Aluminum vs. Aluminium: What’s the Difference?

Aluminum is one of the most abundant elements, with applications ranging from household use to aerospace engineering. Yet, despite how often you see this metal daily, we frequently hear the term aluminium substituted for the word aluminum. Does the spelling difference indicate a unique metal with different properties, or is it purely semantic?

Today, we’ll talk about aluminum vs. aluminium and explain why this common metal goes by two different names. Note: For easier reading, we’ll italicize aluminium throughout this article.

Aluminum vs. Aluminium

At first glance, the two words look almost identical, don’t they? However, despite that similarity, they’re pronounced quite differently:

Aluminum: uh-loo-muh-nuhm

Aluminium: al-yuh-min-ee-uhm

To cut to the chase, these words, while spelled and pronounced differently, are the very same thing. Before we take a deeper dive into the origins of aluminum vs. aluminium, let’s talk about aluminum as an element and how it was discovered.

Aluminum’s History

In 1761, Louis-Bernard Guyton de Morveau, a French chemist, referred to alum (a substance known to the ancient Romans and Greeks) by the name “alumine.” Fast forward to 1808, when a prominent English chemist and inventor named Sir Humphry Davy identified the existence of metal in alum, which he first called "alumium" and later "aluminum."

However, aluminum wasn’t isolated as an element until Friedrich Wohler mixed potassium with anhydrous aluminum chloride in 1827. The official discovery of aluminum is credited to either Wohler or Hans Christian Orstead, who produced the metal in an impure form two years earlier.

Word Origins of Aluminum vs. Aluminium

Despite previously using "alumium," Davy proposed the name aluminum in 1812 in his book Elements of Chemical Philosophy. Aluminium was officially adopted to conform with the “-ium” names of other elements (e.g., sodium, magnesium and potassium – which Davy also named).

The 1828 version of Webster's Dictionary used the aluminum spelling. By 1925, the American Chemical Society (ACS) decided that aluminum was to be the proper usage in North America.

Which Version is Correct: Aluminum or Aluminium?

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) eventually identified aluminium as the proper spelling. However, since the ACS already used aluminum, North Americans didn’t readily adopt aluminium.

For the most part, English speakers in North America use aluminum, but most everyone else worldwide prefers aluminium. The IUPAC’s periodic table currently lists both spellings and indicates that each is correct and interchangeable.

In summation, think of aluminum vs. aluminium as the tomato vs. tomahto of the element world.

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Do you prefer aluminium or aluminum? Whichever spelling or pronunciation you use, make sure you choose Orange Aluminum for all of your construction projects.

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