, and this has a lower frequency
Other countriesIt is also spelled so in Indian, Australian, and Canadian forms of EnglishIt is only used in American English

What is Offence?

The word offence is a widely used English word. It originated during the sixteenth century. At that time, offence meant something criminal. For example, if a person treason or went against the king, it was an offence. Also, several other rules were offences at that age. At present, the strictness of this has decreased. Offence goes well if a person commits something that is seen as criminal activity in the eyes of the law.

The adjective form of this term is offensive. As we can see, the ‘c’ has been displaced by an ‘s.’ In the Cambridge Dictionary. The spelling has been provided as  ‘offence.’ Yet in the Oxford Dictionary, both spellings are valid and are mentioned. This term has its root in the Latin word, which was ‘offender. The English implication of this phrase was ‘the deed of hitting against something.’ This word can be used in a sentence as – ‘the offence he committed, caused him to get expelled from the institution.’

This spelling came to be used much before the spelling offence. There are many synonyms of this word. Some of them are -crime, misdeeds, wrongdoing, etc. As a ubiquitous English word, it’s used in almost all the countries where English is spoken. It is a noun and also has its verb and adjective forms used widely. Also, in old French, ‘offense is the word that, along with Latin, gave rise to the phrase offence in English.

What is Offense?

This spelling of the word has primarily emerged in the United States. This spelling came to be used in the eighteenth century; this spelling is unique to the ‘American form of English.’ It means the same as its variant ‘offence.’ And its tone is also the same.

This spelling is also absolutely valid. Many people face confusion as to what the proper spelling of this word should be. This spelling is used in the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary alongside its other variant, ‘offence.’

The implication of the term ‘offense’ is the same as ‘offence.’ Offense means a criminal activity or something that goes against the course of law. Another meaning is to strike someone in the arena of sports. Its adjective form is ‘offensive.’ As we can see, the ‘s’ remains consistent here. As per American criteria, most terms are spelled simply as they sound. Hence this spelling has its root in the States. It can be used in the form of a simple sentence in this way – The offense made by her was a criminal one, and this got her into prison.

Another exciting origin of this spelling is from the Latin word, ‘offensa.’ The main point that should be remembered is that it would be clearly understood, whichever spelling we choose of this word. English keeps evolving, and it might even be possible for other variants of this word to emerge. What’s important is the fact that people should find it easy to spell and to write.

Main Differences Between Offence and Offense

  1. The spelling offence has a ‘c’, whereas the offense has an ‘s.’
  2. The spelling offence originated in Great Britain. However, the spelling offense originated in the United States.
  3. The offence was first used in the sixteenth century. However, the offense was used in the eighteenth century.
  4. Offence is the more frequently used spelling. Whereas offense is less frequently used.
  5. The spelling offence is used in Canadian, Indian, and Australian English. However, offense is only used in American.


English words often evolve. New spellings come and replace the old ones. In both British and American English, there are several words with different spellings. One such variation in spelling is seen in the word offence/offense. The main difference is only the origin.

Often people get confused as to what precisely the spelling is. However, the thing that must be kept in mind is that both spellings are equally correct. Even the pronunciation of these two is the same. Whichever is used doesn’t matter at all. Both these spellings are very widely used and are present in the dictionaries. However, the British form is more frequently used than the American form.


  1. https://academic.oup.com/bjc/article-abstract/32/1/81/365544
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jae.861
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