How do you spell “worshipped” correctly? It’s one of those spelling questions we may not come across often, but we might have a hard time justifying one over the other when we do. Is it “worshiped” or “worshipped”?
“Worshipped” is the more common spelling in modern American English, although “worshiped” is considered acceptable. British English only uses “worshipped” as the correct spelling of the word.
“Worshiped” follows the spelling rules for conjugating two-syllable words where the second syllable is in the consonant-vowel-consonant format but where the stress falls on the first syllable.
This article will cover the rules for adding suffixes to words like “worship” in English, discuss the difference between American English and British English spelling, and why “worshipped” remains common in American English despite the rules.
The Origin and Meaning of Worship
“Worship” originated in Old English as a combination of the word for “worthy” and the noun suffix -ship, indicating a condition, state, or quality. Thus, as a single word, it communicates that something or someone is in the state of being worthy (source).
The Old English or Anglo-Saxon “weorðscipe” conveyed a sense of honor, fame, glory, value, and respect (source). We can gather a better feel for the original use through later English titles such as “worshipful master,” meaning honorable master, or “His Worship, the King.”
We also see it in the titles of skilled workers’ societies, such as the “Worshipful Company of Educators” (source). However, this usage is now primarily limited to British English. In American English, if someone addresses you as “Your Worship,” more often than not, they’re mocking you as pretentious.
Veneration of the Holy
The usage we’re most familiar with emerged in Middle English when it came to mean the veneration of the holy, especially God (source).
Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines it simply as “homage rendered to God which it is sinful (idolatry) to render to any created being (Ex. 34:14; Isa. 2:8)” (source). Simply put, worship is the glorification of God.
However, “worship” can also refer to extravagant or even excessive admiration or devotion to someone or something, such as money or a romantic interest.
In the sense of veneration, “worship” can function as a noun, referring to the reverence or homage itself, or as a verb, describing a subject’s action.
Noun: the reverence and homage offered to the divine.
- The worship of God is essential.
- We went to church to offer worship.
- Delphi was an important center of Greek worship.
Transitive verb: the act of offering reverence and homage to the divine.
- You shall not worship any other god.
- The ancient Romans worshiped Jupiter Capitolinus.
Intransitive verb: to perform or take part in worship.
- This is where my family worships.
- That is a church where they go to worship.
Worshiped and Worshipped in English Literature
While both spellings are acceptable in American English, “worshipped” remains the most common spelling, as a simple Google Ngram search will indicate (source). Similarly, the Corpus of Contemporary American English lists 1420 examples of “worshipped” compared to 889 examples of “worshiped” (source).
I suspect that much of this has to do with early translations of the Bible and the King James Version in particular.
Early English Bible Translations
The earliest translation of the Bible into English by John Wycliffe used the Middle English spelling “worschipe” for the simple present tense and “worschipiden” for the past participle (source).
Middle English saw significant variation in verb inflection by region, and this was only one way to indicate the past participle (source). For instance, the Middle English Compendium also lists the spelling “worschipid” (source).
Later, William Tyndale published his vernacular translation of the Bible in 1525, and it used the Modern English spelling “worshipped,” as would the Geneva Bible in 1560 (source). William Shakespeare, who used the Geneva Bible, spelled it variously as “worshipp’d” or “worshipped” in his works (source).
King James I authorized the translation of the King James Version of the Bible in 1604. The King James Authorized Version came out in 1611, and it too contained the Modern English “worshipped.”
The King James Bible and the Geneva Bible were the earliest translations in the British colonies of North America, where they could not print Bibles legally.
After America gained its independence, Congress approved the first Bible printed in the United States, the Aitken Bible. (source). The Aitken Bible, printed by Robert Aiken, also shared the same spelling (source).
Noah Webster and “Worshiped”
The variant spelling “worshiped” originated with the great American lexicographer Noah Webster.
Interesting;y, Noah Webster’s A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language in 1806 did not list the past tense or past participle of “worship,” but it did list “worshipper” with two p’s.
However, by the time he published An American Dictionary of the English Language in 1828, he evidently changed his mind since he listed “worshiped,” “worshiping,” and “worshiper” (source).
This is the exact spelling that he would use in The Webster Bible of 1833, a revised version of the King James Bible. Webster attempted to create greater spelling consistency within the English language but with varying degrees of success.
The prevalence of “worshipped” in earlier Bible translations, devotionals, and hymns would have made it difficult for the spelling “worshiped” to take hold.
Modern American English Bible Translations Use “Worshiped”
However, a comparative reading of verses like Exodus 4:31 and John 4:20 reveals that newer translations tend to use “worshiped.”
These translations include The New American Standard Bible (NASB), the English Standard Version (ESV), New King James Version (NKJV), Legacy Standard Bible (LSB), and the New International Version (NIV).
Spelling Rules Regarding Stressed Syllables and Suffixes
When adding suffixes to words, there are numerous factors we must take into consideration to conjugate a word correctly. For example, this change of word form or “inflection” can indicate case, number, voice, tense, person, mood, or gender.
For example, words like “worshiped” and “worshiping” are inflectional forms that indicate when an action occurred or its duration. The first refers to an action in the past, while the second refers to an ongoing action.
Suffixes like -ed and -ing are key elements that we join to (conjugate) base words like “worship” to make such inflectional forms. The way we spell the root word is also essential to how we spell the inflected form.
Spelling Rules for Adding -ed or -ing
When adding suffixes like -ed, -ing, -er, or -est to words, the general English spelling rule is that we only double the final consonant after a single vowel for single-syllable words or multisyllable words where the stress falls on the last syllable (source).
