Caliber vs. Calibre – What is Correct?

TL;DR – “Caliber” is the preferred spelling in American English, while “calibre” is favored in British English; both refer to the quality or size of something.

Especially or Specially

“Caliber” and “calibre” both originate from the same root in the English language, with distinctions in spelling due to regional preferences between American and British English.

Caliber (American Spelling)

  1. The internal diameter or bore of a gun barrel, often used in conversions like “22-caliber” referring to the diameter of the bore of a firearm.
  2. A reference to the quality or character of an individual, denoting high standards or excellence. This word has etymological roots in French, Spanish, and Latin, derived from the Arabic “qālib,” meaning “mould.”

Example Sentences:

  • “Many enthusiasts prefer the .45 caliber rifle for its accuracy.”
  • “The novel was of a high caliber, earning praise from critics.”

Calibre (British Spelling)

  1. The diameter of a bullet, shell, or round in rifled firearms, such as machine guns. In British English, one might encounter expressions like “22-calibre.”
  2. A measure or standard of quality, often used as a synonym for “quality” or “standard.”

Example Sentences:

  • “The troops were equipped with large calibre machine guns.”
  • “The university is known for its high calibre of research.”

Given its etymology, which traces back to Arabic, and its adoption into French, German, and Spanish, the word eventually made its way to English with slightly varied spellings. While “caliber” aligns with American spelling conventions, “calibre” is consistent with British spelling rules.

In essence, while “caliber” and “calibre” have the same meaning—referring to the diameter of a gun barrel or the quality of something—the choice of spelling hinges on whether you’re using American or British English conventions.


  • How do you spell caliber in Canada?

Published on: 2023-10-03
Updated on: 2023-10-06

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