Once and for all, is it “axe” or “ax”? Has this question ever bothered you too?
I hope you don’t have an ax/axe to grind about words that have two correct spellings. I’ve talked about “imposter” vs. “impostor,” “preventative” vs. “preventive,” and “advisor” vs. “adviser” before–among others–but here’s another one to add to that list.
Both “axe” and “ax” are acceptable spellings when you’re referring to a sharp tool used for cutting wood.
In short, Americans largely give the ax to the “e” at the end of “axe,” while English speakers elsewhere on the globe tend to keep it. I could say there’s an argument here since this word came from the Old English word æcs, which does not have an “e”; however, since there is also not an “x,” it’s not an argument that will really hold up anywhere except for a night where everyone’s had a few drinks listening to some wild guitarist playing his ax (i.e., his instrument, another acceptable definition of this word).
So choose whichever form you wish. No need to be sharp with someone who spells it differently from you.
Writing Tip 201.1: The plural of both “ax” and “axe” is “axes.” Interestingly, this is also the plural of the word “axis.” There’s a mad mathematician thriller in there somewhere if you can find it.
Happy writing, everyone!
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