Single-syllable word examples:
- Sin → sinned → sinning → sinner
- Ship → shipped → shipping → shipper
Multisyllable words where the stress falls on the last syllable:
- Ad·mit → admitted → admitting → admitter
- Re·mit → remitted → remitting → remitter
Notice how the syllables follow the format consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC). However, we generally do not double the consonant for such words when the stress does not fall on the last syllable (source).
Multisyllable words where the stress falls on the first syllable:
- Vis·it → visited → visiting → visiter/visitor
- Lis·ten → listened → listening → listener
American English tends to be more consistent with this rule than British English, but there are exceptions. Still, understanding the notation for stressed syllables in standard dictionaries will generally help you remember how to spell such words correctly.
Determining which syllable is the stressed syllable can be a challenge, especially for those learning English. Fortunately, dictionaries indicate the stressed syllables for multisyllable words, although they tend to use different systems for doing so.
The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (MWCD) uses its own pronunciation respelling system, while British English dictionaries tend to rely on the Received Pronunciation (RP) version of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) (source).
The New Oxford American Dictionary (NOAD) also has a version of pronunciation respelling, as does the American Heritage Dictionary (AHD). Below, you will see a comparative table showing the pronunciation of “worship” and “admit” using these systems.
Though the symbol is small, note how the MWCD, NOAD, and IPA use the symbol ˈ before the stressed syllable, while the AHD places the symbol after the stressed syllable. Again, this emphasizes the importance of understanding the pronunciation symbolism in your preferred dictionary.
For American English, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is the standard for academic style guides, while the Oxford English Dictionary is an invaluable resource for the history of the English language.
Oxford University Press also produces the NOAD for American English, and online dictionaries like Lexico, powered by Oxford, list NOAD and IPA systems for US pronunciation.
Adding Suffixes to “Worship”
Given the above rules, you might think it would be a simple matter to decide whether we should spell the inflected forms of “worship” with a single- or double-p. However, you will find that English does not follow the rules for single and double consonants very consistently, and British English is even less consistent.
Vowel Suffixes: Worshiped vs. Worshipped
Going strictly by the rule, since Merriam-Webster lists the pronunciation as ˈwər-shəp, with the line in front indicating that the primary stress is on the first syllable, we do not have to double the final consonant (source).
Merriam-Webster also lists “worship” as a generally transitive verb with the simple past tense and past participle forms “worshipped” or “worshiped” and the present participle forms “worshipping” or “worshiping.”
The order in which Merriam-Webster lists these spelling options is not accidental either, as it indicates that “worshipped” is more common than “worshiped.” As we discussed, this is despite Noah Webster’s best efforts to follow the spelling rules in 1828.
“Worshipped” Is More Common, but “Worshiped” Follows the Rules
While the stress falls on the same syllable in American English and British English, British English only accepts “worshipped” with the double-p (source).
American English: Wor·ship (ˈwər-shəp) → worshipped or worshiped
British English: Wor·ship (ˈwər-shəp) → worshipped
While the basic rules for adding suffixes to two-syllable words are also the same in US English and UK English, British English tends to favor more exceptions to this rule that use double consonants, especially words that end with “l.”
American English: le·vel (ˈle-vəl) → leveling
British English: le·vel (ˈle-vəl) → levelling
This rule can also be confusing for words where the syllable stress changes depending on whether a word functions as a noun or a verb. For more on this particular challenge, check out “Combatting or Combating: Grammatical Rules for Proper Usage.”
In other cases, British English might adopt an American spelling for a specific application to distinguish it from other applications, as you will discover in our article, “Programming or Programing: Which Is Correct?”
Worshiper or Worshipper?
The same general rules apply to noun forms where we add the noun suffix -er, changing a word to mean someone who performs a particular act.
As a noun, a worshiper or worshipper is someone who worships. Again, the UK Spelling favors the double-consonant form “worshipper,” while the single-consonant form “worshiper” is a chiefly American spelling (source).
The suffix -er can also function as an adjective or adverb suffix, and so can the suffix -est. Thus, we use -er to form the comparative degree of single-syllable adverbs or adjectives, while we use -est to form the superlative degree for the same.
While the rules for adding vowel suffixes like -er and -est to consonant endings when forming the comparative or superlative are similar, they do not apply to multisyllable words like “worship.” Also, to form the comparative or superlative for “worship,” we must first change it into an adjective using another suffix.
Consonant Suffixes: Worshipful and Worshipfully
We can also change “worship” into an adjective by adding the suffix -ful and into an adverb by adding the suffix -fully. Generally, adding a consonant suffix like -ful or -fully does not require any change in spelling for the root word.
As a result, the spelling is the same in American English and British English for the adjective form “worshipful” and the adverb form “worshipfully.” This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
Once we’ve changed the word into the adjective “worshipful,” we can create the comparative form “more worshipful” or the superlative form “most worshipful.”
The general rule for two-syllable words ending in the consonant-vowel-consonant form where the stress is on the first syllable is that we simply add -ed or -ing to a verb for different tenses and participles or add -er to form a noun.
American English follows this rule more consistently than British English, but even we tend to ignore it. Still, Noah Webster’s spelling “worshiped” follows this rule, while the British spelling “worshipped” does not.
Regardless, “worshipped” remains more common in general English writing, while “worshiped” is more common in American English Bible translations. Your best bet is to consider who you are writing for and which spelling they are likely to prefer.