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Caliber vs. Calibre — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on August 22, 2023
Both refer to quality or size, but "caliber" is American English, while "calibre" is British English.
Caliber vs. Calibre — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Caliber and Calibre

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Key Differences

Caliber and Calibre are essentially the same word, differing in their spellings according to their respective versions of English.
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023
"Caliber" is preferred in American English and denotes not only the size of bullets and shells but also the quality or capacity of something. On the other hand, "Calibre" is used in British English, reflecting the same meanings.
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023
Interestingly, both words can be traced back to Arabic and Italian origins, denoting measures of weight or magnitude. Just as with many other words that have differing American and British spellings, neither "caliber" nor "calibre" is incorrect; their usage simply depends on the audience or region one is addressing.
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023
Choosing between "caliber" and "calibre" rests on a linguistic and regional preference, much like "color" vs. "colour" or "favor" vs. "favour."
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023

Comparison Chart

Spelling Region

American English
British English
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023
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Example Usage

"The caliber of his work is exceptional."
"The calibre of her writing is superb."
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023

Origin

Derived from American English conventions
Rooted in British English conventions
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023

Common Associations

Bullets, quality of someone/something
Quality of someone/something, bullets
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023

Usage in International Text

Less frequent globally
More common in Common
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Aug 22, 2023

Compare with Definitions

Caliber

A measure of the size or capacity of something
The pipe's caliber was too small for the water flow.
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023

Calibre

A standard of judgment or excellence
His work is of a high calibre.
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023

Caliber

Quality or ability of someone or something
The caliber of the musician was evident.
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023

Calibre

The quality of someone's character or the level of their ability
They could ill afford to lose a man of his calibre
Tayyaba Rehman
Mar 03, 2018

Caliber

Degree of mental capacity or moral quality
She was of the highest caliber in both intellect and character.
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023

Calibre

The bore diameter of a firearm
This pistol is a small calibre weapon.
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023

Caliber

The diameter of the bore of a firearm, usually expressed either in millimeters, in inches, or as a decimal fraction of an inch
.45 caliber.
Tayyaba Rehman
Mar 03, 2018

Calibre

Quality of someone's character or level of ability
The team was of top calibre.
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023

Caliber

The internal diameter or bore of a gun barrel
The revolver was of .45 caliber.
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023

Calibre

A degree or grade of excellence
The calibre of the submissions was outstanding.
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Aug 22, 2023

Caliber

Degree of merit or excellence
The caliber of his argument was hard to ignore.
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Aug 22, 2023

Calibre

Capacity or scope of something
The event showed the calibre of the organization.
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Aug 22, 2023

Caliber

The diameter of a projectile such as a bullet or artillery shell, corresponding to the caliber of the firearm from which it is to be fired.
Tayyaba Rehman
Mar 03, 2018

Calibre

The internal diameter or bore of a gun barrel
A small-calibre revolver
Tayyaba Rehman
Mar 03, 2018

Caliber

In guns, particularly firearms, caliber (or calibre in British English; sometimes abbreviated as "cal") is the specified nominal internal diameter of the gun barrel bore - regardless of how or where the bore is measured and whether the finished bore matches that specification. It is measured in inches or in millimeters.
Tayyaba Rehman
Mar 03, 2018

Calibre

Variant of caliber.
Tayyaba Rehman
Mar 03, 2018

Caliber

The diameter of the inside of a round cylinder, such as a tube.
Tayyaba Rehman
Mar 03, 2018

Calibre

A degree or grade of excellence or worth;
The quality of students has risen
An executive of low caliber
Tayyaba Rehman
Mar 03, 2018

Caliber

Diameter of the bore of a firearm, typically measured between opposite lands.
Tayyaba Rehman
Mar 03, 2018

Calibre

Diameter of a tube or gun barrel
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Mar 03, 2018

Caliber

The diameter of round or cylindrical body, as of a bullet or column.
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Mar 03, 2018

Caliber

Degree of worth; quality
A school of high caliber.
An executive of low caliber.
Tayyaba Rehman
Mar 03, 2018

Caliber

The diameter of round or cylindrical body, as of a bullet, a projectile, or a column.
Tayyaba Rehman
Mar 03, 2018

Caliber

(figuratively) Capacity or compass of mind.
Tayyaba Rehman
Mar 03, 2018

Caliber

(dated) Degree of importance or station in society.
Tayyaba Rehman
Mar 03, 2018

Caliber

(horology) Movement of a timepiece.
Tayyaba Rehman
Mar 03, 2018

Caliber

The diameter of the bore, as a cannon or other firearm, or of any tube; or the weight or size of the projectile which a firearm will carry; as, an 8 inch gun, a 12-pounder, a 44 caliber.
The caliber of empty tubes.
A battery composed of three guns of small caliber.
Tayyaba Rehman
Mar 03, 2018

Caliber

Fig.: Capacity or compass of mind.
Tayyaba Rehman
Mar 03, 2018

Caliber

A degree or grade of excellence or worth;
The quality of students has risen
An executive of low caliber
Tayyaba Rehman
Mar 03, 2018

Caliber

A nominal name for a cartridge type, which may not exactly indicate its true size and may include other measurements such as cartridge length or black powder capacity. Eg 7.62×39 or 38.40.
Tayyaba Rehman
Mar 03, 2018

Caliber

Unit of measure used to express the length of the bore of a weapon. The number of calibres is determined by dividing the length of the bore of the weapon, from the breech face of the tube to the muzzle, by the diameter of its bore. A gun tube the bore of which is 40 feet (480 inches) long and 12 inches in diameter is said to be 40 calibers long.
Tayyaba Rehman
Mar 03, 2018

Caliber

(figuratively) Relative size, importance, magnitude.
Tayyaba Rehman
Mar 03, 2018

Caliber

Diameter of a tube or gun barrel
Tayyaba Rehman
Mar 03, 2018

Common Curiosities

What is the difference between caliber and calibre?

Caliber is the American English spelling, and calibre is the British English spelling. Both words convey the same meanings.
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023

Can I use caliber and calibre interchangeably?

While the meanings are the same, choose the spelling based on your audience. Use "caliber" for an American audience and "calibre" for a British or Commonwealth audience.
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023

Is one spelling more correct than the other?

Neither is more correct; it's a matter of regional preference.
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023

Do both words only refer to firearms?

No, while both can refer to the bore diameter of firearms, they also describe the quality, capacity, or degree of excellence of something.
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023

How did the words originate?

Both words have roots in Arabic and Italian, where they referred to measures of weight or magnitude.
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023

Is caliber used only in the USA?

While "caliber" is the preferred spelling in the USA, it might be used in other regions exposed to American English.
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023

Can caliber and calibre refer to a person's quality?

Yes, both can describe the quality or capability of an individual, such as "an artist of high caliber/calibre."
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023

In what other contexts might I encounter these words?

Beyond firearms and personal quality, you might encounter them in various contexts where the size, capacity, or degree of something is discussed.
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023

Which version is used in international legal documents or treaties?

This depends on the drafting parties, but British English (calibre) might be more prevalent in many international settings.
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023

Are there other words with similar American-British spelling differences?

Yes, there are many, like "color" vs. "colour," "honor" vs. "honour," and "favor" vs. "favour."
Tayyaba Rehman
Aug 22, 2023

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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