The Difference between Ardor and Ardour
‘Ardor’ and ‘Ardour’ are essentially the same word. The difference is that one is considered correct in the United States and the other is considered correct in Commonwealth English, which is the version spoken in England. Other than that, they come from the same etymology, they are pronounced the same, and they mean the same thing.
The two words came into English from French, specifically Anglo-Norman, which was the version of French spoken in the British Isles between the eleventh century and the sixteenth. Norman refers to the duchy of Normandy, which is now the northwestern region of modern-day France. In the late eleventh century, Normandy invaded England and carried their language along with them, which met English influence and became Anglo-Norman. Because they were the conquerors, their language was the one found most commonly in the upper classes. This is why many of the fancier words in English can be traced back to French and Latin roots. The noun ‘drink’ was a Germanic word and came from Old English roots, but its synonym ‘beverage’ was French and thus it was the word used by the upper classes.
Before becoming a French word, it was the Latin word ‘ardor’, which means the same as the modern words. It came from the verb ‘ardere’, or ‘to burn’. That in turn came from the verb ‘aridus’, or ‘to dry’, and ultimately from a Proto Indo European verb that meant ‘to dry’, as well as ‘to burn’ and ‘to glow’.
Both ‘ardor’ and ‘ardour’ preserved some of the older meanings, but the fire is metaphorical. The primary meaning is a feeling of warmth, a passion, an approach with a lot of energy, or another intense emotion. This is related to the words ‘fervor’ and ‘fervour’, which mean the same thing. Some meanings of the word ‘spirit’ also apply, as it can mean a lot of energy, passion, or enthusiasm.
‘Ardor’ and ‘ardour’ can also mean an intense heat, as in ‘the ardor of the flames’ or ‘the ardour of the flames’.
Once again, they mean the same thing despite the different spellings. The reason behind the spelling is the same as it is for other pairs, such as ‘color’ and ‘colour’, ‘honor’ and ‘honour’, ‘armor’ and ‘armour’, ‘vigor’ and ‘vigour’, and so on. The reason stems from the fact that the words are Latin words that passed through the French language before becoming English.
In the French language, the ‘-our’ ending reflects a different pronunciation than the ‘or’ sound. When the Latin words first came into French, they were pronounced with more of an ‘-ur’ sound, and their spelling reflected that. Later on, it changed to the ‘-our’ ending in most, because the pronunciation was different.
Many of the English words borrowed from French retained their spelling, even if it didn’t reflect their pronunciation. However, many English scholars were fans of the Latin language, going so far as to impose Latin restrictions on it like the rule about never ending a sentence with a proposition. Because of that, the Latin spellings emerged in the English language. When England colonized the Americas, both spellings came with them. From there, the spellings were decided by the dictionaries. Samuel Johnson, who published the Dictionary of the English Language in 1755, believed that the French spelling should be kept, as it had been in the language longer. However, Noah Webster, who published An American Dictionary of the English Language in 1828, believed that the spelling of these words should be simple, so he used the Latin spellings because they were less complicated.
The only difference between the two is the region the spelling is primarily used in. In the United States, it is ‘ardor’. In most other English-speaking countries, it is ‘ardour’.
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