Theatre vs. Theater – What is Correct?

TL;DR – “Theatre” is the preferred spelling in British English, while “theater” is favored in American English; both refer to a place or the art of drama and performance.

Especially or Specially

“Theatre” and “theater” are nouns in the English language that refer to a place or the art form of drama and performance. Their usage largely depends on regional distinctions:

Theatre (Preferred in British English, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand)

  1. A building, playhouse, or venue where plays, musicals, and other forms of live entertainment are performed. It has its etymology rooted in the Old French “theatre” and Latin “theatrum” derived from Greek.
  2. The art form associated with acting, directing, writing plays, and other dramatic presentations.

Example Sentences:

  • “London’s West End is famous for its world-class theatres.”
  • “Her love for theatre began when she watched her first Broadway show in New York.”

Theater (Preferred in American English)

  1. A place, especially in America, where movies are shown; often referred to as a movie theater.
  2. The world or realm of theatrical performances, similar to the “theatre” in British English.

Example Sentences:

  • “The new movie will premiere at the theater downtown.”
  • “Chicago has a vibrant theater community.”

Historically, both spellings have origins in Latin and Greek. However, Noah Webster, the American lexicographer, advocated for simpler spellings in his American dictionary. Hence, many words, including “theatre,” were Americanized to “theater.”

In contexts like England’s West End or New York’s Broadway, the word often retains its original spelling as a proper noun, despite regional preferences. For example, even in America, one might encounter “The Shubert Theatre” on Broadway.

In summary, while both spellings refer to the same concept, regional preferences and specific contexts, such as the MLA style guide, might dictate the use of one over the other. Always be sure to match the spelling with the appropriate audience or region you’re addressing.


  • How do you spell theatre in Canada?
  • What is the difference between theatre and theater?

Published on: 2023-10-03
Updated on: 2023-10-22

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Isaac Adams-Hands

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