You may have come across different spellings for the word ‘chilli’, including ‘chili’ and ‘chile’. But why so many spellings? And which is correct? It all depends on the dialect you’re using. Let’s look at when to use each word in your writing.
Chilli (A Hot Pepper)
‘Chilli’ is a noun that refers to type of pepper used to make food taste hot and spicy:
I use fresh chilli in my curries.
Do you need to use freshly ground chillies?
It also appears in the names of foods and condiments that have ‘chilli’ in them:
I’m cooking a pot of chilli con carne for dinner tonight.
In all cases, though, British English uses the spelling ‘chilli’, with a double ‘l’.
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American English: Chili and Chile
As noted above, ‘chilli’ is the standard spelling of this word in British English. It is also standard in most dialects influenced by British English, including Australian English.
However, as is often the case, the Americans are a bit different. The most common spelling in American English is ‘chili’ with a single ‘l’. For example:
I use fresh chili in my curries.
Do you need to use freshly ground chilies?
You might also come across the spelling ‘chile’ in the US, especially in the American Southwest. This is based on the Spanish spelling of the word (this matches the spelling of ‘Chile’, the country in South America, but there is no direct connection):
That chile sauce is too hot for my tastebuds.
‘Chili’ and ‘chile’ are both accepted in American English. However, unless you’re specifically discussing South American-influenced food, ‘chili’ is the most common spelling.
Summary: Chilli, Chili or Chile?
In all cases, these three terms refer to a hot pepper. However, the spelling varies depending on which English dialect you are using:
Chilli with a double ‘l’ is the preferred British English spelling
Chili with one ‘l’ is the preferred American English spelling
The Spanish-influenced chile is also used in the American Southwest.
As long as you stick to a double ‘l’ in British English, and a single ‘l’ in American English, you should be able to avoid spelling errors. But if you’d like an expert to check your writing, too, our proofreaders can help! Just let us know which dialect you are writing in.