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Specialize vs. Specialise — What's the Difference?

By Urooj Arif & Maham Liaqat — Updated on February 28, 2024
"Specialize" and "specialise" are variations of the same verb, meaning to focus on a specific area of expertise. The difference lies in the spelling: "specialize" is used in American English, while "specialise" is preferred in British English.
Specialize vs. Specialise — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Specialize and Specialise


Key Differences

The distinction between "specialize" and "specialise" primarily revolves around regional spelling conventions in English. Both forms of the verb convey the act of concentrating on a particular subject or field, becoming highly skilled or knowledgeable in that area. This process can apply to individuals in their careers, such as doctors who specialize in a certain field of medicine, or businesses that focus on a specific sector of the market.
"Specialize" is the standard spelling, aligning with the American preference for "-ize" endings in words like "realize" and "organize." British English, however, tends to favor the "-ise" endings, hence "specialise," which falls in line with other verbs like "realise" and "organise." This British preference is also seen in other English varieties, such as Australian, Canadian, and Indian English, which often follow British spelling rules.
Despite these spelling differences, the pronunciation of "specialize" and "specialise" is generally the same in both American and British English, and the meaning and use of the word do not change. The choice between these spellings depends on the intended audience or the regional standards of the text being written.
It's important to note that the Oxford English Dictionary and some British publications adopt a mixed approach, using "-ize" endings for some words, including "specialize," based on the original Greek "-izein" suffix. However, "specialise" remains widely used and accepted in many British and Commonwealth contexts.
The consistency in spelling according to the chosen variety of English (American vs. British) is key to maintaining professionalism and coherence in written communications. Writers should choose the spelling that aligns with their audience's expectations or the standards of the publication for which they are writing.

Comparison Chart


American English
British English


Used in the United States
Preferred in the UK, Australia, and other regions following British English


Generally the same in both American and British English
Generally the same in both American and British English


To focus on a specific area of expertise
To focus on a specific area of expertise

Varieties of English

Consistent with American English spelling conventions
Consistent with British English spelling conventions

Compare with Definitions


American English spelling.
American universities offer many opportunities to specialize.


Applied in academic settings.
The course allows students to specialise in their chosen field.


To focus on a specific field.
She decided to specialize in pediatric medicine.


British English spelling.
In the UK, it's common for doctors to specialise later in their careers.


Used in a professional context.
The firm specializes in corporate law.


Suggests focusing on a niche.
The agency specialises in luxury travel experiences.


Indicates a narrowing of focus.
The software company specializes in security solutions.


Relates to expertise development.
She specialises in renewable energy technologies.


Pertains to detailed study.
He specializes in 18th-century English literature.


To concentrate on a particular subject.
After moving to London, he chose to specialise in maritime law.


To pursue a special activity, occupation, or field of study
A doctor who specializes in cardiology.


Standard spelling of specialize


To provide something in particular or have something as a focus
The shop specializes in mountain-climbing gear.


Devote oneself to a special area of work;
She specializes in honey bees
This plumber specialized in jacuzzis


Be specific about;
Could you please specify your criticism of my paper?


Suit to a special purpose;
Specialize one's research

Common Curiosities

Are there any exceptions to when "specialize" and "specialise" are used?

Some British publications and the Oxford English Dictionary may use "specialize" based on the original Greek suffix, but generally, "specialise" is more common in British English.

Why does American English prefer "specialize" while British English prefers "specialise"?

The preference stems from different spelling conventions that have evolved in American and British English, with American English favoring "-ize" and British English "-ise".

How should I decide whether to use "specialize" or "specialise"?

Choose based on the regional spelling standards of your audience or the publication for which you are writing. American English contexts should use "specialize," while British English contexts should use "specialise".

Can "specialize" and "specialise" be used interchangeably?

While they can be understood interchangeably, it's best to use the spelling that matches the regional English you are writing in.

Is there a difference in meaning between "specialize" and "specialise"?

No, the meaning is the same; the difference is purely in spelling according to American and British English conventions.

Are there other words with similar American and British spelling variations?

Yes, many words have similar variations, such as "realize" (American) vs. "realise" (British), and "organize" vs. "organise".

Can using the "wrong" spelling variant affect my writing's reception?

In most professional and academic contexts, using the correct regional spelling variant is important for consistency and may affect the perception of your writing's professionalism.

Does the choice between "specialize" and "specialise" affect pronunciation?

No, the pronunciation generally remains the same regardless of spelling.

In international contexts, which spelling is preferred?

In international contexts, it often depends on the prevailing influence of either American or British English, but "specialize" might be more universally recognized due to the global influence of American media and literature.

How do these spelling differences impact English language learners?

Learners should be aware of these differences and choose the spelling that aligns with the version of English they are studying or using.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.
Co-written by
Maham Liaqat

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