How the three chief ways to spell English deal with this ending:
- British: -ise preferred, -ize acceptable
- American: -ize
- Oxford: -ize preferred, -ise acceptable
What is good about -ize:
- It is spelled the way it sounds.
- It is closer to the Greek original: -izein.
These are the reasons the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and Fowler give for preferring -ize.
What is good about -ise:
- It is not American. Among Australians, New Zealanders and Arabs that probably makes a difference – they favour -ise more than the British do.
- The -ise spelling is easier. If you use -ise, there are only four exceptions:
assize, capsize, prize (as a reward), size.
But if you use -ize, there are 23 exceptions:
advertise, advise, apprise, chastise, circumcise, comprise, compromise, demise, despise, devise, disfranchise, enfranchise, enterprise, excise, exercise, improvise, incise, premise, revise, supervise, surmise, surprise, televise.
Most of these come from Latin, not Greek: -vise (see), -cise (cut), -prise (take), -mise (send).
Many assume -ize is an American invention, so -ise must be the right form. Right? Wrong!
If you look at how Shakespeare and the Authorized Version of the Bible were written in the early 1600s – back when the Pilgrim Fathers left for America – you will see -ize. American English, as sometimes happens, preserves the older form.
The -ise ending came from French into British English in the 1700s. Samuel Johnson, who favoured French spellings, put it in his dictionary in 1755, but Noah Webster in America, who favoured Greek and Latin spellings, did not. Webster did not invent -ize – he just made it the fixed spelling in America.
Even today -ize is an acceptable spelling in Britain while most other American spellings are not. Because -ize is not an American invention. It is the older spelling that is losing ground to the newer, simpler -ise.
(Note that the -yze as in “analyze” is an American invention. It is not found in British or Oxford spelling.)
In Britain -ise is favoured by government, schools, newspapers, magazines and ordinary people. You see -ize, on the other hand, used by universities, journals and upmarket books: Penguin, the Oxford University Press, Encyclopaedia Britannica and Nature all use it. They are following the Oxford spelling.
The two endings through time:
-ize -ise 1500s Shakespeare 1600s Authorized Version, Pepys 1700s Jefferson, Blake Johnson 1800s Shelley, Webster, Lewis Carroll Jane Austen, Darwin 1900s OED, Orwell, CS Lewis Churchill 2000s Nature, Penguin books, this blog
Chaucer in the 1300s used both freely.
In the “Chronicles of Narnia” by CS Lewis you will see -ise, but in his own letters he used -ize.
The two endings by country (in 2007):
-ise 100 90 Ireland, New Zealand, Egypt 80 70 South Africa 60 Britain, Australia, Singapore, Guyana,
50 Pakistan, Zimbabwe 40 India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Tanzania,
Ghana, Hong Kong
30 Nigeria, Kenya, Antigua 20 Canada 10 Uganda, Israel 0 America, Philippines, Jamaica -ize
This shows in round numbers how many times in a hundred recognise is preferred to recognize according to Google.
Notice that in the Middle East -ise has, in effect, become the Arab spelling while -ize is the Jewish spelling.