While ageing and aging both refer to the process of growing older, there are some key differences between these two terms—including variations in spelling. Understanding when to use each one can be confusing. Read on for a detailed breakdown of when to use ageing versus aging.
Defining the Words
Ageing and aging ultimately refer to the same phenomenon of becoming older with the passage of time. However, aging is more commonly used in American English, while ageing is preferred in British English.
Aging is the standard spelling seen in American publications, academic texts, journals, and medical documents like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5). Ageing, on the other hand, is found in British dictionaries and publications, like The Ageing Population report from the British Office for National Statistics.
Beyond geographical spelling differences, there are some subtle distinctions in how aging and ageing are used grammatically:
- Aging is more often used as an adjective to describe the process of growing old. For example, “aging population”, “aging effects”, “aging research”.
- Ageing is more commonly used as a noun meaning the process of becoming older. For instance, “the ageing process”, “the psychology of ageing”, “understanding ageing”.
- Both aging and ageing can function as present participle verbs in sentences like “With each passing day, she was aging rapidly” or “With each passing day, she was ageing rapidly”.
Nuances in Meaning
While aging and ageing effectively mean the same thing, there are some slight connotative differences:
- Aging carries a more neutral, descriptive connotation. “Aging population” simply means the population is getting collectively older.
- Ageing has a slightly more negative connotation in some contexts. “Rapid ageing” may imply undesirable effects of getting older like health decline.
- Ageing also evokes the emotional, social, and psychological aspects of growing old, while aging refers more literally to the passage of time.
Usage in Academic Disciplines
Certain academic disciplines show preferences in utilizing aging versus ageing:
- Medicine, biology, and health sciences in the U.S. prefer aging to discuss cellular processes and bodily changes like “aging arteries” or “aging immune function”.
- Psychology and sociology papers in the U.K. frequently use ageing when referring to the emotional, cognitive, and social aspects like “the psychology of ageing”.
- Gerontology—the study of aging—uses both terms interchangeably as an umbrella term in research studies and journals.
- Caregiving organizations in the U.S. often prefer aging, while those in Britain use ageing in proper names like Ageing Research & Developmental Unit.
Finally, ageing and aging vary by region and country:
- In the U.S., aging is standard in all usages, from government policies to academic texts to mainstream media.
- In the U.K., ageing is the dominant spelling used across disciplines and contexts, except in scientific inquiry like biology.
- In Canada, both spellings are commonly seen, but aging gains favor in formal communications and medical settings.
- In Australia, ageing is more common, though aging occurs in the sciences.
- Across the rest of the English-speaking world like South Africa and Singapore, ageing is the conventional spelling.
The key point to remember is that while ageing and aging have largely the same meaning, aging is preferred in American English, while ageing is more common in British English. Pay attention to regional and grammatical context for cues on which form to use.