Licence or License?

I’m prone to occasional outbursts about spelling and grammar and recently was asked to provide the Intelogy team with some guidance on correct spelling: is it LICENSE or LICENCE?

I’m a fan of Monty Python and I’m immediately thinking of the fabulous Fish Licence sketch in which John Cleese attempts to buy a licence for his pet fish  – look it up, it’s still funny.

Picking the right spelling of this word depends on how you’re using it and you’ll need to know the difference between a noun and a verb. Plus, you’ll need to know whether your audience (or your spell checker) is hoping for UK English or American English.

In the Monty Python example, John Cleese is buying a licence, which is a noun.  It’s 100% certain that the good old BBC would have insisted on the UK spelling which is LICENCE. If it had been Jim Carrey the scriptwriter would have spelled it LICENSE.  So for the noun form it’s a simple difference between UK and American English, take your pick.

But you can also use the same word as a verb. In this case there is good news – there is only one recognised spelling on both sides of the Atlantic: LICENSE. In the day-to-day business of buying and using software, Microsoft LICENSES its products, Intelogy has a LICENSING agreement to sell them and our customers are LICENSED users. All verbs, all the same spelling, all clear?

Quick Summary – Licence V.S. License


For the noun you need to know your audience, and pick between the UK or American English spelling.

UK English : LICENCE (e.g. John is buying a licence – John is from the UK)
American English: LICENSE (e.g. Jim is buying a license – Jim is American)


Whether the audience is UK or American English, the same spelling will apply.

UK English & American English: LICENSE (e.g. licenses, licensing, licenced)